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Your Summer Guide to Coronavirus

Air-conditioning and inside airflow can make coronavirus more contagious.

Posted 07:16 May 05, 2020
Last Updated 05:46 December 06, 2020

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It's May in Nevada and it is heating up. We're inside, air conditioners or HVACs running, for very long periods of time. Indoor air is riskier than outdoor air. What are we to do?

When you're comfortable, you tend to ignore the benefits (and disadvantages) of air conditioning. Like so many other luxuries we now take for granted, it may be time to reevaluate our priorities. A growing number of scientists agree that a large and significant number of coronavirus infections are occurring indoors. Poor ventilation is likely the culprit.

Few have the means or resources to make changes to home and/or workplace ventilation and air conditioning. But there is an easy fix that could help keep you a bit safer.

If you're in doubt, open the windows.

Outdoor air is almost always better than indoor air. Something most scientists agree on is when outdoor air is allowed to come inside, it increases home air quality. The coronavirus can linger indoors. When the windows are opened and you get a breeze flowing through your home, clouds of virus particles are dispersed and you're much less likely to be infected. It's why outdoor businesses are being allowed to open up first. It's all about the air quality.

Outdoor air that comes inside, replaces inside air. If there is a virus in your home it gets diluted. It really is that simple.

Window fans can help increase air flow and ventilation.

So how do air conditioners fit in? It depends. If your system pulls in outside air, you're effectively diluting the air and lowering your risk of infection. If your system is just recirculating inside air, then you need a filter to maximize safety.

Despite much of the fear, flying on an airplane carries a very low risk of infection. That's because major airlines use HEPA air filters in their ventilation systems. The coronavirus is at the lower end of a HEPA filter's range, so it might not be 100% effective on a single pass. But if a HEPA system is run over a period of time (a flight), it can take out a big chunk of the virus — somewhere in the high ninetieth percentile (99.93 to 99.98%). That's much better than the air quality inside your home.

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