Although it is tempting to turn it on during the summer’s heat waves, we must not forget the problems these systems have for the environment, as well as for the air we breathe in our homes. 

Just a little bit of comfort 

Last summer, 2022, was an experience like few others we have experienced in recent years. With historic temperatures across Europe, Africa, and Asia, it is not surprising that Spain suffered from the heat as intensely it did. There are many causes behind these heat waves, but the influence of our industry and way of life on the environment is undoubtedly one of them. 

In extreme situations like the current ones, it is normal to seek shelter in the shade and in well-designed places where we can take refuge. Our homes are generally ideal places to safely pass the onslaught of an unparalleled summer, but they are not without their disadvantages. One of the most important is a low thermal comfort index, which is determined by various factors such as ambient humidity, air velocity and the type of materials with which our spaces are built. Some of them have good thermal inertia – the ability of the material to absorb heat and release it progressively – while others not so much. Thermal comfort is a result of the materiality of the building, as well as its geographic location, spatial distribution, orientation, etc. 

It is common for thermal comfort to be low in many of Spain’s buildings. According to a survey of 1,004 people by the Saint-Gobain group, more than 90% of respondents consider good thermal insulation to be important in their homes, something that could well be extended to a considerable percentage of the country. What is interesting here is that only 1 in 3 people surveyed are satisfied with the thermal comfort of their home. What does this mean? In addition to incurring high costs in future renovations, it means the use of air conditioning to cool homes has become unbearable over the summer

Is there a problem with this? 

purificador de aire

No one can blame anyone for turning on their AC system during the summer. Comfort is a right we all have, but so is the quality of the air we breathe. In the same survey done by Saint-Gobain, 63% of respondents said they were concerned about indoor air quality, and it is important to know that the air in our homes and workspaces is not necessarily the cleanest of all. It is up to 5 times more polluted than outside, and the AC, with its recycling of indoor air, helps to make it worse

When we switch on one of these systems, we activate a machinery of evaporative coils, fans and cooling liquids that help to cool the indoor air. This is sucked out of the room and treated to cool the room. One misconception is to assume that this means that the AC system also functions as a filter and purifier, resulting in a considerable improvement in air quality. Although some AC systems have rudimentary filters for pollen and hair, many chemicals such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2), PM 2.5 particles, VOCs, and other pollutants enter and leave the system without ever being removed. 

Because all forms of machinery degrade gradually over time, the indoor air used by the AC system, during the constant process of circulation, degrades more and more as it enters and exits through the AC slits. With it, it brings into the home other PM 2.5 particles that are released from the AC itself, as well as refrigerant gases that end up leaking into our homes and offices due to leaks and defects in the system

Because windows are usually kept closed to ensure a more efficient system, the natural ventilation needed to bring new air packages into homes is not provided. This means that the AC recycles and cools the same increasingly polluted air repeatedly, resulting in a cool room, yes, but harmful to our health. So, we find ourselves in a dilemma: do we want fresh air or clean air? 

Health problems… and the environment 

We all know someone who claims to be allergic to air conditioning, maybe we are even that person ourselves. But the allergy is not to the AC, but to what goes on inside it. The interior ducts of the AC degrade from the first day it is turned on, and this, added to the ambient conditions, makes it fertile ground for fungi, bacteria, spores, and many other toxic agents that add to the pollutants that already exist in the interior space that is being cooled.  

Recycling polluted air does not make it cleaner, but more degraded. If there are allergic substances in the room, we may suffer from itchy eyes, nose, and skin, as well as headaches, dizziness and even breathing difficulties. It is not common, but this degraded air, increasingly laden with pathogens accumulated in the AC filters, can worsen asthma and rhinitis, as well as cause respiratory tract infections.  

There are also other associated problems. The first and most immediate, in addition to health, is in the pocket. In Spain, switching on one of these devices cost up to 250 euros last year, and this is not likely to diminish in the near future; not with the increasingly high cost of electricity and summers that seem to be getting longer and longer due to the effects of climate change. The other problem, perhaps not too obvious at first, lies in the effects that AC systems have on the environment. Each AC unit contributes to what is known as a heat island, as each cooling unit releases heat to the outside, thus increasing the temperature of the immediate environment. Nothing is free in this world, and every room we cool with an AC we must pay for with an increase in outdoor temperature, as we need energy to cool the air, and this energy degrades into increased entropy. 

What can we do? 

Under current conditions, it is almost impossible not to use AC when we have the opportunity to do so. That doesn’t mean we can’t exercise a little judgement. The important thing is to maintain natural ventilation that renews the air in our interiors, so interspersing the use of windows with the use of AC is a good, but not the best, strategy. 

It should not be forgotten that the outside air is also polluted, so all we will be doing by opening the window is ventilating the air degraded by the AC for a less degraded, though not perfect, air. This is where it is worth considering the importance of a good air filter in our homes. One that keeps the air recycled by the AC clean 

We are here to help 

At AIR8 we have produced the ideal air filtration solutions. They fit seamlessly into any space, from an office or gymnasium to school classrooms and the comfort of our homes. Thanks to our medical grade HEPA-13 technology, with our filters you can be guaranteed that 99.97% of all pollutants will be filtered out of any indoor space. From pollen and dust particles to fungi and pathogens expelled by AC, to nitrogen dioxide, PM 2.5 particles, and even viruses like Covid-19. 

We are going through difficult times, so solutions are needed to make our lives easier. That’s why technology like ours is the perfect complement to keep the air in our homes clean and healthy, so that when we turn on the AC, we don’t breathe in bad air quality. Our filters have different filtering and pre-filtering stages, from cold catalyst to UV-GI light, activated carbon and ionisation technology. 

By choosing us you are purchasing a product that meets the highest quality standards in Europe, as can be seen by the CE marking that each of our products carry. Contact us for more information. The quality of the air we breathe is increasingly important to ensure a good quality of life, and at AIR 8 we offer you the tools to achieve this.