What Can Animal Hair Do to My AC Filter?
Pets can be found in millions of homes. You probably consider your dog or cat a beloved family member and want to keep them well-cared for.
Annoyingly, pet hair usually has a negative impact on the efficiency of your air conditioning system. With proper maintenance, you'll help preserve steady airflow and protect your cooling system from harm.
How Does an AC Filter Work, and Why is It So Important?
A filter is an important part of any forced-air HVAC system. The filter is the primary solution to capture airborne particles, such as dust, pollen and pet hair, preventing these contaminants from circulating in your home. Various designs can be used effectively, including fiberglass, pleated and electrostatic. The overall effectiveness of an air filter can be measured with its minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), which is rated on a scale from 1 to 20, with higher ratings corresponding to stronger filtration.
Your filter is primarily responsible for protecting the evaporator coil, blower motor and other cooling system components from dirt and debris that could lead to problems. An efficient enough filter also improves indoor air quality by minimizing particulate matter, which can cause allergies, asthma attacks and similar conditions.
How Does Pet Hair Affect the Air Filter of My HVAC System?
As pets shed, their hair becomes airborne and can eventually get into the HVAC system through the return air ducts. When the filter is missing, pet hair can build up on the evaporator coil, blower motor, fan blades and other components, reducing their efficiency and life span. Hair can also encourage clogs if it interacts with the moisture inside your cooling, creating a breeding ground for microbes like mold, which give off foul odors and lower indoor air quality.
Even with a filter in place, pet hair can still lead to problems. When return airflow reaches the main HVAC system, the filter traps the hair and prevents it from landing on vulnerable cooling components. That being said, eventually the filter will clog, decreasing airflow and increasing strain on the HVAC system. Without maintenance, you may experience higher energy bills and more frequent breakdowns.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, consisting of tiny skin flakes and saliva particles, is a common allergen that causes respiratory problems in people with allergies or asthma. Filters with higher MERV ratings are more likely to effectively capture and remove dander, which is much smaller than pet hair.
How to Care for Your AC System and Filter with Pets
Maintaining an efficient, properly functioning air conditioner is certainly possible, even with pets living in your home. Here’s how:
- Change the filter regularly: Depending on the total number of pets as well as the filter's efficiency, you may need a new filter every 30 to 90 days. Check it every month and replace it if you notice weaker airflow or can see evidence of a clog.
- Keep ventilation clear: Pet hair gradually piles up against the air registers and grilles, reducing airflow. Trying cleaning these using the brush attachment on your vacuum cleaner as often as needed. Then, call a professional for cleaning out the collected pet hair, dander and dust in the air ducts every few years.
- Groom your pets: Regular brushing and bathing is a great strategy for reducing pet hair. Make sure to handle brushing outside and sweep the area afterward to prevent the hair from getting tracked inside.
- Consistently vacuum and dust: Pet hair can be found in pretty much every room of a house. A lot of it settles on surfaces around the house. Keep up a regular cleaning routine that includes vacuuming, sweeping, dusting and laundering your pet’s bedding.
- Don't let debris collect near the outdoor unit: Central air conditioners feature an outdoor unit secured to a concrete slab just outside the home. Clear away any accumulated debris, including pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and similar materials. This encourages normal heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Don't ignore preventive maintenance: An HVAC technician should inspect and maintain your air conditioning system every year, preferably in the spring. This professional can find and resolve any small issues, keep internal components clean and share advice on keeping your air conditioner running efficiently with pets.
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