As the COVID-19 pandemic continues and stay-at-home orders extend, your family will likely need to ride out summer at home. To guarantee a cool and comfortable time, we recommend looking into cooling solutions now. However, cooling the air in your home during a viral pandemic is not so straight forward.
Per Dr. Iwasaki, an immunobiology professor and COVID-19 researcher at Yale: “Not much attention is being paid to the quality of air indoors.” To help you make a better decision for your home, we took a deep dive into published research to understand more about the effects of airflow, humidity, and indoor air on respiratory symptoms and possible virus transmission.
Here’s what we found:
Humidity Levels Can Affect Virus Spread in the Air
Dry air is known to help spread seasonal viruses like the flu as it’s a “key factor that impairs a person’s ability to fight off respiratory viral infections,” says Dr. Iwasaki.
What does this mean for your home? Air conditioning dries the air, which could make it hard to maintain humidity at the 30-50% levels recommended by the Mayo Clinic — especially if you live in a dry climate.Additionally, dry air has adverse effects on respiratory health as it dries out sinuses and can cause asthma, bronchitis, and sinusitis (source: Cleveland Clinic).
However, an evaporative cooler could solve this; It humidifies and cools the air at the same time.
One caveat, to make sure you’re not overdoing it, monitor the humidity in your home with an inexpensive digital hygrometer.
Excess moisture encourages mildew and wood root.
Does Humidity Reduce Viruses on Surfaces in Your Home?
Per the WHO, studies show the COVID-19 virus can survive for up to 72 hours on plastic and stainless steel and less than 24 hours on cardboard.
Why does this matter? We frequently touch our faces without even knowing it. Per one study, 16 times per hour! If you rub your eyes or nose after touching a contaminated surface, you could infect yourself.
Some research suggests increasing the humidity in your home could help the virus die more quickly on surfaces. The Department of Homeland Security ran a study that shows increasing humidity from 20% to 80% dropped the half-life of the virus on surfaces from 18 hours to 6.
However, we didn’t find any other studies showing half-life impact within recommended home humidity levels of 30%-50%, so we can’t make any conclusions on how this impacts your home. For more on keeping your home virus-free, see Unicef’s home cleaning guide.
Air Conditioning Spreads the Virus?
AC systems recirculate the air in a room. The CDC shared a study that suggests an AC could spread COVID-19 via aerosols. Recent studies, including one in the journal Nature supports this idea. However, the Washington Post reports the scientific community is still debating aerosol spread. Given this, in the meantime, we advise caution.
A central AC system also recirculates air throughout your entire home. If these studies are correct, it could be dangerous if someone in your home has been exposed to the virus. Even if you quarantine a family member in a separate room, you could be inadvertently spreading their air to the rest of your home.
An evaporative cooler could give you peace of mind. Unlike an AC, an evaporative cooler pulls in fresh air from outside and expels the old air out your window.
Speaking of, Fresh Air is Healthier Air
A study by the University of Oregon and the University of California, Davis, found that opening a window is the best way to (literally) air out the Coronavirus.
Fresh air is a known virus buster. A study published in Nature, covered in the NY Times, found that “ensuring even minimum levels of outdoor air ventilation reduced influenza transmission as much as having 50 to 60 percent of the people in a building vaccinated.”
But, what if it’s too hot to open a window? An evaporative cooler can save the day by continually pumping in fresh, cool air into your home.
However, it is important to know that evaporative coolers are most effective when relative humidity is 50% or less, so it’s best used in dry climates.
If you are looking for an outdoor solution however, evaporative coolers are still one of the best options if you are cooling outdoors in your backyard, patio or garage.
Please let us know if we can answer any questions. We wish you a healthy and cool summer!