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Can Air Conditioning Make You Sick?

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Air Conditioners, HVAC

Action Furnace installs air conditioning in Calgary, Edmonton, and Red Deer. Let our team teach you whether or not AC can make you sick and help you prevent it with air purification systems that can kill viruses and bacteria before they enter your air.


Posted by Ryan | September 13, 2023

Air conditioning is a lifesaver during hot summer months, providing comfort and relief. But some people worry about whether or not air conditioning has any negative side effects—for example, can it make you sick?

Our team at Action Furnace has performed AC repairs in Alberta for years, and we’ve discovered that the answer is not as straightforward as it might seem. Let’s dive into the details.

Air Conditioning: More Than Just Cooling

Air conditioning units do more than just keep homes cool. Their benefits include:

  • Safety During Heatwaves: Lowering the temperature in your home can protect pets, older adults, and small children from overheating.
  • Reducing Pollution: ACs paired with UV purification systems or equipped with HEPA filters can keep harmful pollutants out of your air.
  • Allergen Protection: Circulating clean air throughout your home can limit exposure to outside allergens for your home’s occupants.

Just remember that air conditioners need to be properly maintained and set up to provide all of these benefits consistently. To understand how air conditioning might indirectly affect your health, it’s important to learn about how your AC functions and what can happen if it is not maintained properly.

Air Conditioning & Health: The Real Connection

It’s crucial to note that air conditioning itself doesn’t cause sickness. However, it can circulate air that may carry bacteria, mould, or viruses if not properly maintained. Here’s how:

Artist's rendering of microbes in air

Circulation of Microbes in Your Home

An AC unit might inadvertently circulate microbes like mould, bacteria, yeast, and fungi if not regularly cleaned. This exposure could lead to symptoms such as:

  • Dry, irritated eyes
  • Dry mouth
  • Irritated throat or nasal passages
  • Headaches
Woman experiencing symptoms of sickness in humid home

The Role of Temperature and Humidity

Setting the AC too low can create an environment where cold-causing viruses thrive. While this doesn’t directly cause illness, it can contribute to the spread of common cold symptoms:

  • Sore throat
  • Sneezing
  • Stuffy nose
  • Watery eyes
Woman with Sick Building Syndrome holding tissue to face and wearing blanket due to improperly maintained AC unit

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)

While not directly linked to air conditioning, SBS is associated with poor indoor air quality, which may be exacerbated by a malfunctioning AC unit. Symptoms include:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Chest tightness
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

How to Maintain Your Air Conditioning Unit

Proper maintenance is essential for ensuring that your AC does not circulate harmful substances:

  • Regular Professional Servicing: At least once a year, have a professional clean and service your unit.
  • Change Filters Regularly: Replace disposable filters or clean reusable ones at least once a month during the cooling season.
  • Monitor Temperature and Humidity: Keep an eye on your thermostat settings to avoid creating an environment where harmful substances can thrive.
Rendering of different AC filters trapping bacteria to let clean air into home

Enhancing Air Quality: HEPA Filters and Air Purification

Adding high-quality filters and air purification to a well-maintained AC can further reduce or eliminate potential health concerns:

  • HEPA Filters: These filters trap tiny particles, including bacteria and viruses, enhancing indoor air quality.
  • Air Purification Systems: Using purifiers with your AC can further ensure the air circulating in your home is clean and free from harmful microorganisms.

FAQs about Air Conditioning and Health

Can My AC Unit Make Me Sick?

Your AC unit itself should not cause sickness. However, if not properly maintained, it may circulate air containing harmful microorganisms that can cause irritation, discomfort, and Sick Building Syndrome (see below).

What is Sick Building Syndrome?

SBS is a condition associated with buildings that have poor indoor air quality. Symptoms can range from headaches to respiratory problems. Proper ventilation, regular AC maintenance, and quality air purification systems can mitigate the risk.

Can I Catch a Cold from Setting the Temperature On My AC Too Low?

Air conditioning itself doesn’t cause the common cold. However, setting the temperature too low can create conditions where viruses might thrive, which may increase the likelihood of catching a cold.

How Often Should I Have My AC Unit Serviced?

We strongly recommend a professional air conditioning tune-up at least once a year. Regular inspections and changing filters regularly help keep your AC running at peak efficiency, lowering the risk of a breakdown and saving you money every month by reducing energy wastage.

How Does An Air Purifier Improve My Air Quality?

Pairing an air purifier with your AC can enhance indoor air quality by removing additional contaminants that might not be captured by your AC’s filter alone.

Air purifiers designed to remove allergens, bacteria, and viruses can provide an extra layer of protection, especially when used with high-quality filters like HEPA filters in your AC unit. This is an excellent option if you’re particularly concerned about indoor air quality, or if anyone in your home has allergies or respiratory conditions.

Stay Cool & Healthy By Caring For Your AC

Air conditioning has become an essential part of modern living, providing comfort and safety in countless Alberta homes. While there’s no direct link between air conditioning and sickness, proper maintenance is essential for making sure you can enjoy the benefits of your AC without concern.

Make sure to have your AC professionally serviced at regular intervals, and consider incorporating advanced filters and purification systems for an even healthier indoor environment. For help with your air conditioner in Calgary, Red Deer, or Edmonton, call Action Furnace—our team is standing by and ready to bring a breath of fresh air to your home.

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Written by Ryan Tutak

Ryan is considered one of Calgary's most knowledgeable residential HVAC specialists. Working in the industry for over 12 years, he's helped thousands of homeowners with their heating and cooling systems. Outside of running Calgary's most reputable HVAC business, you can find him on the Golf course practicing his short game or traveling with his family. His main goal is to create a positive collaborative culture, one in which his employees are excited to come in and are motivated to work hard. He spends the majority of his day working directly with Home Comfort Advisors, Service and Maintenance Technicians, and Customer Service Representatives ensuring they are fully prepared to lead the Home Service Industry in Customer Service.

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