As a pet owner, you know your pets make your house feel more like home. However, your furry family members could be impacting your HVAC system with their dander, fur, and activities. Even if you do not have pets in your home, you could still have pet allergens lurking from other pets or pet owners you may know or have been in close contact with.
At Fire & Ice, we’ve had thousands of conversations with homeowners, and we get asked a lot if there are ways of reducing the impact pet allergens have on indoor air quality and HVAC.
The answer is yes, and there are many types of solutions, services, and prevention products that can keep problems from arising.
Maintaining a regular cleaning schedule can help, but this article is for you if you’re looking for advice and solutions for controlling the pet allergens in your home. We’re here to provide answers so that you and your family can be comfortable without suffering from allergies, bacteria particles, or leaving your guests uncomfortable with the smell of pet odors.
Pet dander is frequently the source of allergies and can be the source of many issues inside your home, not your pet's shedding or the fur itself.
What is pet dander, and how does it collect inside my home?
The hair from your dog, cat or other pet with fur is a nuisance and a carrier for pet dander. Pet dander is the microscopic protein from skin shed by your pets. Your dog's saliva, urine, glands, and blood can release allergens that can stay embedded in carpets, furniture, and clothing for months at a time.
How can I prevent my HVAC system from collecting allergens?
Using the right filter is a big proponent of keeping the dander and pet hair floating around your house to a minimum.
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Look at the MERV rating of a filter. It stands for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value and rates the filter’s ability to collect larger particles. A MERV rating of 1 is the lowest, and 14-16 is the highest. For example, a MERV rating of 13-16 is perfect for grabbing allergen particles. The design of the filter is also something to consider.
Specific designs with a criss-cross pattern will also restrict airflow and create issues because they don’t allow air to flow through them as easily. In addition, some cheaper filters are made with cardboard, which can limit airflow.
Density is also critical when considering a filter. For example, a four-inch filter, also known as a media filter, will perform better against odors and particles than a standard one-inch filter. On the other hand, a high MERV-rated filter with an above one-inch density will restrict airflow and cause more static pressure.
Static pressure happens when the filter has resistance to airflow and includes heating and cooling equipment and ductwork. Debris-packed filters are frequently a cause of static pressure.
At Fire & Ice, we check static pressure at the installation time. Still, we also include a 10-year clean coil guarantee with the inclusion of an Aprilaire media filter if you're changing it out once a year.
A filter product like the Trane CleanEffects can also help improve your air quality and help in the battle against pet allergens, odor, and bacteria.
The CleanEffects is a hybrid filter combining more than one filtration type. This case combines a multi-media filter with electronic filtration that removes 99.98% of airborne particles. It is eight times more effective than the best HEPA room filters and up to 100 times more effective than a standard 1-inch filter.
The cost to install these is around $2,000, compared to a fiberglass filter, around $5, and a washable filter, at about $9.
It is reusable and needs to be cleaned once or twice yearly, depending on the level of debris. As a result, the Trane CleanEffects can save money in the long term. Compared to a disposable high MERV filter, it only has to be replaced once every ten years.
Additional products like a charcoal filter or a charcoal add-on to your HVAC system can help.
These products help reduce the odors present in the air and make them less detectable. Charcoal add ons can also be helpful for other odors that might occur in your home, such as cooking exotic food.
The charcoal products can also help prevent becoming nose blind to pet odors. Nose blindness is the temporary adaptation of the body that leads to the inability to distinguish familiar scents in your environment. Pet owners might notice that they no longer smell any odors related to their furry friend over time, but guests may be able to catch it right away upon walking into the home. Using a charcoal filter or add-on can help keep both you and any guests from becoming used to the pet odors in your home.
How frequently should I change my filter?
Changing the filter more often will combat allergens and odors. The manufacturer should have recommended changing the time on the packaging. It can be 30 days, 60 days, or up to a year. However, consider changing or cleaning it with pets if it is a cleanable filter more frequently. Especially if you own more than one pet with fur, this is important to keep in mind.
Other factors may help indicate how frequently you should change your furnace filter, including:
If you have smokers in your home, this will cause particles to collect more quickly inside the filter, especially if they smoke inside instead of outside.
Allergies and Immunocompromised
Anyone in your household with these issues will likely need the filter changed sooner to help combat these issues.
How often do you run your system
The filter is only working as long as your system is running. So if your family is gone for a season, for example, you might not have to change the filter as often.
What other products or services can I get to help combat pet dander and odor issues?
While changing the filters often can help, homeowners with multiple pets or noticeable pet odors should also consider getting their ducts cleaned.
A duct cleaning will remove these odors, airborne particles, debris, and even mold that can be trapped inside your ductwork. All are harmful to you and your family to breathe in. Still, it can also cause blockages in your evaporator coil blower wheel and restrict airflow.
A duct cleaning is typically recommended every three to five years. However, if you notice any odors, you or your family members have allergies, recently moved into a new home, or had any extensive remodeling work done, you might consider having it done sooner.
Additionally, you could consider installing a whole-home air purifier, such as the Reme Halo, in your system to sanitize the air and remove any bacteria present.
The Reme Halo was created by RGF Environmental Group LLC and uses in-duct purification to remove allergens and particles. It places vaporized hydrogen peroxide particles inside the air stream in your home.
The Reme Halo comes in two varieties, LED light and UV light, to accomplish the same goal of air purification. Either system will reduce air pollutants such as particulates, microbes, and viruses. Removing these will minimize allergy triggers and remove airborne and surface bacteria and odors from pets, cooking, and other household odors.
The dual ionization system will also remove viruses such as MRSA and Strep and can eliminate sneeze particles within three feet.
I have one installed in my home, and my wife complains that it almost works too well because she cannot smell the scent of her candles as well as she could before having the system installed.
How do I keep monitoring my home air quality?
We've talked a lot in this article about different products and tips to help minimize the pet odors and allergens in your home. But you can put all of these products, services, and information together to make sense for you and your home.
Scheduling regular tune-up appointments or maintenance appointments will help monitor your home air quality. The technician can change out your filter and other items that need to be changed on your system to keep your home air quality at its best. They can also help make you aware of any upcoming maintenance that needs scheduling like you would with a vehicle.
A good HVAC representative should address any allergen or odor concerns with you during the consultation process inside your home. Then, they can help you decide which issues are more pertinent to tackle and which combination of products or services might best address your specific issues.
Using an innovative home product will help you link everything together and monitor your system. The Trane CleanEffects is an excellent example of this. The filter is connected to your entire system and will show you when you need to clean it and perform maintenance. In addition, it has a light that will blink red, indicating when it needs to be cleaned.
If you live in Columbus or the surrounding area, contact us at Fire & Ice Heating & Air Conditioning.
We can assist you with any questions about reducing your pets' impact on your indoor air quality or any products and services we offer that can help.
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