India’s air conditioner manufacturers have finally decided to take on the widespread fear that the air cooling equipment are conduits for the coronavirus. Quite the contrary, AC and refrigerator makers claim that an air conditioner running the ideal band of temperature and humidity actually help to fight COVID-19. They now plan to launch a nationwide awareness drive around the safe usage of air-conditioning systems.
Refrigeration and AC Manufacturers Association (RAMA), along with the professional body Indian Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers (ISHRAE), have together verified and approved the industry guidelines issued last month for successful implementation of air conditioning and ventilation guidelines in residential and commercial space. Their verdict? A temperature band of 24 to 30 degrees and a relative humidity between 40 and 70 are ideal to boost one’s immunity and resist the infection.
Gurmeet Singh, head of RAMA and chairman and managing director of Johnson Controls-Hitachi India pointed out, “Customers have many doubts on usage of ACs and there is already evidence of incorrect information on social media. This will do more harm to the public at large with the setting of summer and increasing temperatures. We are in talks with various state governments to promote the guidelines.
“We are also going to run a nationwide awareness drive around the safe usage of air conditioning systems,” Singh further added. The organisation added that CPWD, which maintains government offices as well as the Military Engineering Service had already accepted the guidelines. The special trains to be run by Indian Railways from Tuesday are on all-AC coaches, further boosting their argument.
India’s AC industry was dealt a debilitating blow first by the announcement of lockdown just ahead of the peak summer season, which accounts for most of their businesses. Further, rumours that the coronavirus can spread faster in an air conditioned area (China, for example, has implemented major restrictions on the use of ACs in places like restaurants) sounded like it will destroy any leftover chance of the industry getting itself up and salvage the situation with restrictions easing in the third round of lockdown.
“The virus is more active in low humidity (below 30) according to technical studies in Japan and the US,” Vir Advani, vice-chairman and managing director of Bluestar, one of India’s leading AC makers, told THE WEEK. “So, if the AC maintains a humidity level of between 40 and 70, it could actually help!” he added.
ISHRAE’s list of recommendations include running ACs in the requisite temperature and humidity band, increasing the frequency of filter cleaning, ventilating the room regularly and keeping doors and windows open when the AC is not running at homes. For central air-conditioning systems in offices, it suggests keeping the air circulation systems running (without compressor on) during weekends and off-duty hours and more frequent cleaning of filters. The start-up of the system after a prolonged shutdown should follow protocols given in the ISHRAE guideline, as adopted by CPWD.