Coronavirus, otherwise known as COVID-19, is currently spreading throughout the world, with hundreds of thousands of cases since the end of 2019.
Due to the rapid spread of the disease across the globe, the way in which the disease spreads has been of particular interest to everyone – How is it spread? What can we do to stop it? How can we protect ourselves? – with air conditioning being a big topic of concern.
So, can COVID-19 be spread via air conditioning systems?
There isn’t a simple ‘yes it is’ or ‘no it isn’t’ response to this question – there are a few different aspects to consider. Firstly there is filtration, then there is recycled vs. outside air use, as well as temperature and humidity.
When it comes to air conditioning systems, the process involves filtering out different airborne particles whenever it is on, with different air conditioning arrangements have different levels of filtration. For example, Etihad airlines have stated that the air conditioning in their planes filters out 99% of microbes in filtered air, offering peace of mind to those travelling home during the pandemic. On the other hand, however, cruise ships use recycled air in their aircon systems, with filtration levels usually sitting at around 5,000 nanometers. What this means is that any particles larger than 5,000 nanometers will be filtered out and anything smaller will not. For reference, similar respiratory illnesses to COVID-19, such as SARS, sit at around 120 nanometers – so, if Coronavirus is around the same size as SARS, cruise ship air conditioning would not filter out the disease.
Some hospitals have also found traces of COVID-19 in their air conditioning vents, suggesting that the disease can possibly be transmitted this way, but this is yet to be confirmed.
Inside vs outside air use
Another aspect to consider is whether the aircon system that is in place uses recycled air or air from outside. For example, cruise ship aircon systems use recycled air, which means that air containing viruses is just reused throughout the cabin. Experts have suggested that using outside air, instead of recycled, for air conditioning systems can help greatly minimise exposure to airborne diseases such as COVID-19.
Temperature and humidity
There is evidence to show that both low temperature and low humidity, in relation to air-conditioned spaces, may contribute to the survival of coronaviruses e.g. SARS. In order to combat this, always check your temperature and humidity settings on your air conditioning and definitely speak to an aircon expert for further assistance.
Ultimately, however, the AIRAH (the Australian Institute of Refrigeration, Air Conditioning and Heating) has stated that they have not found any evidence to suggest that Coronavirus is spread through air conditioning systems in either a residential or commercial setting.
If you would like to know more about your air conditioning settings in this uncertain. time, give Static Electrics a call on 0488 849 241 and we can discuss your needs.
Australian Government – Department of Health (Coronavirus): https://www.health.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2020/03/coronavirus-covid-19-information-on-social-distancing.pdf
News Hub (Coronavirus: COVID-19 samples found in isolation room air vents): https://www.newshub.co.nz/home/world/2020/03/coronavirus-covid-19-samples-found-in-isolation-room-air-vents.html
Daily Mail (Coronavirus could be spread by air-conditioning and may be more contagious than previously thought, scientists believe after finding traces of the virus in hospital air-duct): https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8086457/Coronavirus-spread-air-conditioning-contagious-previously-thought.html