We tend to think of our home as a safe haven – that staying indoors means nothing can harm us and we are safe from all pollution…
…but nothing could be further from the truth.
Did you know?
In low- and middle-income countries like Malaysia, household air pollution is responsible for almost 10% of the mortality rate, while in high-income countries the same risk factor contributes to only 0.2% of deaths (source: WHO).
Air conditioning has become an integral part of our life in the tropical region. You’d be surprised at the devastating effects old and poorly maintained AC units have on our health. In fact, the low quality of air you breathe can lead to a serious illness, or even death.
On one hand, it’s almost impossible to imagine how we’d survive without air conditioning. Just think of all the moisture and heat we need to endure each day: boiling-hot pavements, sweaty buses, confined and moist shops and restaurants.
Did you know?
During the haze generated by Indonesian fires in 2015, Malaysia suffered air pollution at 10 times the level that the World Health Organization says causes premature deaths, resulting in up to 6,500 deaths a year in Malaysia alone.
Let’s take a closer look at the statistics from around the world to learn more about the scale of danger:
Globally, 4.3 million deaths were attributed to household air pollution (HAP) in 2012, almost all occurred in low- and middle-income countries.
Broken or neglected AC units are breeding grounds for bacteria and fungi, some of the major factors for developing asthma. According to Ministry of Health Malaysia, there are over 2 million asthmatic patients in Malaysia, where only 6% are well controlled.
Indoor environments are 2 to 5 times more toxic than outdoor environments – in some cases they’re even 100 times more polluted (United States Environmental Protection Agency).
As you see, air quality is a deadly serious issue. This means that ever-present air conditioners play a VITAL role in protecting our health and life.
In this article you’ll learn about all the potential dangers floating around, lurking just outside your doorstep, and benefits of having a properly maintained AC unit. You’ll also learn how to choose a qualified and professional air conditioning maintenance company that will help you save your time, money and – most importantly – your health. And believe us, it’s definitely worth your trouble.
But first things first.
Air quality – Are you sure your AC unit is not killing you?
Because we spend as much as 90% of our lives indoors, we tend to think the moment we enter our homes, schools and offices there is nothing that can harm us. We want to believe we are safe from all the pollution we leave behind…
…but we are only safe as long as our AC is clean and properly maintained. But what would happen if it wasn’t?
Malfunctioning and dirty AC units increase indoor pollution
According to research carried out by Dr. Mark Mendel, an epidemiologist from Californian Department of Public Health, working air conditioners effectively filter out particles in various, dangerous pollutants. Those compounds are common in urban environments, especially in heavy traffic. In highly urbanized and industrial areas, lack of well-functioning air conditioning and high levels of humidity can increase concentrations of pollutants inside your house.
Let’s take a look at the most common types of gases and compounds that can be found in places with faulty air conditioners:
Tobacco smoke – it contains 200 known poisons and 43 compounds proven to cause cancer, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), emphysema and other serious diseases in smokers. According to a Malaysian National Health and Morbidity Survey from 2015, approximately 22.8% (4,991,458 people) of the Malaysian population aged 15 years and above are active smokers. Tobacco is one of the main causes of lung cancer – a leading factor in the morbidity rate in Malaysia.
Nitrogen dioxide – it’s emitted by poorly ventilated or maladjusted coal, gas, kerosene, oil or wood sources of cooking and heating, causing irritation of the eyes and respiratory tract. Not only does it lower our resistance to infections, but it can also trigger asthma.
Carbon monoxide – it’s produced by incomplete burning of fossil fuels in vehicles, home heating equipment, or industrial plants. It’s a colorless and odorless gas, poisonous to humans and animals when inhaled. Carbon monoxide disrupts oxygen levels, worsening symptoms of cardiovascular disease. Its high levels can lead to death.
Radon – it’s a noxious gas that arises from the soil and bedrock underneath our homes and may be present in building materials. It may also contain trace amounts of uranium. Radon exposure is one of the leading causes of lung cancer worldwide, with over 2 million cases a year, 58% of which occurred in less developed regions (source: WHO).
