In an increasingly extreme climate, air conditioning technology helps keep indoor areas cool during warm periods, warding off heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke and dehydration. In 2018, there were around 1.6 billion HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) units in the world and as more people acclimatize to having A/C in their homes, offices, and cars, air quality in these spaces is at risk of becoming stagnant and toxic. It’s estimated that every year 3.8 million people die from indoor air pollution.
The global air conditioner market is worth an estimated $177.5 billion in 2023 and is predicted to register a CAGR of around 5.5% in the next 5 years. As more homes, commercial spaces and communities invest in HVACs, a new threat is emerging whereby people are living their lives indoors, inhaling harmful particles, pathogens and bacteria that are spread around the space with the help of an A/C unit. To preserve our indoor air quality, we cannot rely on HVAC systems to trap particulate matter like viruses, dust, pollen, and bacteria. Doing so could result in a continual decline in air quality and an increase in problems for the inhabitants of these indoor spaces.
Is indoor air conditioning good for improving air quality?
Unfortunately there’s a bit of a misconception about A/C units: that they can improve or at least “refresh” the air indoors. Some believe that A/C units draw in “fresh” air from outside and circulate it around the indoor spaces, but this isn’t quite true. A/C units also contain filtration systems, which are sometimes mistaken as air purification devices. In reality, most A/C systems are designed to circulate air and moderate air temperature. Many A/C units do not have the functionality to preserve or improve air quality.
Without an air purification system added to the A/C unit, many air conditioners can trap pollutants indoors and continue to recirculate them, putting people at greater risk of health problems. So, how can a wall-mounted A/C unit improve indoor air quality? With help from an add-on air purification system, like the TADIRAN AIROW 3™.
Do wall-mounted air conditioners help filter allergens like dust and pollen?
Yes, they can, but not in the way most people think. Wall-mounted air conditioners, like many other A/C systems operate with some degree of filtration system, however, they do not serve the same function as an air purification system. The air filters in an A/C system generally filter the air in preparation of its journey through the system. In fact, no HVAC system offers any specific filtration function to tackle airborne biological pollutants and airborne pathogens. Some air conditioners may perform better than others with filtration, however this varies between different A/C models and many require regular upkeep (filter changes) to continuously remove allergens like dust and pollen from the air.
Can A/C units fitted with air purifiers remove mold, mildew and bacteria from the air?
Indoor spaces are susceptible to growths of bacteria, mold, and mildew, both on surfaces and in the air, which can result in allergies, illnesses, and a host of respiratory issues. Wall-mounted A/C units are designed to control the temperature and moderate the humidity of different rooms of a property, including large indoor spaces such as entire office floors or gyms. Consequently, they can sometimes help to reduce the occurrence of mold and mildew and promote better indoor air quality, however this is not their primary function.
In reality, wall-mounted A/C units often maintain and sometimes even exacerbate problems of poor indoor air quality. For A/C units to work effectively, the indoor air has to be sealed off, meaning the windows and doors must be kept closed, so that it can effectively circulate air at the desired temperature in the indoor space. So, if indoor air becomes contaminated locally with airborne pollutants such as bioaerosols, mold, mildew, bacteria or viruses, the unit cannot eliminate it from the air and will continue to circulate stale and contaminated air and contaminate the whole space. Only with help of an appropriate air purifier can the A/C unit effectively remove mold, mildew, and bacteria from the air.
Can dehumidifiers improve indoor air quality?
Dehumidification systems can help alleviate asthma symptoms and are especially helpful during periods of high humidity. However, dehumidifiers can only be used to remove the humidity and do not neutralize pathogens like mold spores or viruses from the air. There are few, if any, A/C models that serve as dehumidifiers, and whilst dehumidifiers can be used to help prevent mold and mildew forming, their effectiveness is limited. Used in conjunction with HVACs, dehumidifiers can protect A/C systems from water damage to a degree, although, again, none of this directly improves air quality or reduces bioaerosols.
Can an A/C with air purifiers remove all types of airborne biological and chemical pollutants?
Airborne biological and chemical pollutants can cause all kinds of health issues. An A/C fitted with an air purifier can reduce some airborne pollutants but not completely remove them. Some of the most common airborne pollutants found in homes include:
Carbon monoxide (CO)
Carbon monoxide is recognized as a deadly gas that is very difficult to detect as it has no natural smell, taste, or visual marker. Sources include car fumes, boilers, wood burners, and gas stoves. In contrast to VOCs (explored below), carbon monoxide is impossible to smell, taste, or see. Air purifiers cannot remove carbon monoxide. Only proper ventilation of areas with high concentrations of carbon monoxide can help to remove the gas.
Particulate matter (PM)
Particles come in all shapes and sizes, and many people who see particles caught on air conditioning filters will think this is a sign of air purification taking place. In actual fact, these particles are simply the larger sizes of particulate matter that is visible to the naked eye; the vast majority travels through indoor air spaces and is completely invisible. Most indoor spaces are filled with tiny particles in both solid form and as liquid droplets, including dust, soot, pollen, dander, bacteria, and smoke. Air purifiers can successfully trap and remove the tiniest particles, which threaten human health when they are inhaled or when they come into contact with skin, for example.
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
VOCs are caused by air fresheners, disinfectants, technical units like dehumidifiers, and cleaning products. They are gasses emitted either directly from products themselves or as by-products. They may have strong odors whereas some may be less noticeable. Many air purification devices can remove VOCs from the air.
Choosing an air conditioner with air purifier technology
Whilst the advice of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) is to throw open windows and doors to let fresh air in, many indoor spaces cannot take this route. Office blocks, gyms, residential spaces, malls and community spaces may not be able to ventilate in this manner and are instead fitted with HVAC systems to help moderate airflow. In order for these systems to provide clean, fresh, pathogen-free air to people indoors, they will need the help of air purification technology. Some air purification systems employ HEPA filters that can remove some mold, bacteria and certain viruses from the air. This passive form of air purification can be effective; however, a more practical solution involves a proactive release of safe compounds into spaces to tackle pathogens in every cubic inch of indoor air.
The TADIRAN AIROW 3™ system reduces the presence of pathogens after just 60 minutes of use. To test the device, microorganisms levels are assessed in the air, both before and after a testing period. In recent tests, two microorganisms, the RNA virus MS2 bacteriophage and methicillin resistant Staphylococcus epidermidis, were used to mimic aerosols of more dangerous pathogens. Both microorganisms are disease-promoting particles that can cause multiple high-risk health complications respectively. The testing was performed in laboratory BSL2 following 60 minutes of the TADIRAN AIROW 3™ system in operation, both the virus and the bacteria were reduced by 99.994%. These results are significant, in that they show the rapid effect of air purification on a bacteria and a virus that are harmful to human health.
Additional testing has also proven the effectiveness of the Tadiran AIROW 3™ at reducing SARS-CoV-2 in an 18 cubic meter test chamber. After 90 minutes, only 0.01% of the SARS-CoV-2 virus was detected. Testing for mold also showed similar results: the TADIRAN AIROW 3 reduced levels of Penicillium Citrinum in a 25 cubic meter chamber by 99.4% in 3 hours.
For asthma sufferers, having A/C units fitted with air purifiers may help alleviate asthma symptoms. Immunocompromised individuals can also feel a bit safer in their own homes knowing that the air purifier is actively working to remove harmful pollutants from the air. The TADIRAN AIROW 3™ is a purification device that can be easily added to existing air conditioners, to promote purified air indoors, always.