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With temperatures rising, Columbia, Maryland, homeowners are focusing on ways to maintain their indoor air quality this summer. For pet owners, maintaining indoor air quality is even more crucial, as our beloved furry companions can affect a home’s entire HVAC system. Here’s a short guide to pets and indoor air quality.

What Is Pet Dander?

While pet hair and dander pose similar problems for homeowners, they’re not the same thing. Pet dander is actually microscopic flakes of skin produced by cats, dogs, birds, rodents, and other animals, which is the part of a pet that most people are allergic to. Humans can also be allergic to proteins found in pet urine, saliva, and feces. In fact, dried saliva can flake off of an animal’s fur and become airborne, getting circulated through an HVAC system like dust.

People can be allergic to all types of pet dander, but research shows that nearly twice as many people are allergic to cats compared to dogs — although the reason for this isn’t entirely clear. Regardless of the types of pets you own, it’s crucial to understand the importance of maintaining proper indoor air quality for your family’s overall health and wellbeing.

How Pets Affect Indoor Air Quality

Countless Americans are allergic to pet dander, but just because you’re not allergic to your pet doesn’t mean your home’s air quality isn’t affected. When it becomes airborne, pet dander accumulates on surfaces throughout the home, which can result in symptoms such as sneezing, rashes, watery eyes, and other respiratory complaints. When your HVAC system kicks in, pet dander blows through the system and redistributes in other areas of the home, causing your family to breathe it in.

In addition to the problem of pet dander, pet hair poses a unique challenge to any HVAC system. Stale air is sucked up through the system in order to be conditioned for later use, which means that pet fur gets sucked up right along with it. When this happens, your HVAC air filters clog, which causes your HVAC system to lose efficiency. Even if your pet has short hair, air filters clog quickly and hinder your system’s ability to work as intended.

What You Can Do About It

Fortunately for pet owners, there are several things you can do to improve indoor air quality and keep too much pet fur and dander from circulating throughout your home. Here are a few suggestions:

Maintain Your HVAC Air Filters

Although air filters tend to clog more quickly for pet owners, there’s an easy, affordable solution for maintaining your indoor air quality. Simply replace your home’s air filters at least every three months to maintain your HVAC system’s efficiency. In homes with multiple pets, it’s a good idea to change the filters monthly. At the very least, you should be checking your filters once a month for clogs, particularly during the summer when you’re using your air conditioner nonstop.

When buying new air filters, look for the filter’s MERV rating, which usually ranges from one to 12. The higher the number, the more filtration the filter provides. Although you would assume that the highest filtration is best, keep in mind that higher MERV ratings require more energy to pull air through. If you’re not sure which air filter is best for your HVAC system, check your system’s requirements or give us a call.

Bathe Your Pet Regularly

Maintaining your pet’s fur is also essential. Bathing your pets once a month will help reduce shedding and cut down on pet dander, which would otherwise be redistributed throughout the home. Dog hair in particular tends to attract dust, mold spores, and other allergens, which regular bathing can eliminate. While it can be tempting to bathe your pet more often, too many baths can end up drying out their skin — resulting in more pet dander. Instead, use a de-shedding brush or comb between baths to help keep your home free of pet hair all month long.

Use a Vacuum with a HEPA Filter

Vacuuming your home is also crucial to keeping pet hair and dander at bay. HEPA filters are particularly beneficial because they capture a wide array of allergens that can affect indoor air quality. Vacuuming with a HEPA-equipped model will reduce pollen, mold spores, smoke, pet dander, fur, and dust, providing your family with much-needed allergy relief.

Although you may be tempted to dust all surfaces with a cloth, keep in mind that this method will only spread allergens around. Rather than dust, utilize your vacuum tools to take care of surfaces and hard-to-reach areas, particularly on curtains, moldings, and under beds. If you have difficulty dusting small knickknacks using this method, cover your vacuum attachment with a fine cloth or pair of pantyhose. The suction will remove dust from small objects without damaging them.

Use an Air Purifier

In addition to vacuuming with a HEPA-equipped model, invest in an air purifier with an onboard HEPA filter. Air purifiers come in a wide range of sizes, from small, portable units to whole-home models, giving your family plenty of options for controlling your home’s indoor air quality. Just be sure to buy an air purifier that’s large enough to purify the room you intend to use it in.

The huge benefit of having a whole-home air purifier installed is that the majority of allergens, dust, and other particles will be eliminated from every room in the home. Standard air filters do a good job of capturing particles, but whole-home air cleaners provide your entire home with fresh, healthy air that can eliminate asthma and allergy symptoms. They’re also more efficient than standard filtration options, require little maintenance, and don’t take up any space in your living room. As an added bonus, whole-home air purifiers help your HVAC system run more efficiently, reducing overall energy costs.

Consider Your Home’s Humidity Levels

Humidity plays a huge factor in your home’s indoor comfort. If a home is too dry, you could be plagued by respiratory issues in addition to pet allergens, which will only exacerbate the problem. Too much humidity leaves your home susceptible to mold and mildew growth. In addition, dogs are easily affected by heat and humidity — even more so than people. As humidity levels rise, dogs become more susceptible to heat stroke during the summer months.

Modern humidifiers and dehumidifiers come in handy for maintaining your home’s ideal indoor climate, which is important for any family with pets. Whole-home units are even available that work in conjunction with your HVAC system and whole-home air cleaner, boosting your indoor air quality to maximum levels.

Have Your Pets Sleep in Their Own Bed

It’s tempting to let your furry companions share the bed with you, but pet fur and dander will only end up clinging to your bedding, reducing your sleep quality and making it more difficult to breathe — especially if you have allergies. Boosting your indoor air quality is particularly important in the bedroom, where you want to have the healthiest air possible, which is why keeping pets off bedding is important. You may even want to go a step further and make all bedrooms off limits to cats and dogs.

In addition to designated no-pet sleeping areas, use allergen-protective covers on all mattresses and pillows for extra protection. These covers can easily be removed and washed or vacuumed, preserving your bedding and keeping it free from dust mites, pet dander, and other allergens.

The Bottom Line

As a homeowner, you want to ensure that all members of the family are safe and healthy, including pets. It’s nice to know that there are plenty of products on the market to improve indoor air quality and help everyone in the family breathe easier. Regardless of your indoor air quality concerns, we offer an array of products and services to boost your home’s breathability and make it a more welcoming space for your loved ones — even your furry companions.

Contact Griffith Energy Services today at 888-474-3391 to learn more about our indoor air quality solutions. Our expert technicians will be happy to discuss a plan for improving your home’s air quality to make the indoor space as comfortable as possible.

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