Lead – areas near battery plants and smelters may have relatively high levels of lead in the air. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, lead may lead to kidney disease, neurological impairments, anemia, reproductive disorders, osteoporosis and high blood pressure.
Bacteria and air conditioning – hordes of invisible enemies living in your house
Poorly serviced AC units are like ticking time bombs. The process of cooling hot air creates a lot of moisture and condensation, which needs to be channeled away and removed. If an air conditioner fails to do so, or is not properly serviced, it can become a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi.
Air conditioners and coils – the perfect bacterial habitat
If your AC unit is not properly and sufficiently disinfected, it may become a true bacterial breeding ground. Cooling coils are definitely one of the most contaminated places in your air cond – it’s where moisture, dust and allergens get trapped.
What’s a cooling coil? It’s an air conditioning element that allows air to move through it, absorbing the heat inside of your AC unit. Cooling coils serve as “heat exchangers” in devices with limited space, cooling the air and transferring it outside.
Disinfecting the coils is one of the most crucial processes in servicing your AC unit.
Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most neglected steps, skipped by most air conditioning servicing companies. Why? The coils themselves are made of many tiny cooling fins, placed closely to each other, making it challenging to scrub and clean them effectively. To make matters worse, they are extremely delicate and vulnerable, especially when scrubbed or brushed incorrectly.
Okay, so is the danger real? How much bacteria is on my AC unit?
The danger is real and potentially deadly.
36 types of bacteria in your air conditioning – An academic study published by the University of Rome in 2013 proved that AC unit vents had the highest number of bacterial isolates among all sorts of ventilation. They can harbor up to 36 types of microbial isolates, which can be spread and circulate in indoor micro-environments. The microbes coexist in ventilation devices and utilize available nutrients for survival.
Malaysian restaurants – A 2014 report by the Universiti Sains in Penang studied the indoor air quality of restaurants in Malaysia and concluded that the presence of airborne bacteria indicated overcrowding and inadequate ventilation within the restaurants, many of which included pathogenic bacteria from cocci, enterobacteriaceae and bacilli families.
Moisture and dampness – According to “WHO guidelines for indoor air quality”, house dampness is consistently associated with a wide range of respiratory health effects, most notably asthma, wheeze, cough, respiratory infections and upper respiratory tract symptoms. What’s more, dampness and mold may be particularly prevalent in poorly maintained housing for low-income people.
The most dangerous microorganisms living in your air conditioning and their influence on your health:
Some of the bacteria and fungi growing in the moist and damp environment of your AC unit can lead to various diseases, remaining a hidden source of infections. It has been proven by microbiologists Sengur and Thomas, who (according to an academic paper of the University of Rome) concluded that the types of microorganisms found within air conditioning are diverse and include bacteria, algae, fungi and even viruses.
Legionella pneumophila – one of the most deadly bacteria that may occupy your AC unit. It can lead to Pontiac Fever or Legionnaire’s Disease. You can contract it by inhaling organisms often found in air conditioners. The bacteria impact your respiratory system. Symptoms include muscle aches, headaches, fever, chills, and in some cases, death.
Staphylococcus aureus –this bacteria has been detected in indoor air and linked to human infection, leading to serious illnesses, such as bloodstream and skin diseases, pneumonia, or bone and joint infections.
Asthma and allergies
Did you know? According to the Ministry of Health, there are over 2 million asthmatic patients in Malaysia, where only 6% are well-controlled and monitored. Asthma is one of the top 20 causes of death in Malaysia.
As stated by “Trends in Microbiology“, several species of fungi, such as Aspergillus, Alternaria, Cladosporius and Penicillum, act as allergens and initiate asthma development. What’s important, fungal infection and exposure to spores have been linked to several clinical consequences in asthmatics, including deterioration of lung function, increased hospital admission and even mortality.
President of Allergy and Immunology Association Malaysia, Dr. Amir Hamzah Abdul Latiff, says that 30 – 40% of Malaysians suffer from sinusitis allergy because of poor indoor air quality. What’s more, 1 in 5 Malaysian children could develop allergies.
