ACs or central air conditioning . . . .which one is better in COVID-19? As summers are approaching and the coronavirus pandemic worsens, we look at whether it’s safe to turn on home air conditioners. Indians are going to get locked inside their cold homes for the next three months with summers raising the temperatures. This is a very reasonable question that has come up amid the COVID pandemic — Is it possible that air conditioners increase the risk of bringing Coronavirus inside homes?
The spread of COVID-19 has been making waves all over the globe. Hundreds of thousands of people are getting affected worldwide. The rates of infection is very high in many countries. How COVID-19 transmitted between people is something that should be looked at carefully. Whether COVID-19 is airborne and how you can get it from an infected person.
A big question that is continuously being asked – Does home air conditioning spread Coronavirus? Therefore, we thought we should put together a blog to help clear some of the major doubts of our readers.
Now, there is no straight forward yes or no reply to the relation between ACs and the spread of COVID-19. It is still so much we are unsure about the disease. However, there are a few points that have to be mentioned to update our knowledge of the pandemic.
Filtration of small air particles
The very first thing to know is filtration – ACs filter particles through its system in different ways with different levels. Cruise ships use ac units that usually are not able to filter particles that are smaller than 5,000 nanometers. For comparison sake, viruses causing respiratory infections similar to Coronavirus, like SARS or MERS, are nearly 20 nanometers in size. Now, if COVID-19 is also around the same dimensions, it means that it can also spread through various cabins of the cruise ship without getting filtered out. Scattered presence of COVID-19 has been found in air conditioning vents in some hospitals, raising the question regarding filtration systems for many buildings. This is yet to be determined.
One of the points discussed by the experts when it comes to cases of cruise ships is the air that is being supplied in air conditioning systems is recycled air. Air conditioning arrangements used to draw outside air, as opposed to recycled air in case of a cruise ship, can reduce the risk of environmental exposure to viruses such as COVID-19.
Humidity versus temperature levels
It has been correlated that when it comes to air-conditioned rooms, the difference in humidity and temperatures can initiate respiratory illnesses such as SARS to continue to survive. It has been found that no evidence is there to prove that Air Conditioners at homes and business houses transmit COVID-19. It is still essential to take a look at your air conditioning and ventilation systems to help to minimize the exposure to the infection, so consult your local air conditioning mechanic. They may look at the filtering and humidity options, as well as the temperature settings, and change them where necessary to look out for your health.
COVID virus is not airborne as viruses causing common cold and flu. It is said that if an infected person sneezes, a thick spray gets created — that is when an infection gets airborne. But it does not keep floating around in the air — it settles on the nearby surfaces and stays there for a decidedly more extended period. Since it does not remain suspended in the air for long, Air Conditioners should not be a potential threat as such, especially if it is in your own house where no one is infected.
In places like centrally air-conditioned shopping centers, where there is usually a lot of the hustle and bustle going around, the virus can get recycled in the air for a short period.
In this pandemic, the Indian government has ordered people to stay at home and away from crowded places as they can come in contact with someone infected.
When people visit any centrally air-conditioned mall during an epidemic, the risk of exposure to the Coronavirus directly from an infected person is much higher than getting it from the recycled Air Conditioners air.
While there is little research on the effects of temperature on the COVID virus, but the transmission of SARS-CoV, a type of Coronavirus that emerged in 2003 — may provide some light on the topic.
The study ensured that the virus was more stable at low temperature and humidity environments, which could facilitate its transmission in air-conditioned environments.
Air Conditioning Systems
Whether the same holds for the SARS-CoV-2 is not yet well understood. Researchers studied the air conditioning systems on the Diamond Princess. This 3,700-passenger cruise was docked on lockdown off the coast of Yokohama after some passengers get down in Hong Kong and tested positive for the COVID virus earlier this month.
46.5 percent of the passengers onboard Diamond Princess Cruise had infections on testing. Traces of the SARS-CoV-2 was located on many surfaces. It was found in cabins of both symptomatic and asymptomatic passengers up to 17 days after cabins were vacated on the Diamond Princess.
Air conditioning systems of a Cruise ship is not designed to filter out particles as small as the Coronavirus, allowing the disease to circulate to other cabins rapidly. It is a standard practice for air conditioning systems in cruise ships to mix outside and inside air to save energy. The problem with this type of AC systems is that they can not filter particles lesser than 5,000 nanometers. Coronavirus, which is told to be of about the same size as SARS, then the air conditioner and related duct system can carry the virus to every cabin.
Home AC units do not pose any risk of COVID-19 infection. It is worth mentioning that at a time when people are isolated inside their homes with no outside contact, the risk of disease is least.
However, Coronavirus can spread within centrally air-conditioned spaces like shopping malls and modern apartments, especially if an infected person is inside such areas. So, stay home, stay safe. Maintain social distancing.