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Air Conditioning and COVID-19: Does Your Air Conditioner Impact the Spread of Coronavirus?

When the Coronavirus pandemic first kicked off in the United States, misinformation and misunderstanding were the norms. Now, months later, our understanding of the novel coronavirus has been enhanced, though some key questions remain. The novel coronavirus is a new strain of coronavirus that has not been previously identified or understood. This new virus causes the COVID-19 infection that we have been tracking for so long, killing almost one million people around the world.

As a highly contagious respiratory condition, it stands to reason that questions would linger about the impact of air conditioning on the spread of the virus. Today, we want to delve into the question by using scientific research to back up our conclusions. As always, for a full understanding of any infectious disease please refer to the experts at the CDC for final thoughts.

Coronavirus vs. Air Conditioning: A Complicated Battle

Anytime that questions are surrounding an infectious respiratory illness, our thoughts go to the ways that we may interact with this virus. Let’s take a closer look at how COVID-19 is currently understood to spread to answer this question more completely.

COVID-19 is spread primarily from one person to the next through respiratory droplets that are produced when an individual coughs, talks, or sneezes. Infected droplets that are inhaled or consumed orally can lead to to infection, thus leading to the sustainable issues surrounding community spread, where one member of the community is gifted the disease from someone else within that same community.

As a respiratory illness that requires simply inhaling infected droplets, wearing a mask while practicing social distancing can help to seriously stem the tide of coronavirus infections. Yet, it is through understanding this process that we can see how air conditioning and COVID-19 intersect. To accomplish this task, let’s look at how air conditioning works at a basic level.

When your air conditioning unit runs, it transfers energy from one place to the next. Central A/C units operate by extracting heat from a conditioned space before relocating it outside of your home. The terminology here is important as your A/C unit is moving energy and not air. The same air in your home will be recirculated over and over again, less the installation of a proper ventilation system such as a Heat Recovery Ventilator.

What does this mean? It means that your air conditioning system can spread the coronavirus infection from one room to the next. This is particularly important when considering inviting outside members of the household to your home. Individuals who cohabitate should not worry about A/C as a viral vector until a third party is brought into the home from the outside.

Reclaiming Air Purity: Ozone Generator vs. Air Purifier

While the coronavirus has seemingly continued to spread throughout the world despite mitigation efforts, some methods are being explored to prevent the continued risk of exposure at home. With that being said, the novel coronavirus is still new and not thoroughly understood. Any product, good, or service claiming to offer a cure for COVID-19 should be met with significant skepticism. All final word when discussing COVID-19 should be focused on the medical professionals at the CDC and WHO.

Understanding that there is no tried-and-true cure does not mean that there aren’t any potential ways to protect yourself and your home.  Independent air quality tests in controlled environments have been shown to destroy pathogens with nearly 99.99% effectiveness through the use of ozone generators. While this is exciting and positive news, it should be underscored that the level of ozone required to neutralize COVID-19 was too high for human and animal safety.

Ozone generators operate by creating ozone through the breaking-apart of an oxygen molecule. These broken-down oxygen molecules attach to other molecules in the air to create ozone (O3). While ozone is marketed as ‘pure air’ or ‘activated oxygen’ the unfortunate truth is that ozone is a toxic gas and thus unfit for inhalation due to the inherent dangers it poses toward human health.

While ozone generators are not yet an actionable solution for preventing the spread of COVID-19 through our air conditioning unit, in-duct air purifiers may offer a rewarding opportunity. As air conditioners circulate air repeatedly throughout the home, the addition of an in-line duct purifier can help to purify the air that maneuvers through the entire home. Air purifiers like the REME HALO, Air Scrubber Plus, and the APCO Fresh Aire Air Purifier both offer value as stand-alone purifiers to kill airborne contaminants.

As it stands right now, there are no perfect solutions to preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus. Our understanding of the respiratory illness is always evolving as new science dictates. What we do understand is that COVID-19 CAN SPREAD through air conditioning and that in-line purifiers have been shown to decrease the risk of airborne pathogens circulating in a household.

