When the corona virus hit Wuhan, China, nobody had expected it to spread eventually to the whole wide world. Even now, when there have been numerous fatalities from this unprecedented pandemic, the world does not have a sure shot treatment, a vaccine or a definitive research to explain it fully.
The good news, we have reports of several recoveries. The bad, there is still on-going research about the possible sources of the spread of this viral disease.
How does the virus spread?
The first thing you would probably like to figure out about any epidemic is how it is spread. That is one key enabler for you to ensure some sort of prevention at least at the personal level. The COVID-19 pandemic, unlike other forms of corona viruses is not air borne. Instead, the virus spread through droplets and particles that are released through cough and sneeze and settle over surfaces.
While the droplets and hence the possibility of transmission is time bound, these can stay on surfaces for quite long hours. Additionally, the fact that the transmission can take place with human to human interaction, unless there’s a distance between them of at least 3ft, social distancing makes a viable preventive measure.
So the concern about weather and other environmental conditions increasing or curbing the risk of its spread is only but natural.
Does my air conditioner help spread COVID-19?
The answer lies partially, in the kind of air conditioning system you have installed. But how did the entire fiasco around COVID-19’s spread through air conditioners begin? The story links to the incident of a 10 cases in three Chinese families for whom, the only means of contact was the air conditioned environment they were sitting in while eating at a restaurant despite a reasonable distance.
The verdict is still not out, but the possible debate around it involves several premises.
AC air flow supporting droplet spread
For the case of Chinese families, it is assumed that despite fulfilling all other preventive requirements, there is a possibility that the air flow from the AC allowed the aerosolized particles to travel further down beyond the permissible distance for human interaction. The debate remains over the fact that even through any form of air borne transmission, the virus has a really short life unless it settles on a surface where it can linger for really long periods.
Unless we have a sound research in hand, it would only be foolish to accept this premise. For one thing CDC did not find any conclusive evidence of virus in the smear sample of the AC. Also, no other staff member or the people dining at the restaurant we find COVID positive except for the related families.
Window VS system air conditioning
By a report by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America, HVACs may actually support the spread of the virus instead of the room ACs. While there is no conclusive research available to support this, the proponents believe that since the HVACs have an inter-connected stream of air ducts and vents, some of the residual (often invisible to naked eye) contaminants from a cough or sneeze have the potential to travel through the air in homes and buildings.
Are there any preventive methods? Well, there sure are. These may include
- Managing IAQ levels through following a routine of thorough cleaning of the HVAC system; against molds, dust and bacteria
- Use of reliable, Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rated filters, ultra violet sterilization systems or electronic air purifiers. These would of course have to be in addition to the air conditioner cleaning routine
Consider engaging an air conditioning repair company or that for installation that is well knowledgeable in the area of recommending the right products for managing the IAQ and knows your system’s hygiene requirements inside out.
Formation of mold inside the AC
Mold is a generally accepted carrier of dangerous bacteria and viruses. It wouldn’t be surprising if the upcoming COVID-19 events unfold to reveal that this virus can also spread through air coming in contact with the mold.
Federation of European Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning Associations (REHVA), though, has shared that even if the virus does get transferred to the air ducts, it would not live very long as currently available research negates its nature to be air borne.
Yet, the greatest threat it could possibly pose is for those actually cleaning up the air filters or other parts of the air conditioning units. Those, would need extra care and precaution, just in case. Wearing gloves, and FFP3 respirators, which are to be disposed of in a sealed bag later.
What if I live air conditioning-free life?
Have you though where a larger part of our lives is spent? Indoors.
Matt Akins, ACCA Manager of HVACR education propounds that indoors, one is 100 times more susceptible to illness and catching viruses due to the level of pollutants being significantly high. The Internal air quality (IAQ) levels, he proposes are therefore in dire need of better management indoors than outside. No wonder, the indoor air pollution levels are considered one of the 4 biggest environmental hazards by EPA. ACs help manage the IAQ.
In the wake of tremendous technological advancement, where we can now easily beat the summer heat with strong cooling systems which are environment friendly and energy efficient, the IAQ is still at risk unless one is able to maintain bacteria, mold and virus free air conditioner systems to a certain level.
Goes without saying how your environment is enhanced both for living and working if the heat levels can be kept in control. Although, there is no match for natural air ventilation, one can also not deny the protection against heat and hence heat strokes air conditioned environments give during the scorching summers. Not to mention the dust control that naturally happens because of the windows being closed, especially in regions with a tradition of summer wind and dust flowing all season long.
Need we say that your air conditioner needs regular cleaning and maintenance? While you would easily find air conditioning repair companies in your area, there are a few that you should trust. And we mean it, test them on their experience, expertise, quality of reviews from customers and also the ease of approaching them. Never undermine the value addition a good quality AC heating and cooling service can add to your overall experience with the machine.
If you’re based out of Georgia, Wayne’s heating & air conditioning is one trusted partner you can have on board to manage everything from the installation of the air conditioner to routine cleaning and maintenance as well as repairs that require professional expertise.
The 2019 SARS corona virus is really an unresolved mystery yet. There is definitely nothing better than extra care and precaution, but what is best is to avoid panic and unnecessary assumptions. Meanwhile, we recommend you maintain good personal as well as homely hygiene while also practicing preventive measures recommended by the WHO and CDC. As for the HVAC system, there is nothing more important that keeping it clean for proper functioning, avoiding unexpected breakdowns and now, precaution against a virus we do not know too much about.