Air conditioners are critical in filtering air for people allergic to molds, pollens, animals, bacteria and fungi. They also function as excellent dehumidifiers, thus limiting the growth of dust mite and fungi. Mold, dust mites, pet dander and pest droppings can trigger allergic reactions for a significant portion of the population.
Additional benefits of having a 100% working air conditioner
Low temperatures generated by air conditioning have positive effects on our health
You may be unaware that low temperatures can be beneficial when it comes to preventing serious, life-threatening illnesses. There is only one condition to ensure this – your AC unit needs to be 100% functional.
They help us fight heat waves – What’s a heat wave? It’s a prolonged period of particularly hot weather, which may be accompanied by high humidity, especially in countries with oceanic climate. Exposure to high temperatures for prolonged periods of time can lead to heat exhaustion, vomiting, nausea, and strokes.
Did you know? According to WHO data from 2014, deaths in Malaysia caused by strokes reached 15,497 or 12.19% of total deaths.
Cool air supplied by AC units lowers morbidity. In a series of surveys in six South Korean cities in 2006, it was proven that a raise of just 1° C over normal summer peak temperatures prompted a raise of between 6.7% and 15.3% in mortality from all causes.
A statewide study in California in 2010 proved that for each 10% increase in ownership of well-maintained air conditioning there was absolute reduction in developing asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), high blood pressure and strokes. It was also suggested that air conditioning could be beneficial in places plagued with insect-borne diseases such as malaria or dengue fever.
How often should I clean my air conditioner?
We hear this question a lot, and yet, most cleaning companies are unable to give a straight answer.
Fortunately, there are actual academic studies that come to our aid.
An academic study published by the University of Rome in 2013 concluded that a quarterly (every 3 months) or biannual (every 6 months) cleaning of air-conditioners and surfaces of other ventilation devices is necessary to prevent pathogens or opportunistic microorganisms of respiratory health significance.
WHO suggests that inspections and appropriate measurements should be used to confirm indoor moisture and microbial growth. Laboratory studies have shown that most dust mites, bacteria and fungi require a relative humidity in excess of 45-50% for survival and development, but they feed and multiply more rapidly at higher relative humidity.
According to an academic paper titled “Sampling and Analysis of Indoor Microorganisms”, humidity greater than 70% increases indoor bacterial, fungi and mite levels by more than 10 times when compared to normal humidity levels (around 40%). It was also concluded that low ventilation rates increase the intensity of allergy and other health symptoms. With temperatures rising as much a 37° C and high levels of moisture (conditions similar to those in a human body), bacteria have the perfect habitat to thrive.
The enemy is still there, even when we can’t see it
Because aircond coils and blower units are stored inside the casing, we can’t see the dust, fungus and mold growing inside our aircon, not to mention the invisible bacteria.
If you want to know how much dust surrounds you in the indoor air you breathe, leave your ceiling fan uncleaned for 1-2 months. The thick layer of dust on its blades will tell you everything you need to know about the state of the air in your house. Now imagine how much pollution can gather inside your air cond with 100 times more moisture inside of your air conditioning than in your room.
As a general rule of thumb, you should hire someone to clean your AC a minimum of twice a year.
Air conditioning cleaning – a comprehensive guide
Before we begin, you need to understand the difference between advice and opinion. While everybody has an opinion on the subject, advice can only be given by someone that either has already performed a specific task, or has the knowledge and expertise on how to do it. Many air con contractors don’t even understand why cleaning your air conditioner is so important, how each part of an aircond is designed or why all the steps in the cleaning process are necessary. Lack of understanding and knowledge can lead to uncontrollable damage done to your AC unit, hindering its functions and air cleaning capabilities.
Cleaning your indoor cooling coils – potential problems
Indoor cooling coils, also known as evaporator coils, contain tens of thousands of tiny fins. They are designed in such a way that they help the AC unit absorb heat. This is also the element where cold air comes from and where heat exchange happens.
The cooling coil is one of the main causes of all problems in your AC unit – starting with water leakages, blocked drain pipes and pans, as well as dust, fungus, mold and bacteria that get trapped inside. This means your cooling coils need to be thoroughly cleaned and scrubbed without damaging their delicate structure – if you don’t take necessary precautions, uncleaned coils can affect the efficiency of your cooling system.
