My nephew recently got a new puppy and, not to exaggerate, but it’s the most adorable thing I’ve seen in a good long while. It’s a dachshund with floppy ears and shaggy hair and my nephew runs around with this pup for hours on end. The problem, my sister tells me, is that the little furry guy, Jerome, is also a factory for pet dander; my nephew has been having some serious sinus problems since they brought the pooch home, especially when he’s trying to sleep at night.
His sinus struggles don’t really get worse or better when he’s not around the dog so he doesn’t seem to be allergic to him. This has led me, as an HVAC professional, to suppose that his sniffle issues probably have a whole lot to do with pet dander getting sucked into HVAC vents and then pushed back out into the air that my nephew breathes. This, I told my sister, can be a real problem—but it doesn’t have to be. She just needs to look into using furnace filters designed to deal with pet dander that are also the perfect fit for her home’s furnace both in terms of quality and sizing—and then make sure that the filter is consistently changed on a regular basis.
The problem isn’t the new pup. Furnace filters can win your battle against pet dander and home allergens for you. If chosen and installed properly, with the help of a professional heating and cooling service, your vents can stay clear of sinus-offending debris so your family can get back to snuggling their fuzzy friends without getting a case of the pet dander sniffles.
Combating Pet Dander with Furnace Filters
I can’t even start to estimate the number of homeowners I’ve consulted who love their critters so much that they’re willing to keep their pet even if it increases their allergies. But, like I told my sister, the right furnace filter can go a long way to minimize your family’s sinus pain. The key is making sure that the dander your pet naturally give off is not being circulated by your HVAC system and your furnace throughout the rest of your home.
The key is making sure that the dander your pet naturally give off is not being circulated by your HVAC system and your furnace throughout the rest of your home.
You see, in order to function, your HVAC system must pull in air from your house, run it through a system of vents, heat it inside the furnace, and then push it back out into your home, first running it through a filter to remove things like debris and pet dander. As I’ve talked about in the past, it’s good for Sacramento homeowners to be aware of duct cleaning advice for fighting dust, which should be scheduled year-round in our region, but the most basic piece of advice I can give when it comes to pet dander is to first focus on the filters.
Choosing MERV-Rated Furnace Filters for Pet Dander
Now, my nephew isn’t the only kid in Sacramento who has a dog for a best friend. In fact, I think it’s pretty safe to call our area a dog-loving region. That new dog park in downtown Sacramento on 19th Street right by the Safeway is always packed, even with cooler days setting in. I think that’s part of the reason I find myself so often explaining to homeowners why you should use MERV-rated furnace filters for pet dander in the HVAC system of your home.
If your air conditioner motor can work with a MERV 11 filter, it’s a great choice for homes with pets or if you have kids prone to allergies.
Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value, or MERV, is a rating system designed by the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers. The 4 MERV ratings most applicable to your home’s residential AC or furnace are:
- MERV 6: This filter has the least amount of filtration, catching only between 20-69% of all large particle contaminants like lint, household dust, and pollen. This should only be an option if it is the largest filter recommended for your air conditioning unit.
- MERV 8: This is the standard size of furnace filter for residential homes. They can capture up to 85% of all large particles and 50% of smaller ones, like lint, household dust, pollen, and mold spores.
- MERV 11: This is a superior filter rating that captures over 90% of large particles and between 70-90% of the smaller ones, including all the particles that MERV 8 filters can capture, plus pet dander and some smoke. If your air conditioner motor can work with a MERV 11 filter, it’s a great choice for homes with pets or if you have kids prone to allergies.
- MERV 13: This is the highest filter rating available for home HVAC systems—and the best option for households with sick family members who need a sterile environment. These filters are usually used in schools and office buildings and are capable of filtering over 95% of large particles and over 80% of small ones—even some bacteria and viruses.
Furnace Filters vs. Pet Dander: Why the Right Size and Fit Matters
Now that we’ve discussed MERV ratings, here are a few reasons, pet dander among them, that getting the right type of filter is so important for the air quality in your home:
- Prevent damage to your HVAC system: A buildup of dirt and debris can cause damage to your unit by clogging the fan, coils, and condensate drain lines. It can also attach to electrical wiring and other critical parts. Dirty wiring can stop the flow of electricity, causing electrical gear to overheat. This can age your unit prematurely, affect its overall efficiency, and even cause it to stop working altogether.
- Stop dangerous contaminants from circulating through your home: Air particles that find themselves in the return duct of your air conditioner will eventually be spread to every single room in your house—including contaminants considered toxic or hazardous by the California Environmental Health Tracking Program (CEHTP). Keep in mind that rooms requiring more sterile environments, like baby nurseries, will experience the same air quality issues as the rest of the house.
- Inhibit the spread of allergens: Pollen, pet dander, and mold are all allergens that migrate into your home from the outside. Once they find their way in, your air conditioner or furnace can quickly push them into each room through the duct system, kicking allergy responses into high gear.
My number one recommendation after all of this, though, is to make sure you work with a professional HVAC technician. An experienced tech can help you find the right size and fit that’s perfect for keeping pet dander from circulation throughout your home. He or she can also work with you to create a regular filter replacement schedule. That way you won’t even have to think about it. Instead, every so often they’ll automatically come out to your home to change the filter for you.
One last note from me as a dog-lover: if you’ve been on the fence about adopting or rescuing a pup, don’t let your allergies be the only thing that stops you. The right filter can keep you out of the dog house when it comes to your kids and allergies.
Don’t let pet dander make you stuffy. Contact the HVAC professionals at Bell Brothers to schedule your regular filter change today. And, while we’re visiting your home, let us give you a whole house assessment for energy efficiency and offer recommendations and upgrades that are sure to increase your year-round comfort—and decrease your power bills.
Wondering how to finance a new HVAC system, windows, or plumbing? HERO is a unique financing option that helps California homeowners afford energy efficient upgrades to their home. Contact Bell Brothers, a HERO-approved contractor, to learn more. Our local HVAC, plumbing, and window specialists will walk you through the entire process, from applications to installation.
Image courtesy Pixabay user Andrewicus