Pet ownership is on the rise as more and more of us welcome animal companions into our homes and embrace them as part of the family.
The most common pets are cats and dogs and if you own one, you probably can’t imagine life without them. The joy they bring with their antics and affection. Not to mention the fur on the furniture, on our clothes and in our morning coffee!
But, as we open our doors to these lovable fur kids, there can be some less than desirable side effects to our indoor air quality and air conditioning systems. This is especially so in urban settings where they are mostly kept inside
Here are some simple tips to keep in mind to ensure optimum well-being for you, your family, your pets and the air you breathe at home.
Do’s and Don’ts
1.Pay extra attention to pet dander and not just the pet hair.
Because it’s visible, people tend to blame fur as the main source of health-related issues caused by pets, like allergies and other respiratory problems. In reality, the culprit is something that can’t be perceived with the naked eye. And that’s pet dander.
Pet dander is actually what most people with allergies are allergic to. Even if you are not prone to allergic reactions, dander build-up can still potentially cause irritations that lead to sneezing, itchy or watery eyes or a stuffy or runny nose. Overtime, long-term exposure to dander can even lead to people developing allergic reactions they didn’t have before, which can trigger other health complications like asthma.
So, what is pet dander and how does it spread?
Pet dander is tiny particles of skin flakes shed from animals with fur and feathers, much like dandruff from the scalp of humans. Some dander can be visible but for the most part, it’s microscopic and can be transported through the air like house dust. And like house dust, dander tends to repeatedly float in the air, stick to a surface and become airborne again at the slightest disturbance. Once inhaled, dander settles in the respiratory system and if not reduced in the environment, can lead to potential health risks.
2. Choosing the right air conditioner can help minimise pet dander and improve indoor air quality significantly.
Because pet dander is microscopic, investing in the latest air conditioning solution can help mitigate health risks.
Some modern air conditioners are equipped with technological advancements capable of monitoring levels of tiny and fine particulate matters. Special focus is given to the harmful PM10 and PM2.5 particles, which most pet dander fall within.
PM10 are small particles that measure 2.5 to 10 micrometres in diameter (a strand of human hair is 60-120 micrometres in comparison), while PM2.5 refer to fine particles are 2.5 micrometres in diameter or smaller. Mitsubishi Electric’s latest line of air-conditioners, for example, are fitted with air quality sensors that monitor and provide data that can be used to warn those at risk when fine particulate levels rise.
Incidentally, did you know that indoor air pollutants that trigger a runny nose and sneezing in people can also cause the same symptoms in pets? Particulate matters such as dust, mould, VOCs and other household chemicals, cigarette smoke, perfume and cologne, allergens…you get the idea, can trigger a reaction in sensitive pets.
3. Clean and change air filters frequently.
Your air conditioning system operates by sucking in unconditioned air from inside your home, cools it, then delivers it back to your home. Along with the stale air that is taken into your system are the contaminants and particles such as dust, dirt and of course, pet hair and dander.
An effective and clean air filter traps these pollutants, preventing them from entering the system and being circulated over and over again in your home.
However, as pet hair and other particles gather, the filter gets dirty and clogged. When this happens, not only does the air filter become less effective in trapping the particles, proper air flow is also hindered. Your air conditioning’s efficiency declines, which also shortens the longevity of your system, costing you more in the long run.
While the general rule of thumb is to clean your air filter once a month and replace it once every two to three months, if you have pets at home, you may want to increase the cleaning and changing frequency. At the very least, check the filter in your air conditioning system once every fortnight to ensure it remains in tip-top condition.
The same applies to the filters in any air cleaning or air purifying units you have at home. And always use a high-quality true HEPA filter, which is the current industry standard in trapping fine particles and particulate matter.
4. Maintain a clean home.
As with the air conditioning system and filters, pet owners should diligently clean their homes (and their pets) regularly.
Vacuum your home once a week to remove as much dander, hair and dust build-up as possible. Pay particular attention to nooks and crannies, fabric that tends to trap contaminants and even windowsills, lampshades and edges that can become havens for small particles. Use a vacuum with a true HEPA filter that can also help trap allergens.
Remember that brushing and dusting alone is insufficient as that only dislodges the particles. If you don’t have a vacuum, you can use a damp cloth to wipe down after you’ve brushed or dusted a surface. A microfibre cloth can be very useful, but remember to only wipe one way. Wiping back and forth only serves to spread the particles around. And rinse frequently, making sure to change out the water once it gets cloudy.
Groom your pet at least every alternate day to remove as much shedding hair as possible and prevent dander from accumulating on their skin. Bath your dog on a weekly basis; cats tend to keep themselves clean and don’t appreciate or even need baths unless they are soiled from being outside. Washing your pet’s bedding and favourite resting places as well as your own bedsheets (if your pet sleeps with you) on a weekly basis also goes a long way in reducing build-up of mites, dander and allergens.
5. Protect your air conditioner and your pets from exposed wires.
Some pets have a penchant for chewing on wires and cables. Make sure you conduct frequent inspections to ensure any accessible wires of your system, or any other wires and cables for that matter, remain intact. Better yet, buy wrap all wires in cord protectors to help deter those beloved fur kids from gnawing at them and destroying the cables or worse, electrocuting themselves in the process.
For more interesting facts and informative tips about air conditioning and regulating your indoor climate, please visit https://my.mitsubishielectric.com/en/products-solutions/air-conditioning/racbrand/index.html.