The most common concern people have about air conditioning is that it’s bad for our health.
While in some instances the concerns are valid, it very much depends on the air conditioning system you have in place. Is it suitable for your building? Is it clean and regularly maintained?
So, what are the biggest effects air conditioning can have on people’s health? Is it your air conditioning that’s making you ill and what can you do about it?
Is Air Conditioning Bad for Your Health?
Some health problems have been directly linked to air conditioning and ventilation, although they aren’t caused by the systems themselves.
Air conditioning units that aren’t cleaned regularly allow mould and other micro-organisms to grow. This can exacerbate various health problems, including allergies, asthma and general irritation.
However, it’s not a problem inherent in air conditioning but something you can easily prevent.
By having regular maintenance done, you can keep your system clean and free from mould. Having a planned preventative maintenance contract should prevent your system ever getting dirty enough to affect anyone’s health. In a clean working environment, maintenance might only need to be done every 6-12 months.
Does Air Conditioning Cause Sick Building Syndrome?
Air conditioning is commonly blamed for sick building syndrome. However, there’s little consensus as to whether it’s actually a specific condition and no concrete evidence pointing to a single cause.
It’s most prevalent in modern, open plan offices with sealed windows, mechanical ventilation or air conditioning. However, it’s also linked to computer monitors, seating arrangements and office lighting. Symptoms include irritation of the ears, nose and throat, nausea, headaches, fatigue and difficulty concentrating.
The most common complaint about air conditioning is that it dries out the air, irritating the eyes and sinuses. It’s true that cooling has a drying effect, so it’s important to check the humidity in your office if you’re experiencing problems. A well-designed air conditioning and ventilation system should maintain appropriate humidity levels, so, if it isn’t, there may be a problem.
Frequent changes in temperature can also affect people’s health, so keep your system at a consistent level – don’t keep turning it up and down.
To prevent sick building syndrome, the NHS recommends that employees:
- Open windows if it’s too hot, although not if you’re running air conditioning
- Organise workload to prevent stress
- Take regular screen breaks of 5-10 minutes
- Eat healthily and improve general fitness
They also recommend that employers:
- Survey employees to find common issues
- Check general office cleanliness
- Monitor operation of HVAC and especially fresh air systems
- Check condition and cleanliness of filters
- Adhere to planned maintenance schedules
Is Air Conditioning Good for You?
When they’re clean and well-maintained, air conditioning and ventilation have a positive effect on your health. Air conditioning increases comfort levels and activity, while ventilation gives your building a regular supply of clean air.
It’s often argued that fresh air is best but the ‘fresh air’ you breathe outside often isn’t clean. In cities and heavily populated areas, the outdoor air contains pollutants and dust, which really are bad for you. Opening windows causes pollen and airborne spores to enter your building, which isn’t ideal for people with allergies.
Air conditioners come fitted with a variety of filters, ranging from those that only catch dust to those that filter pollen, bacteria, viruses, odours and smoke. Whatever type you have, it will improve the air quality by some degree, preventing rather than causing illness. If your filters don’t meet your requirements, you can easily upgrade them to more advanced models.
If you think your air conditioning is bad for you, there’s likely to be something wrong with it. Our engineers can check it out and identify the problem.
If you’re not sure your air conditioning is in the best condition, get in touch on 0141 773 3355. We can get it healthy again and help you maintain it.