Best Practices for Operating Air conditioners, coolers, fans, and other cooling appliances to control the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Residences, Workspaces, and Healthcare Facilities.

Summer has started in India. This is that time of the year when everyone is looking to switch on the air conditioner or desert cooler or fan or a combination of these appliances. The temperature can go above the 35 degrees Celsius mark or in some cases well past the 40 degrees Celsius mark. There are a variety of cooling solutions for consumers to choose from. Air conditioners such as windows air-conditioning or split air-conditioning for homes and shops. For large buildings such as hospitals, office spaces, malls, hotels, banquet halls, etc. the preferred option has been central air-conditioning. For homes and small shops or showrooms, windows air conditioning or split air conditioning is used. Some people still use desert coolers along with ceiling fans. All these cooling appliances provide respite from the scorching heat in India.

However, times have changed. We are living in the shadow of the Coronavirus. We are all taking precautions and safety measures. Precautions and safety measures such as washing the hands regularly, not touching the face, wearing the face mask, maintaining a distance of 1 meter from others, utilizing online video conferences to talk to people for work-related matters, working from home, not visiting the crowded places, greeting others with 'Namaste' instead of shaking the hand, etc. etc. All these measures are recommended by health professionals as well. However, what about the use of air-conditioners, coolers, fans during the coronavirus outbreak?

The Indian Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air-conditioner Engineers (ISHRAE) has come up with guidelines with regard to the use of air-conditioners, coolers, and fans during the coronavirus outbreak.

Let’s go one by one with regard to the ISHRAE guideline for each appliance:

  • Windows or Split air-conditioning: 
As per the ISHRAE guideline, one must make sure that when the air-conditioner is switched on, the windows must be slightly open in order to ventilate the room or shop or showroom with the outside air. If there is an exhaust fan nearby such as in the common area, or in the attached bathroom, then, the exhaust fan can be switched on for ventilation. Make sure that the home air-conditioners are operating at an ideal temperature of 26 - 30 degrees Celsius with humidity set at 40 - 70 percent.

  • Desert cooler: 
A desert cooler is installed outside the room or home. This air-cooler intakes the outside air and that air passes through the cold-water membrane to deliver cool air inside the room. The windows shall be kept open in order for cooler air to pass through the room allowing for ventilation in the room or shop or a place where a cooler is installed. In other words, ventilation with outside air is extremely important so that impurities in the air (stale air) can be flushed out. Besides flushing out the stale air through open windows, the humidity inside the room or home is properly maintained as well. If the windows are closed and there is no ventilation with outside air, then the humidity levels will increase.

  • Ceiling fan: 
Much like air-cooler, one must make sure that windows are open (or slightly open) for proper ventilation with the outside air. If there is an exhaust fan nearby such as in common areas, bathrooms, kitchen, then that exhaust fan can be switched on for proper ventilation inside the home as well as inside the room. Kindly note that ventilation with outside air is extremely important especially in times of coronavirus. Through proper ventilation, fresh air is allowed in the home or in the room and stale air is flushed out.

A Central air conditioning system is found in malls, hospitals, offices, hotels, banquet halls, etc. With the implementation of central air-conditioners, the ventilation with outside air is very limited. If one person contracts the Coronavirus, then, that person can pass on the virus to others in the same building. Therefore, it is all the more necessary for the buildings that have central air-conditioners installed to further install exhaust fans at appropriate locations. Depending on the size of the building, the number of exhaust fans to be installed can be calculated. This will make sure that stale air from the building is flushed out and fresh air is allowed in.

The bottom line is that in a building of any kind, be it a home, or a mall, or an office space, or a shop, or a showroom, or a hospital, or a hotel, proper ventilation with outside air is extremely important. Ventilation can be achieved by way of keeping the windows open or by way of installing the exhaust fans at appropriate locations. With proper ventilation inside the building, the fresh air is allowed in and stale air is flushed out.

Stay safe stay inside in a well-ventilated building.