New Mexicans love our pets. The state ranks second in the U.S. for pet ownership, with 67.9% of households owning a pet. New Mexico pet owners, many of them living in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, especially love dogs, with 46% of households owning dogs. Having a furry family member is fun and fulfilling; however, it may present some challenges when it comes to your heating and cooling system. Read on for advice from Aztec Mechanical’s expert technicians on HVAC maintenance for pet owners.

Pets and Indoor Air Pollution

Pets with fur, including dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, and guinea pigs, are enjoyably cuddly; however, they can cause a form of indoor air pollution. They shed dead skin cells known as dander and proteins from their saliva, which are released when pets groom themselves and dried saliva flakes off into the air. Both can cause allergic reactions.

“Pet dander and other pet allergens may linger in the air for a longer time than other allergens. This is because they are microscopic and jagged in shape, making it easy for them to become airborne and stick to furniture, bedding, fabrics and many times even be carried on items into and out of the home,” the American Lung Association says.

All varieties of dogs and cats can potentially send dander and saliva proteins into the air. Because cats’ saliva proteins tend to be smaller, lighter, and stickier than dogs’, it tends to linger in the air longer and settle on surfaces more easily. That leads to prolonged exposures — and more frequent allergic reactions. Cat allergies are twice as common as dog allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America.

Living among these allergens could cause people to experience allergic reactions or allergic symptoms, including having a runny nose, itchy eyes, or shortness of breath. Around 10% of people have pet allergies. People with asthma can have particularly acute symptoms. However, the affection pet owners feel toward their pets often overrides inconveniences like blowing their noses.

Tips to Minimize Pet Dander and Proteins

Some of the best ways to minimize pet allergens are to care for your pets in specific ways, these include:

  • Wash your pets. Experts recommend washing them once or twice a week. You can also opt for dander-reducing shampoos, which may keep that allergen to a minimum.
  • Brush or comb your pet regularly. Groom your pets outside, so loose hair, dander, and proteins won’t be trapped inside your home.

HVAC Maintenance Tips for Pet Owners

HVAC maintenance can help minimize the effects of pet dander in pet owners’ homes. These strategies will help you breathe easier — especially because by following these steps, you may be able to save yourself in costly repairs.

1. Clean your air filter. Current Allergy and Asthma Reports found that air filtration is one of the “methods to improve outcomes in the treatment of respiratory diseases.” To be effective, however, you should clean and/or replace your filters more often. You may find that the presence of pet dander clogs the filters more quickly.

2. Upgrade your filter. You may also benefit from upgrading your home’s air filter to one with a higher MERV rating. This system rates a filter’s ability to catch particles. A higher rated filter will catch more dander and proteins.

3. Pet urine can wreak havoc. Dogs and cats can cause wear and tear on your heating and cooling units in other ways. If your AC unit is outside your house in an area your pets can access, keep them from urinating on the unit. Over time, acidic urine can corrode the unit’s condenser coils. If that happens, the coils can begin leaking freon. This will cause the unit to cool less efficiently. To function correctly, the condenser coils will then need to be repaired or replaced, which can cost between a few hundred and a few thousand dollars.

If your unit isn’t repaired in a timely fashion, the leaking fluid can cause your system to work harder, leading to more wear and tear, and requiring replacement sooner. Consider installing a fence around the unit to keep pets from urinating on it. 

Pets Can Suffer from Indoor Air Pollution

Many people consider their pets precious, and they want to protect them from potential hazards. Just as humans can suffer from indoor air pollution, so can pets. They’re also vulnerable to air pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (from paint and cleaning supplies), mold, and smoke. Their relative small size also makes them even more susceptible than humans. During the pandemic, both people and pets have been spending more time inside, meaning they’re exposed to the pollutants longer.

To protect your pets (and you), Dr. Ruth Roberts, a former veterinarian and holistic pet health coach, recommends installing a UV filter in your heating and cooling system. These and other filtration systems can “destroy a lot of the allergens and pollutants that are being recirculated throughout the home,” she says.

How Aztec Mechanical Can Help

As full-service HVAC experts for home and commercial properties, Aztec Mechanical can ensure your heating system is working safely and efficiently. If your pet causes damage or wear and tear to your HVAC system, we offer 24-hour heating/cooling repair services. We can also put together a preventative maintenance plan. Contact us to get started today!