Extra care should be given to the tool used for cleaning – avoid destructive brushes with hard and stiff filaments. What’s more, performing dry brushing or using a vacuum can be especially harmful, as it leads to the loosening and release of bacteria, mold and fungus into the air and straight into your lungs. This means you must wet the coil first and then clean it with a lab certified chemical.
Sanitizing the coil
Your indoor cooling coil and the outside surfaces need to be sanitized with a chemical substance in order to kill all the harmful microorganisms and bacteria. Sanitizers are substances capable of destroying microbes that might influence your health and lead to serious diseases.
Topping up your AC unit’s gas
The gas stored in your AC unit, also known as refrigerant, is a substance or mixture used in a refrigeration cycle. Many people think that topping up your air conditioning is a normal thing to do and should be performed with every scheduled service.
‘Topping up’ means adding the gas to air conditioning systems before checking for, and fixing, any leaks.
Unfortunately, frequent topping up of your AC unit can lead to some serious issues. Why?
An air conditioning system is designed in such a way that it needs to keep the entirety of the refrigerant gas in a closed circuit in order to make the AC unit functional. Unless there is a defect, some of the connectors get broken, or a gas leakage happens, no additional topping up is needed.
Gas leakages – what causes them?
Most of the times, gas leakages occur in the copper connectors inside your air con. They can get damaged if they are not handled with care or if the servicing company uses the outdated strip and clean method during the dismantling process. Therefore, it is not advisable to completely remove the coil for cleaning. It leads to premature wear and tear, damaging your AC unit and causing pinhole refrigerant leakage.
Cleaning the outdoor coil
An outdoor coil, also known as the condenser coil, moves heat from the inside of your AC unit to the air. It is usually situated outdoors and built to be weatherproof. Nonetheless, it is also prone to dust collection, making cleaning of the coil vital. If the coil gets dirtied with dust, it cannot supply proper heat transfer, resulting in greater energy consumption
Dirty coils can use up to 37% more energy than clean coils.
If you don’t keep your coils clean, their cooling capacity may be reduced by as much as 30%
Neglected and dirty coils can lead to costly repairs, totaling 60-70% of a new aircond system price. The damages can be caused by high operating pressures and temperatures, leading to your AC unit’s failure.
Conclusion – your AC units need to be cleaned regularly in order to keep the system efficient and to maintain their lifespans.
Check post-service cleanliness
After your servicing company is done with your AC unit, check your system to ensure they have actually done their job properly (you can perform these tasks by yourself, preferably using a probe).
- Check if air flow is not restricted (a sign of clean coils).
- Check the temperature of the air blown out of your air cond.
How much should I spend on air cond cleaning?
If you are wondering about the price of hiring an air cond cleaning company, you are essentially asking the wrong question. What you should be asking is: “Is the company qualified to clean my air cond? Can I put my children’s health in their hands?”
Many contractors offer cheap services because they are using inefficient and inexpensive chemicals, as well as improper methods of dismantling your AC unit, all of which has a huge impact on the lifespan of your air cond, as well as your health. Keep in mind that sometimes the more expensive ways of cleaning your air cond are actually the cheapest and most efficient in the long term.
Thedustbox.com is an air conditioner cleaning and servicing company with a goal to provide better indoor air quality through the means of modern technology. We understand the importance of air quality and care about creating a healthy indoor environment for children.
Our team consists of passionate people that understand the air conditioning business well. They put extra effort to understand every, single function and part of AC systems. It’s because of their work and passion we were able to create and pioneer a modern cleaning technology called the Jetbox System. The engineering background of our team made it possible to craft this unique, all-new technology, relying on water-jet technique with a non-destructive scrubbing effect. It’s fast, precise and gets rid of all the health-threatening bacteria inside your air cond – and everything with no additional mess. We have a real-time online booking schedule available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – all for your convenience. Our company is the best air conditioning cleaning service.
For easy access to our services, please visit www.thedustbox.com or call 1700 81-61-81. We promise an entirely new experience that will provide you with healthy indoor air.