3 Myths About Your Air Conditioner

We answer a lot of questions about heating and cooling. Most of the time, they are legitimate concerns, like “why does my air conditioner freeze?” or “why does my air conditioner smell?” Other questions we get are based mostly on rumors and fear. In short, they are myths that you don’t really need to be concerned about. Like all myths, there is a small truth that got them started. However, like a game of telephone, the original truth has become distorted and changed until it is no longer true.

Myth 1. Air Conditioning is Bad For Our Health

This myth includes concerns about air conditioning causing congestion, illness and even cancer. But it is a myth. In fact, many medical professionals credit air conditioning with saving lives in heat waves. Doctors also recommend air conditioned homes for those suffering from asthma and allergies because it helps avoid outdoor irritants. Studies have shown that use of air conditioning helps reduce hospital visits for cardiovascular symptoms caused by particles in the air.

The link to cancer appears to have started as an internet rumor involving car air conditioners. You are not breathing in chemicals (coolant) used in air conditioners. The coolant is stored in a closed tubing system in the A/C unit, so you don’t have to worry about breathing it in.

Partial Truths

Concerns that air conditioning is bad for us is probably related to concerns about indoor air pollution. While indoor air pollution is possible, it isn’t caused by a well maintained air conditioning system. Poorly maintained systems can become breeding grounds for micro-organisms that might make you sick. That’s why health researchers recommend regular maintenance of your HVAC system. If your air conditioner is putting off smells, especially musty odors, then you should have it serviced. If you are in the Charlotte metro area, please contact us.

Myth 2. Air Conditioning Units are more Efficient in the Shade

Air Conditioners with plants shading them.

Don’t go planting bushes next to your air conditioner’s outdoor unit or build some type of shade barrier over it. Any benefit from shading the air conditioner is so small that it won’t even be noticeable on your next electricity bill. While the sun does cause some extra heat, the air temperature around the unit is the bigger factor in cooling. Outdoor units move such a large volume of air that just shading the unit doesn’t create enough impact. A research study in Florida found savings of just .1% from shading the AC unit. Researchers also stated that poorly planned landscape shading could actually reduce efficiency by blocking air flow around the unit.

Partial Truths

The idea behind shading the air conditioner is really pretty simple. We feel cooler in the shade. Science also shows us that landscape plants can indeed slightly lower surrounding temperatures. It seems like a good idea on paper, but the field results show that the process is more complex, so it really doesn’t work well.

Myth 3. Air Conditioners can Produce Carbon Monoxide

Carbon Monoxide AlarmNo ignition. No carbon monoxide. Air conditioners don’t produce a flame, so they don’t create carbon monoxide or any other dangerous gasses from combustion.

Partial Truths

If you have an HVAC system with a gas furnace, it can produce carbon monoxide. This is probably where people get confused. But it is the furnace that produces the deadly gas, not the A/C unit or air handler. You should always have a carbon monoxide detector in your home and maintain your furnace to avoid problems with carbon monoxide.

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