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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.