Pets Bring Love and Joy to a Home (but also dander and debris)

Dogs and cats bring immense joy to their owners, quickly becoming part of the family. And like all living beings in a home, pets contribute to the dander, debris, and dirt that finds its way into the air and the HVAC system. If you are a new pet owner, or if you are thinking about adding a pet to your home, know that a little extra care and maintenance is required to keep your HVAC working effectively and your indoor air quality desirable.

Dog and cat shedding is the biggest contributor of added debris that can lead to clogged filters and restricted air flow. As you probably know, some breeds of dogs and cats shed more than others. When my family adopted 2 longhair cats, I immediately noticed the extra vacuuming required. I also learned that I had to change my air filters more frequently. These are small changes we adapted to, and they are definitely worth the love and joy our feline companions bring us. If you are worried about the amount of fur or hair and dander, research pets and breeds that are known to shed less.

How Pets Affect Your Indoor Air Quality and HVAC

There are two main ways that pets contribute to the debris in your home. The first is the dirt and debris that they bring inside with them. After a walk or time outside, your pet enters the house with dirt, leaves, dried grass, or other debris on their paws and coat. Once inside, large debris like sticks and leaves can get lodged in vents and restrict airflow. Smaller debris like dirt and dust compounds the dirt already in your home, likely leaving your HVAC filters dirty at a faster rate.

Additionally, pets affect indoor air quality through shedding and dander. Shedding is the visible loss of pet hair or fur. This may be worse at certain times of the year, or it can be a continual issue. Shedding will leave visible amounts of fur on furniture, flooring, carpeting, clothing–everywhere! Dander, on the other hand, are particles of skin and hair that all living things leave behind. Though small, dander accumulates and winds up in dust clumps that can clog your air filters.

Why does this matter? A clogged filter or vent restricts air flow. As a result, you’ll notice poor air circulation, and your HVAC unit will work harder to heat and cool rooms. If left unchecked, this extra strain adds to the wear and tear of your HVAC mechanical components. It can also increase your monthly energy bills.

Steps for Pet Owners to Keep Your Home and HVAC Filters Clean

Now that you’ve got a loving and furry friend in your house, it’s time to take a little extra action so that your HVAC doesn’t work overboard.

First, brush and bathe your pet regularly. If you can brush and bathe them outside, that’s even better. Cutting down on the amount of debris, pet fur, and dander is the first step. Invest in a brush and shampoo that is suited for your pet’s coat.

Secondly, vacuum and dust more regularly. Added dander will accumulate and can become embedded in carpeting and furniture. There are many vacuums with attachments for pet hair, which may be helpful if you end up with two long-haired cats like we did.

Finally, check and change your HVAC filters regularly. If you are used to changing filters every 6 weeks, take a peek after 4 weeks and see if it looks dirty enough to change. You don’t need to buy thicker or more expensive filters, but you may need to change them more frequently.