These recirculating air conditioners are most common in centralized air conditioning systems, and split-type airconditioners. These are most commonly used to cool large spaces, such as offices, bars, and restaurants.
Dr. Shaun Fitzgerald, in an interview with The Telegraph, shares, “The recommended strategy now, if you have one of these split units, is to throw the window open and sacrifice your desire for a cold or cooler environment. If there is a modicum of wind it will move the air around. If you can’t open a window, turn the unit off.”
Opening a window with an air conditioner on might seem counter-intuitive at first, but it could help mitigate the risk.
Certain split-type air conditioning units also have a feature to turn off the recirculation mode. If your air conditioner has this option, it would be best to turn the recirculation off.
Some outbreaks have been linked to air conditioners
Last April, a study found a link between a coronavirus outbreak in China, and an air conditioner in a restaurant. According to the researchers, “We conclude that in this outbreak, droplet transmission was prompted by air-conditioned ventilation. The key factor for infection was the direction of the airflow.”
They added that the arrangement of the tables could have also played a role in spreading the infection. The tables were in close proximity with one another, and were all directly receiving air from the air conditioner. This points towards the possibility of coronavirus and air conditioning does not make for a safe combination.
This means that some offices and restaurants might need to reconsider their current arrangements. An increased distance between the people inside, and pointing the air conditioner to another direction could help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
At the moment, it is still unknown if using air filters can prevent the spread of coronavirus.