Pets are beloved family members, but they can have a negative impact on the quality of your indoor air. Learn how to maintain your heating and cooling systems while living with your pets.
In the United States, it is estimated that around 80 million homeowners have at least one pet. Being a pet owner myself, I know my pet brings great companionship and happiness into our home, but that’s not all they bring into our homes. Pets can bring dirt, dander, hair (lots of it), and the occasional unwanted fleas and ticks!
Most pet owners don’t think about their HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system when acquiring a pet. However, making sure you take care of your heating and cooling unit after getting a pet can improve the quality of life for you and your pet!
How do animals affect your Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)?
All pets come with dander. If they have fur or feathers, they have dander. Animals with fur may be more likely to carry allergens from other sources like dust, but the fur itself is generally not a trigger. For that reason, short-haired or hairless animals contribute dander and allergens to indoor air pollution just as effectively as long-haired animals do. There is no such thing as a non-allergenic dog or cat. Pet dander is composed of tiny microscopic, flecks of skin shed by cats, dogs, rodents, birds, and other animals with fur or feathers. These bits of skin can cause reactions in people who are specifically allergic to these triggers.
According to the American Lung Association, “Some people are allergic to pets or have asthma that is triggered by pet allergens. For these individuals, breathing animal allergens can make respiratory symptoms worse and lead to a decline in the ability of the lungs to function. The concentrations of an allergen required to cause a reaction tend to vary greatly by individual. People with allergies may experience upper and lower respiratory tract symptoms including congestion, sneezing, runny nose, chest tightness, and wheezing. Other symptoms are itching watery eyes, and eczema or rashes.”
Your air conditioner and furnace can also suffer from having pets. Vents get dirty and odorous, hair gets swept into the ductwork. Your house may get a stale and musty “pet smell”. Trust me I know! However, I love my pet and will do whatever it takes to make sure my home stays safe for my family and my pet.
If you want to keep your pet, keep these steps in mind to help maintain healthy indoor air quality.
Keep Your Pet Well-Groomed
When your pet is clean and its fur is trimmed, it will help keep your home and indoor air cleaner. Less shedding means less fur in the filter and ducts. You should brush your dog every couple of days. Also, if your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, make sure it has flea and tick protection. You don’t want your dog to suffer from these little critters and you don’t want them in your home either. Properly caring for your pet is good for your pet’s health and for your health.
Keep Your HVAC Filter Clean
When should you change out the HVAC filter? This depends on the type of filter you use, how often you run your heating and cooling systems, and the pets are living in your home. If you have pets, you should be changing your air filter every 30-60 days. Make sure you are purchasing filters that can catch pet dander, pollen, allergens, dust mites, and since we are in a pandemic, I would also suggest a filter that can catch some bacteria and virus particles. My best suggestion is the Merv 16 filter. This will give you great protection along with not inhibiting your airflow. No matter what, you should check your filter every 30 days. It may not have to be changed but for the best IAQ, check it regularly. You may want to call a professional to see what kind of filter your system can accommodate.
Keep Your Home Clean
To help prevent changing your HVAC filter constantly and preventing it from getting pet hair clogs, you may need to vacuum and sweep every day. The number of furry pets you have will determine how often you need to clean to keep the hair under control and keep it from ending up in your filter.
To clean your vents, see which vents around your house need cleaning by walking around and doing an inspection. Pets like to lay on or near floor vents. This means pet hair is most likely getting into your vents. You might also notice dust on your vent covers. To clean the floor vents, turn off your HVAC system first. Take the vent covers off and then you can clean them using a duster, soft cloth, brush or vacuum. If you want, you can go the extra step of washing them with soap and water; just be sure they are completely dry before putting them back. Just like a clean air filter, clean floor vents will help with airflow and allow cleaner air to move throughout the house when your furnace is on.
Clean the rest of your house on a regular basis. This will not only help your HVAC system but will also improve your indoor air quality.
Pet dander is a major allergen found in our homes, but it isn’t the only one. Unintentionally, we carry allergens into our homes, including on our pets, children, shoes, and clothes. We recommend washing laundry, dusting, mopping, and vacuuming often to remove allergens as much as you can. Natural or fragrance-free cleaning products are the best choice for your home’s indoor air quality and your pet.
You should also consider keeping your pets off of beds and furniture since they will leave fur and dander in the fabrics possibly causing your allergies and asthma to flare up.
Clean Your Ductwork
Get your ductwork professionally cleaned. You will see and feel a big difference after it’s done. How often? I have one large dog and a house full of people. I get mine done every 3 or 4 years. This is not expensive and well worth the benefits.
Air ducts and pet dander go hand-in-hand. Pet dander and fur will find a way to get into the air ducts. When airborne contaminants get stuck in the air ducts, they get stirred up and recirculated through the home every time the HVAC system is turned on. Inspect your air ducts for pet hair, dust, and debris.
Consider Installing An Air Purifier
An air purifier can make a big difference for people who suffer from pet allergies.
We all love our pets, but if you or a friend or family member is allergic to dogs, cats, pet dander or saliva, it may trigger a nasty bout of sneezing, red, itchy eyes, and even hives. Dander is the primary cause of pet-related allergic reactions, and all of our furry or feathered friends give it off. Although most people are not allergic to pet hair, it can exacerbate allergies by carrying pet dander and other allergens.
Depending on the product, an air purifier that uses a filter to remove particles can have a significant impact on the number of pet allergens circulating through your home. These tiny particles can suspend in the air for long periods of time, even if your pet is not present in the home. Removing as much of them as possible may help with allergy symptoms.
Improve the air quality inside your home. Increase your comfort level, enjoy your pet, breathe easier, and stay healthy!