 

The Importance Of Your AC Filter

Your AC Filter Matters — and Here’s Why

When you think of the critical components that make up your air conditioning system, heat pump, or furnace, you probably envision the compressor, condenser, evaporator, and other major parts. However, you shouldn’t neglect a much less impressive yet equally important piece of the puzzle: the air filter. HVAC air filters contribute to your system’s energy efficiency, help to prevent breakdowns, and can even safeguard your health and the health of your loved ones. Let’s examine this unsung hero of the HVAC system to see exactly why and how it makes such an enormous difference.

The Role of the AC Filter

You can think of your AC filter as the “gatekeeper” between your living space and your air conditioning or heating system. This ordinary-looking rectangular frame filled with cloth, paper, or spun fiberglass sits just inside the vent grille that leads to your ductwork. Air that has already gone through the system’s healing and cooling processes proceeds down the duct and through the permeable material of the filter on its way into your room.

The AC filter’s job is to catch any tiny particles of unwanted airborne substances in its fibers. This filtering action effectively cleanses the incoming air to make it safer and more pleasant to breathe. It also helps to keep your floors and other surfaces free of dirt and dust.

When (and How) Good AC Filters Go Bad

Since the particles trapped by AC filters remain embedded in the filter material, these filters get dirtier and dirtier over a period of weeks or months. The more debris the filter collects, the less efficiently it can push air from the HVAC duct into the living space. Any air that does make it through may still contain particles that the dirty filter can’t catch or hold onto.

An AC filter must fit into its enclosure precisely to do its job. A poorly-fitted air filter may leave areas of the duct opening unguarded, allowing dirty air to pass directly into your home.

AC Filter Problems Can Promote Health Problems

A dirty or otherwise malfunctioning AC filter doesn’t just leave you with dusty floors and furniture — it can also pose a threat to your health and wellness. Household air naturally collects a variety of allergens, including pollen, pet dander, mold spores, bacteria, metallic particles, lint fibers, and cigarette ash. Without an efficient means of filtering out these contaminants, you could experience chronic allergy symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, runny nose, watery or itchy eyes, sneezing, and headaches. You may also run a greater risk of respiratory infections or asthma.

AC Filter Problems Affect HVAC Performance

If your AC filter can’t function properly, neither can the rest of your HVAC system, or at least not very long. The dust and debris that doesn’t get trapped by the filter may float back into other components of the system. This can contribute to mechanical breakdowns or loss of mechanical efficiency over time.

If your HVAC doesn’t quit altogether, you may end up paying higher utility bills than you should to achieve the desired temperature in your home. A clogged air filter will obstruct the flow ofc cooled or heated air, forcing you to run the system harder than normal to enjoy a comfortable home.

How to Help Your AC Filter (and Your HVAC System) Do Its Job

Fortunately, a malfunctioning AC filter is the simplest and most cost-effective HVAC problem to correct. Get into the habit of changing your air filter periodically. How often you change an AC filter will depend on what kind of filter you have. A run-of-the-mill cardboard-framed AC air filter can usually go 30 days before it needs replacing, while some high-end filters may continue to function for up to six months before they get too clogged to continue. Ask your AC service technician for advice on changing your particular type of filter.

Measure the dimensions of the space that accommodates your air filter. You want to purchase a size that will sit flush within the space, with no gaps to permit unfiltered air passage.

If you have known allergy, asthma, or other respiratory problems, you may want to purchase a HEPA air filter instead of a standard AC filter. HEPA stands for “High Efficiency Particulate Air.” These specialized filters are rated to remove up to 99.7 percent of airborne contaminants over 0.3 microns in size.

Last but not least, don’t forget to schedule periodic AC system inspections. If your air filter is contributing to a problem, you want to spot and fix that problem sooner rather than later.

Whether you need to fix a problem produced by a neglected air filter or you just need advice on the right kind of air filter for your system’s needs, we can help. Contact us today so we can discuss your situation and schedule a time to look at your HVAC system.