Furnaces – Removing Dander

Did you know your furnace and its filters can remove a lot of the dander in your home?

Allergies to pet dander can pose a big problem for pet-loving families.  The simplest suggestion to dander-related allergies is to eliminate or greatly reduce contact with companion animals.  But for most of us, that just isn’t something we’re willing to consider.  We’d rather suffer with weepy eyes and a bad case of the sniffles than give up cuddles with our favourite canine or feline friend.  After all, they bring so much joy to our lives.  What’s a little runny nose in comparison with that?

The most common symptoms of a pet dander allergy include nasal and chest congestion, facial discomfort, coughing and wheezing, hives, and watery eyes.  While not life-threatening, each of these conditions is uncomfortable for us, and it’s important to find relief.

So, what’s the solution?  It helps to first understand precisely what it is that causes the allergy.  

What is dander?

Though pet hair often gets the blame for allergies, it is actually pet dander that is the main culprit.  Dander is essentially dead flakes of skin which shed into our home environments.  It is a natural process quite similar to what our own skin does.  The allergy occurs due to specific proteins contained in a combination of the dander, pet saliva, and natural oils designed to provide a protective barrier for our pets’ coats.  The series of protein chains that create the allergy originate in the bloodstream and enter the atmosphere through pet urine, saliva, skin, and hair.

It is common misconception that choosing a pet that is hairless or that has short hair will eliminate dander allergies.  Unfortunately, that is not the case.  Since dander is protein-based and is sourced in a number of pet “properties”, all pets carry the potential for dander allergies in their owners.

Some steps that can help

One of the best things that you can do in the fight against pet dander allergies is to keep your pet meticulously clean.  Frequent brushing helps eliminate dead skin cells which can then be vacuumed up to eliminate lingering in our homes.

Purchasing furniture that is made of vinyl or leather can also provide some relief for allergy sufferers.  Since fabric upholstery is woven, its surface is conducive to retaining dead skin thereby increasing the allergic reaction for many unsuspecting owners.  Dander does not stick to slick surfaces, and it is much easier to clean to remove any particles causing the irritation.

There are also specific shampoos which have been formulated to reduce the protein composition which creates the problem.  A good bath with a quality pet shampoo can help moisturize skin as well.  It feels good for your pet, and it also helps you!  A win-win situation.  

An unlikely ally in the fight against pet dander

Believe it or not, one of the best tools you have in fighting the pet dander allergy is already in your home.  Your furnace!

Many people do not realize that pet dander is often recirculated through their homes via their HVAC systems.  HVAC ventilation systems rely on the draw of air already in your home.  This air is then filtered through vents and processed through a heating cycle in your furnace before being released back into your home.

What does this mean?  It means that your furnace could potentially be recontaminating your home with additional pet dander.  It becomes airborne thus further irritating your symptoms.

You have to have a furnace.  There is no way around that.  So, what can you do to stop the recontamination process?

The furnace filter you choose for your home can be a powerful ally in the battle against pet dander allergies.

Why a furnace filter?

By definition, a filter’s purpose is to remove particles from our air that are potentially harmful for us.  Like most things, not all furnace filters are created equally, and in the fight against pet-related allergies, it’s important that you choose the correct one for your home. 

Which furnace filter is the best choice?

In choosing a filter for your furnace or air conditioner, it is wise to select one that has earned a MERV rating.  The acronym MERV is the abbreviated version of Minimum Efficiency Rating Value.  Filters with these ratings have been subjected to rigorous testing to ensure that they meet the minimum quality requirements to earn their MERV seal approval. 

The industry-leading residential choice is the MERV-11 furnace filter.  There are many advantages that make this filter the best option for homes for families with pets.

Among those advantages are:

  • It is the highest rated filter in its category (primary residential use).
  • It has a success rate of reducing up to 90 percent of all airborne particles in a home.
  • It is the only residential filter on today’s market that effectively handles smoke and pet dander.

For additional air purification, MERV-11 filters are also compatible with many air conditioning units.

Honeywell, Aerostar, Electro Air, and Lennox are but a few companies which offer top quality MERV-11 filters suitable for residential service.

The higher rated MERV-13 furnace filter is the top selection for households requiring a perfectly sterile home environment.  These filters are primarily used in commercial settings but are available for home use as well.  The advantage to the MERV-13 filter is its ability to remove up to 95 percent of all irritating debris and particles from the air as well as its powerful defense against the spread of bacteria and viruses.  For people suffering with very severe allergies to dander including asthma, this is the best choice.

Important considerations

You’ve selected the best furnace filter for your home.  Now what?

Here are two important things to help you get the most from your new filter:

  • Partner with a professional HVAC technician. You can have the best filter in the world, but if it’s not installed properly, it’s not going to do you much good.  Hiring a professional for the job ensures that your furnace or air conditioning unit is functioning optimally, and its filtration system is operating at peak efficiency.
  • Ensure your HVAC system is clear of dirt or debris. A dirty filter or ventilation system cannot effectively do its job.  A regular thorough cleaning is necessary for ideal functionality.  Dirt and allergens trapped in a less than pristine system simply end up recirculated back into the air in your home thus exacerbating allergies and other problems.  If your system becomes damaged, it can create electrical issues as well as potentially leak contaminants into your home.

Has cuddle time with Fido left you sneezing?  Consider replacing your furnace and air conditioning filters with a MERV-rated filter.  With the right furnace filter, you can greatly reduce and even eliminate pet dander allergies!