Understanding the ventilation role of air conditioners: Cooling vs. Fresh air exchange

While air conditioners contribute to air circulation and cooling, they do not serve as dedicated ventilation systems that exchange indoor air with fresh outdoor air.

Air conditioners can contribute to ventilation in a room, but their primary function is to cool and dehumidify the air.

Traditional air conditioners, especially window or split units, operate by taking in warm indoor air, passing it over coils filled with a refrigerant, and then expelling the cooled and dehumidified air back into the room.

This process involves a certain level of air circulation, aiding in refreshing the indoor environment. So, air conditioners don’t introduce fresh outdoor air from the outside; instead, they cool and recirculate the existing indoor air.

While air conditioners do provide some level of air circulation and contribute to ventilation, they may not be as effective as dedicated ventilation systems for ensuring a constant supply of fresh outdoor air.

However, dedicated ventilation systems, such as exhaust fans or mechanical ventilation systems, are specifically designed to bring in fresh outdoor air and expel stale indoor air.

These systems ensure a continuous flow of fresh air, which is important for maintaining indoor air quality.

How to improve fresh air circulation in a room with air conditioning

While air conditioning is effective at maintaining a comfortable temperature indoors, it may sometimes result in stale air. Here are some tips to help you get fresh air in a room with AC:

1. Ventilate the room

The most straightforward method to introduce fresh air into a room with air conditioning is to open your windows. However, the effectiveness of this approach may be influenced by the type of window and its features.

Consider the impact of window screens in this process. Some windows come equipped with mesh screens that, over time, can accumulate dirt and impede the flow of fresh air.

Additionally, other windows may feature weather stripping, which can also attract dirt, especially in high humidity conditions.

2. Maintain and clean your AC

Ensure your air conditioning unit is well-maintained. Clean or replace filters regularly to facilitate better air circulation and prevent the recirculation of stale air.

Also, position the air conditioning unit strategically to optimize air distribution within the room.

3. Use air purifiers

Consider using air purifiers with HEPA filters to remove particles and improve air quality, complementing the air circulation provided by the air conditioning system.

This LEVOIT air purifier is suitable for large rooms up to 1110 square feet, features air quality and light sensors, smart WiFi capabilities, washable filters, and a powerful HEPA filter.

The company claims that the HEPA filter within the 3-in-1 filtration system effectively removes “at least 99.97 percent of dust, pollen, and any airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns (µm).”

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4. Install ventilators or exhaust fans

Ventilation systems or exhaust fans can help circulate air and remove indoor pollutants. They are particularly useful in areas like kitchens and bathrooms.

This Broan-NuTone ceiling and wall ventilation fan helps eliminate humidity, tobacco smoke, and cooking odors.

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5. Consider indoor plants

Some indoor plants can help improve air quality by absorbing pollutants and releasing oxygen. Choose plants that thrive indoors and are known for their air-purifying properties.

Common indoor plants that are believed to help improve air quality include:

Keep in mind that although these plants can enhance indoor air quality, they cannot entirely replace the need for adequate ventilation and routine cleaning.

Also, be cautious when selecting indoor plants, as some may be harmful to pets.

6. Avoid smoking indoors

Avoid smoking indoors, as it can significantly degrade indoor air quality. Smoke can linger and be difficult to remove.

7. Limit VOCs

Some cleaning products release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can affect indoor air quality. Consider using environmentally friendly and low-VOC cleaning products.

Safer Choice, an EPA Pollution Prevention (P2) Program, aids consumers, businesses, and purchasers in identifying products that not only deliver effective performance but also incorporate ingredients deemed safer for both human health and the environment.

This program encompasses practices aimed at diminishing, eliminating, or preventing pollution at its source, emphasizing the need to use safer ingredients in various products. You can search for Safer Choice-Certified Products here.

For example, Seventh Generation has been a Safer Choice partner since 2009. You can find their EPA Safer Choice certified products, from laundry, dishwashing, household cleaners, baby care and more on their official Amazon store.

8. Control Humidity

Maintain a balanced humidity level in your home. Excessive humidity can contribute to mold growth and other indoor air quality issues.

You can use this TP50 digital hygrometer, equipped with highly accurate temperature and humidity readings across a broad range, to monitor the indoor humidity in your home.

Providing regular updates on high and low records, this unit’s highly sensitive humidity sensor ensures awareness of current comfort levels, keeping you informed about changes in your indoor environment.

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How to ventilate a room with AC?

Ventilating a room with an air conditioner presents challenges, as AC units are not designed for ventilation, nor can they replace traditional sources like windows, fans, or heaters.

There is a saying: The More You Ventilate, the More You Cool! So, air conditioners often provide very little or no ventilation.

The airflow may be powerful to move the hot air around the room, but without moving the cool air, it will not cool the room to comfortable temperatures.

The air inside the room will remain hot during the peak hours of cooling, and when you need the AC to cool the room, it will not be able to cool the air to a comfortable temperature.

An air conditioner produces only about 4% of its cooling effectiveness outdoors. What happens inside the room while the air conditioner is running is 100% up to the occupant.

Adopting a holistic approach that combines AC efficiency with additional ventilation methods (like the ones we’ve mentioned above) empowers homeowners to create a well-ventilated and comfortable indoor environment.

The impact of ventilation on electricity bills when using an air conditioner

Operating an air conditioner involves a significant electricity consumption, especially when the compressor is engaged to regulate the room’s temperature.

This power usage is comparable to running household heaters or other air conditioning systems.

Unlike traditional ventilation, which involves circulating outdoor air, air conditioners focus on cooling or heating indoor spaces. The cumulative use of multiple AC units in a residence often results in higher energy bills.

Extended use of an air conditioner can lead to excessive energy consumption, posing safety risks, especially when the compressor runs for prolonged periods without sufficient ventilation. This can lead to overheating and compromise safety.

To address ventilation concerns and reduce the risk of excessive energy consumption, it’s advisable to proactively ventilate the air conditioning unit.

Adjusting the thermostat to a lower setting facilitates effective temperature regulation without compromising energy efficiency.

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