If there is one thing the COVID-19 pandemic brought to light, it is the importance of ventilation. To reduce the concentration of any airborne pathogen, it is necessary to continuously bring in a healthy dose of fresh air from outside. But with most American homes being centrally air-conditioned, is that even a possibility? And that is probably why people wanted to know whether air conditioners bring in fresh air from outside. Therefore, we decided to bring this discussion to the table and enlighten you about this aspect of HVAC or Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning systems.
How Air Conditioners Work
An air conditioner takes in the air inside the house through the return air vents and moves it over the cold evaporator coils. The coils extract moisture and heat from the warm air. The moisture drips down to the drip tray and is expelled outdoors via the drain line. The heat is sent to the compressor, from where it is dissipated into the surroundings. The cold air that results when the indoor air passes over the evaporator coils is sent back indoors via the supply vents, and so the home becomes cooler.
Where Is The Air That The Air Conditioner Cools Coming From?
As is clear from the working of the air conditioner, the air that it cools is already present inside the house. So, in all honesty, the AC is simply recycling the air. There is no influx of air from anywhere else, provided your house is adequately insulated and the ductwork has no leaks.
Do Air Conditioners Bring In Fresh Air From Outside?
Unfortunately not. The air conditioners are not designed to bring in outdoor air as that would reduce their efficiency. Now that we have cleared that doubt, your next question would undoubtedly be, “What is the outdoor unit doing if not bringing in the fresh air?” The outdoor unit or compressor expels the heat extracted by the evaporator coils outdoors. Other than that, there is nothing this unit is doing. So if someone tells you your outdoor unit brings in the fresh air, they are not only mistaken but also propagating a myth.
How To Ventilate My Home?
Bringing in fresh air periodically is a good idea. Nonetheless, what is important is to ensure that you do that when the heat outside is not at its peak because the air that comes in will be very hot and make your living space uncomfortable. Therefore early mornings are an ideal time for ventilating your abode.
Ventilating your home is easy, just open up the windows and switch on the ceiling fan. At this time best would be to switch off the AC. Since the windows are open, you will lose the cool air inside the house. Hence, there’s no point in keeping the AC running during this time. Even an hour’s worth of ventilation is more than okay. Once you shut the windows, restart the AC, and lo and behold, you have a well-ventilated house, and your AC suffers no abuse.
How Else To Reduce Concentration Of Pathogens Without Opening The WIndows?
Opening the windows is not the only way to reduce the concentration of pathogens and pollutants present in the air inside the house. Here are a few other things you can do to achieve almost similar results:
1. Change The Air Filters Regularly – The air filters trap the dust particles, allergens, micro-organisms, and other contaminants present in the air passing through them. Therefore, it is essential to change them periodically, preferably once a month. This will maintain their optimum efficiency and also clean the indoor air.
2. Ensure Annual AC Maintenance – Often, small particles of dust, dirt, and even bacteria and viruses find their way inside the AC. They deposit over the surface of its internal components. As the air moves through the AC, it picks up these unwanted guests and circulates them indoors. Keeping the AC clean from both inside and outside is one way to avoid this from happening. The only way you can ensure proper cleaning of the AC from inside is by scheduling its annual maintenance every year.
3. Ductwork Cleaning – The walls of the ducts invite a lot of filth and microbes. They stick to its walls, and sometimes when their buildup becomes excessive, they get picked by the passing air and dispelled in your living zone. Fortunately, it takes years for such a buildup to happen. Consequently, ductwork cleaning by professionals once every 5 years is also a recommended solution.
4. Introducing Air Purifying Plants Indoors – A cheap and aesthetically pleasing solution is introducing air-purifying plants in your living areas. They will not only add to the decor, make for a more welcoming feeling, add a splash of color, but also make the air clean. Most indoor plants are low maintenance. All they require is indirect sunlight so you can place them close to the windows. As for the water requirement, if you are a forgetful person, try self-watering pots. You won’t be known as a plant killer anymore, and it will also solve your problem of poor indoor air quality.
5. Install An Air Purifier – Many homeowners choose to install an indoor air purifier. You can either install a whole-home air purification system that works in combination with the HVAC system or choose to buy portable or stand-alone air purifiers. Both work to clean the indoor air that passes through them.
Is It Necessary To Ventilate The House?
As we have repeatedly pointed out, the purpose of ventilation is to reduce the concentration of contaminants in the indoor air. If you have other means of achieving the same result, you are most welcome to use them. Since the end result of both is the same, it is not necessary to ventilate the house.
Ventilation is the cheapest way of bringing in an influx of fresh air, and sadly, the air conditioners are not designed to do that. Maybe in the future, things will change, but until then, we need to either ventilate the home or opt for alternate methods. Since it depends from person to person and from home to home, the choice is entirely yours.