A family pet is part of millions of families. To be honest, our pets are usually considered a beloved member of the family and we want to keep them well-cared for.
Unfortunately, pet hair usually has a negative impact on the efficiency of your air conditioning system. But with routine maintenance, you can ensure adequate airflow and protect the cooling equipment from harm.
How Does an AC Filter Work, and Why is It So Important?
Air filters are one of the most important parts of any forced-air HVAC system. It captures airborne particles, such as dust, pollen and pet hair, keeping them from reaching other rooms or areas of the property. Various designs can be used effectively, including fiberglass, pleated and electrostatic. A filter’s effectiveness depends os its minimum efficiency reporting value (MERV), which ranges from 1 to 20, with higher ratings indicating better filtration.
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. At sufficient efficiency, the air filter also improves indoor air quality by reducing particulates in the 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?
While animals are shedding, their hair becomes airborne and may gradually reach the HVAC system through the return air ducts. If there isn't a filter in place, pet hair collects inside the evaporator coil, blower motor, fan blades and other components, slowing them down and reducing efficiency. 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.
But even if you have an air filter installed, pet hair isn’t harmless. When return airflow arrives at the HVAC system, the filter does its job by trapping the hair and preventing it from landing on vulnerable cooling components. That being said, eventually the filter will clog, putting extra strain on the HVAC system. Without intervention, high energy bills and frequent breakdowns may be right behind.
What About Animal Dander?
Pet dander, which consists of microscopic skin flakes and saliva particles, commonly exacerbates 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 number of pets and the filter's specific design, 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 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, hire a professional to remove built-up pet hair, dander and dust in the air ducts every few years.
- Keep pets well-groomed: Regular brushing and bathing reduces the hair and dander your pets generate. Keep the brushing outdoors 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. Proper cleaning should include vacuuming, sweeping, dusting and laundering your pet’s bedding.
- Keep the area around the outdoor unit clear: Central air conditioners feature an outdoor unit mounted to a concrete slab somewhere along an exterior wall of the home. Keep the area around this unit free of 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: Ideally, your local HVAC professional will inspect and maintain your air conditioning system every year, preferably in the spring. They'll know how to find and resolve any small issues, clean key components and share advice on keeping your cooling system running efficiently with pets.
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