The thorough and regular cleaning of your air conditioning, will not only extend its lifespan and help you save on energy, but can also greatly improve your home’s air quality.
As COVID-19 is keeping us on our toes and social distancing rules are in place for at least a few more months, we are now spending most of our time indoors – and breathing quality indoor air is becoming a more critical factor in keeping us fit and healthy.
As a business that is passionate about our customers’ and employees’ health and wellbeing, we take this as an opportunity to educate you on the practical measures you can take to not only minimise the risk for transmission but to give you useful tips which you should always keep in mind to make your home a safe and comfortable environment to live in.
The WHO has confirmed that the Coronavirus is not airborne, yet the question whether air conditioning can spread the pandemic or not is still “in the air”. The Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating, has stated that no evidence has been found that would suggest that ac’s in homes and businesses transmit COVID-19.
The NSW government, however, recently recommended inspecting and reviewing air conditioning and ventilation systems, as one of a range of major implementations that can be taken to minimise the risk of exposure to COVID-19. As recently explained by a NYTimes article, “the proper ventilation, filtration and humidity can help to reduce the spread of pathogens”, and ensure that you are breathing clean air, free of dust, bacteria and pollutants.
It is therefore of utmost importance to keep air conditioners, cooling systems and heating systems both on commercial grounds and in private homes, clean and well maintained. So let us have a look at what that should look like exactly!
Maintaining and Cleaning Your Air Conditioning
While ducted systems are typically rather difficult to clean and disinfect effectively because of the lack of access to many of the system components and ductwork, split systems are usually easier to access and clean.
Whether you have a wall hung split or multi head split air conditioner, or a ducted system in your home, to ensure that it is working at its most efficient, you need to clean your filters at minimum once every six months.
How to Change an Air Condition Filter:
- Wearing personal protective equipment including a face mask or appropriately rated respirator, and gloves and should be worn when servicing dirty filters.
- After turning off the air conditioning unit, filters should be carefully removed to avoid dust or other particles being released into the air.
- The dirty filters should be bagged and tied, and the bag disposed of in an appropriate waste disposal process.
- Surfaces should be cleaned to remove any residual particles.
The service of washable air filters should be carried out with similar approved procedures and using personal protective equipment.
How to Clean and Disinfect Your Air Conditioner
The changing of filters is a good moment to clean the rest of the system, too:
- Again, make sure the unit is powered off before you do this.
- You may be able to remove the oscillating blades that direct the airflow.
- Give them, and the space behind them inside the unit, a thorough clean, using a dry cloth.
- Cooling and heating coil surfaces can be cleaned and disinfected using approved methods and chemicals.
Don’t forget about any outdoor units belonging to your air conditioning system. Make sure to keep the outdoor unit free from debris that can build-up over time and restrict airflow.
However, not all air conditioning systems can be easily accessed. Ducted air conditioners, which we can find in many modern homes in Australia, and commercial Heating Ventilating and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems, cannot be readily cleaned physically. That is when it’s about time to call a licensed professional, fully equipped to assist industrial, commercial and residential projects.
Source: A.G. Coombs
HVAC systems as pictured above are fundamentally a recirculating system of air, with a portion of outside air added continually whilst a similar portion is exhausted. The outside air rate can be varied in many systems. Air is filtered before recirculation and moved around the system using fans. Heating and cooling are typically provided by finned coils using heating or chilled water.
Fogging or fumigation using approved methods and chemicals for disinfection can be applied in facilities and HVAC systems that are designed for this treatment. Typically, these are in laboratories, hospitals and some acute care areas. Fogging or fumigation is not recommended for home use, normal facilities and standard HVAC systems that are not specifically designed for this treatment.
Professional Cleaning And Maintenance
We highly recommend having your air conditioner cleaned by a professional. A professional maintenance service can ensure that internal components such as coils, fins and drainage are cleaned with expertise and all parts re-installed properly.
If you live in a very humid or dusty environment, you might be surprised at just how much dust and mould can build up inside the air conditioning system. This can not only lead to the unit losing performance and using more energy, and mould spores being blown into your home, but blocked drainage pipes could also cause water leakage.
Regular cleaning and disinfecting of filters and air conditioner parts, will help prevent this from happening, but an occasional professional service and clean is always a good idea.
HVAC Systems in Commercial Buildings and COVID-19
Whilst many institutions such as schools and museums, as well as small and large-size companies have decided to scale down operations in order to flatten the curve of new infections, the buildings they occupy need to be maintained and sanitised. This includes air conditioning and heating systems.
Why is this so important? It is known that COVID-19 is transmitted person-to-person, most likely through close contact with an infectious person, or contact with droplets of fluid from an infected person’s cough or sneeze. Those droplets are normally too large to stay in the air for an extended period and usually lose the fight against gravity quickly, landing on surfaces such as tables or handrails. In some cases, the fluid can however evaporate or transform into smaller particles, which could remain floating through the air and even make their way into HVAC systems.
The chances that a virally infected droplet could make its way back into an occupied space appear to be low, taking into account that the droplets would have to be passing through ducted air pathways, including multiple changes in direction and air velocity, and the likelihood of being caught on surfaces such as air filters, fans, dampers and grilles, where the droplet would simply dry out.
But we still have to assume that the transmission of droplets containing viral material is theoretically possible and only modern, well-designed and properly maintained HVAC systems in public settings can clearly minimise the risk of such environmental exposure.
The Bottom Line
The regular cleaning and maintenance of your air conditioning systems can help to keep you and your family healthy and comfortable. For more information on how to clean your air conditioner and understand how to protect yourself from air pollution, visit our blog.
We would like to let you know that we will be here to assist you with the installation and maintenance of their air conditioners, to ensure the highest possible levels of hygiene and safety.
If you would like more information, would like to schedule a professional cleaning or maintenance service or have a new system installed please contact us. We would love to hear from you.
Stay safe and healthy.
Your Air-Rite team