What Can Animal Hair Do to My AC Filter?
Pets are an important part of many people’s lives. You probably consider your dog or cat a beloved family member and want to keep them well-cared for.
However, pet hair can adversely affect your air conditioning system. With proper maintenance, you can ensure adequate airflow and protect your cooling system from harm.
How Do AC Air Filters Work, and Why Are They Important?
Air filters are one of the most important parts of any forced-air HVAC system. Your air filter captures airborne contaminants, such as dust, pollen and pet hair, keeping them from reaching other rooms or areas of the property. There is lots of variety in the materials they use to accomplish this, including fiberglass, pleated and electrostatic. Your filter's effectiveness can be illustrated with its minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), which ranges from 1 to 20, with higher ratings illustrating maximum efficiency.
An air filter’s key purpose is the protection of the evaporator coil, blower motor and other cooling system components from dirt and debris that could cause damage. An efficient enough filter also improves indoor air quality by keeping particles out of your indoor air, which could lead to allergies, asthma attacks and other respiratory issues in sensitive individuals.
How Does Pet Hair Affect the Air Filter of My HVAC System?
When pets shed, their hair becomes airborne and may gradually reach the HVAC system through the return air ducts. Without a filter installed, 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 mix with condensation formed during air conditioning, creating a breeding ground for microbes like mold, which give off foul odors and lower indoor air quality.
Even when the filter is already in place, pet hair isn’t harmless. When return airflow reaches the main HVAC system, the filter captures the hair as it passes, keeping it from landing on sensitive cooling components. However, this clogs the filter more quickly than usual, limiting airflow and placing additional strain on the HVAC system. Without exchanging or cleaning the filter, higher energy bills and more repair visits could be likely.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, which consists of tiny skin flakes and saliva particles, is a common allergen that causes respiratory problems for those suffering from 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:
- Stick to a regular schedule when cleaning or replacing the filter: Depending on the total number of pets as well as the filter's efficiency, you should try to replace it after 30 to 90 days. Keep an eye on it every month and replace it when it starts to appear clogged.
- Clean your air vents and ductwork: Pet hair can accumulate on air registers and grilles, preventing proper ventilation. Clean these with 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.
- Bathe or brush away excess pet hair: Regular brushing and bathing reduces the hair and dander your pets generate. Brush your pets outside when possible and sweep the area afterward to prevent the hair from getting tracked inside.
- Consistently vacuum and dust: While it affects your HVAC system, pet hair can be found all throughout your home. A lot of it settles on surfaces around the house. Proper cleaning should include vacuuming, sweeping, dusting and washing any pet beds.
- Keep the area around the outdoor unit clear: Central air conditioners feature an outdoor unit secured to a concrete slab somewhere along an exterior wall of the home. Clear away any accumulated debris, like pet hair, grass clippings, dead leaves and similar materials. This helps maintain consistent heat transfer for more efficient operation.
- Don't ignore preventive maintenance: An HVAC technician should inspect and maintain the air conditioner annually, preferably in the spring. They'll know how to identify and fix small issues, clean internal components and provide recommendations about how to keep your air conditioning running efficiently with pets.
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