Essential Tips to Use Your Air Conditioning Safely During COVID-19
It’s difficult to comprehend that just a few months ago we were going about our lives as usual. We had no idea that a new novel coronavirus had been unleashed and a pandemic was about to hit the world.
The learning curve has been steep and sometimes feels never-ending, but we are getting there. We are learning how to stay safe and navigate a level of change that is unlike any other we have faced over the last century.
The latest learning curve we are tackling focuses on the role of air conditioning and ventilation in possibly spreading coronavirus droplets. Last month’s blog post focused on the potential link between ventilation and coronavirus.
This month, we bring you up to speed on what researchers know about safe use of your air conditioner during the pandemic. These essential tips will help you stay safe inside your home and/or workplace.
Should You Or Shouldn’t You Use Air Conditioning Right Now?
The first big question on everyone’s mind these days is simply: should you use your air conditioning right now or should you switch it off and sweat?
Which option is safer?
As of late May 2020, the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technology in Health was asked to look into whether coronavirus droplets could potentially spread through central HVAC ducts.
At the same time, a survey of 100 hospitals from the hard-hit state of New York produced evidence suggesting that poor ventilation can work in tandem with HVAC systems to spread COVID-19 at greater distances than current social distancing guidelines protect against.
No one in the HVAC industry (or any other industry) has been happy to hear this, but it doesn’t mean it is safe to just switch off your A/C, especially with one heat advisory after another sweeping across the nation.
The under-appreciated dangers of heat stroke and heat exhaustion can cause fatalities long before a COVID-19 droplet is even a gleam in the eye of your immune system.
You need to stay cool. This simply has to be your first health priority. If you can stay cool without using your air conditioner and that helps you feel safer, then do that.
Otherwise, using your air conditioner is strongly recommended, especially if someone in your family is very young, very old or health-compromised in some way.
How You Use Ventilation Is More Important Than Whether You Use A/C
With further research, scientists and HVAC engineers now believe the link between ventilation and the spread of COVID-19 is a two-way link.
In other words, ventilation can potentially increase or decrease the risk of catching COVID-19.
1. Airflow from ventilation can propel infectious droplets further inside a space.
2. Inadequate ventilation can cause buildup of infectious droplets inside a space.
So let’s look at each one of these issues separately...
Too Vigorous Ventilation Airflow
In the case of the original restaurant in Guangzhou, China, where the pandemic is said to have started, researchers traced the trajectory of the infection from the index (first) patient to the other infected diners.
The path pointed directly back to where the index patient was seated and which direction the air conditioning vent was pointing.
In this case, the vent was directing airflow at the index patient and then outward towards the other diners who would later become infected.
Here, researchers now believe the presence of ventilation was not the primary problem. Rather, it was the directional airflow that caused additional infections.
In the case of the 100-hospital New York survey, which delivered the shocking news that 66 percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients were already sheltering in place when they became ill, the issue appears to stem from the exact opposite problem.
When the air inside a space becomes too stale (i.e. not enough fresh air from ventilation is coming into that space) then the concentration of infectious droplets can rise.
This is one potential explanation for why the number of COVID-19 cases continued to rise in New York, a city where multi-unit, multi-floor housing is the norm, even after the stay-at-home order was issued.
4 Essential Tips to Use Your Air Conditioner in the Safest Way This Summer
These four essential summer safety tips will help you use your air conditioner safely.
1. Having a clean air filter in your HVAC system really matters!
If your air filter is dirty or is not properly installed, what you are going to get is an increase in toxins circulating throughout your space.
This is simply vital to understand, since scientists now believe infectious droplets get lighter due to evaporation and can attach to solid particles of dust and dirt and get sucked into your HVAC system, where they can travel much greater distances!
2. Air conditioning maintenance can make the difference between clean air flow and dirty air flow.
A dirty air filter will transport toxic particles into the guts of your HVAC system - the blower motor, the fan blades, the belts and the ducts. So you need to clean all that out before adding additional air flow.
3. Do not overcrowd your space so that proper ventilation is not possible.
Social distancing is important even inside your home, since scientists now know that a completely symptom-free person may still be carrying COVID-19 and can infect others.
In other words, you want enough ventilation inside your home or workplace to counteract the potential for an accumulation of infectious droplets that no one realizes is present.
4. Directional airflow matters in safely ventilating a space.
You don’t want the fresh incoming air to be blowing on you or at you.
Get in Touch With Your Bi-Temp Technicians
Our team of qualified technicians at Bi-Temp are here to serve your HVAC, ventilation, air filtration and purification needs. Located in Belleville, Ontario, Bi-Tempt services Quinte and the surrounding regions. We are also currently providing contactless service and payment options during the COVID-19 pandemic.