Can an HVAC heating & air conditioning system make you sick?

There’s an old and ongoing argument on whether heating and air conditioning systems can actually make you sick. It can sometimes seem they go hand in hand, especially during cold and flu seasons. So, what is the truth? Do these systems make people ill? And if so, how? In this article, I’ll be looking at heating and air conditioning systems and their relation to the spread of illness, as well as tips for prevention.

Do heating and air conditioning systems make us sick?

The answer isn’t simple. The systems themselves do not make you ill, but they can have a hand in the process. Systems can be complicated and are made up of a lot more than simple ducts. There is often an outdoor section, an electrical element, filters, air ducts, a compressor, coils and a blower. There are also different kinds of system that work differently from each other. From gravity systems to radiant systems and forced air systems, each has its own method of heating or cooling your home. 

The act of blowing cool air at you is thought to increase the chance of a virus spreading, as the cool air can force places on your body, such as the nostrils, to dehydrate. Viruses prefer a low humidity environment, and so you become more susceptible to illness when the air conditioning is on. Unfortunately, there haven’t been many scientific studies to back this up, but most experts would agree that these changes in temperature, from heating and air conditioning systems, can have an effect on your ability to fight away viruses. In conclusion, HVAC systems can have a small effect, but are not the cause of the virus. It should also be taken into consideration that often these systems are used in public areas, such as offices, where they are on a lot more, than say, in the home, where it is easier to maintain a constant temperature. Anyone who has ever worked in an office can attest that once one person has a cold, that virus will spread around the office in a short amount of time due to the close-proximity of everyone. It can suddenly be easy to see a correlation between the heating and air conditioning systems and the spread of the virus, as this is something you can feel and see, whereas with the actual air born spreading of a virus, you cannot. 

Air conditioning, if kept in working order, can promote a good level of air quality, but if your system is left alone and never cleaned, or has regular maintenance performed on it, then dirt can build and severely effect the level of indoor pollution in your home or work place. Changing the filters on your HVAC system is extremely important. 

Does system maintenance really make a difference?

On top of the reason that it promotes a healthy level of air quality, it is also better for the environment. By changing the filters or getting it regularly checked for any other issues, you will ensure the heating and air conditioning system is working at maximum performance. The better it is working, the lower amount of power it will use, meaning your energy consumption is lower, as well as the amount you spend on your monthly bills. So always remember to make sure your HVAC heating and air conditioning system is clean and working properly, this will lessen the chances of illness and help to promote clean air. During the winter months, the lower humidity is one of the main issues faced with preventing illness. As mentioned before, cold and flu viruses prefer a low humidity environment, which is why they are a lot more widespread in the colder months.

If you are feeling dry from air heating and conditioning system, you may be more likely to get a virus. To combat this, there are a few steps you can take. One thing you could do is install a whole home humidification system. This will bring the humidity level to a more acceptable level and will limit a cold viruses ability to spread. It’s also important to stay hydrated. Drink plenty of water; if your nostrils are feeling dry, try a nasal spray.

Another option is to install an in-duct air purifier capable of purifying every cubic inch of air that your central heating and air conditioning system reaches. Proven to eliminate bacteria, viruses, mold and VOCs

HVAC heating and air conditioning systems can be great for maintaining a cooler or warmer temperature. Your HVAC system does not make you ill! However, adjusting your home environment to combat air borne viruses will decrease the likelihood that you might get ill. To ensure you and everyone else stays healthy, remember to keep hydrated and ensure your system is checked and cleaned regularly.