Air conditioning units are a convenience that homeowners and residents across the United States enjoy as the days get hotter. However, the improper use of air conditioners, both window units and central air systems, can create a number of health concerns for both owners and neighbors alike. Follow the directions accompanying your air conditioning unit and use it sparingly to avoid danger.
Air conditioner use can create the humid conditions needed to grow several types of bacteria that are dangerous to humans. Water condensation trays fill up as the air conditioner dehumidifies the air, creating a bacterial breeding ground if the water is allowed to sit without being emptied, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Two such bacterial infections that can stem from tainted air conditioning systems include Legionnaire's disease and bacterial pneumonia.
Air conditioners use special chemicals known as refrigerants to draw heat away from the air, cooling it as it passes through the fan. If these chemicals leak from the air conditioner, they can escape into the atmosphere and cause damage to the environment in different ways. In the past, automobile air conditioners used CFC-12, also known by the trademark Freon, to cool down the air; this chemical can contribute to the destruction of ozone molecules in the ozone layer. Call an air conditioner technician every few years to inspect your unit and make sure that there are no leaks.
Having multiple air conditioning units in the same residence greatly increases the amount of electricity used by the residence. If many homes in the same area use air conditioning, this enhances the burden on the electrical system. Excessive air conditioning use can contribute to electrical blackouts or brownouts, especially as air conditioning use tends to increase during peak hours of electrical use. Blackouts can damage home appliances and electrical systems, and can cause a dangerous hindrance during emergency situations.
Improperly installed air conditioning window units can create a dangerous situation to any pedestrians walking underneath the unit, much like decaying facades or building structures. The risk of falling objects is also increased by objects used to support the air conditioning unit, such as a brick or large book, or items placed on top of the air conditioning unit by people using the unit as a shelf. During installation, use all the metal brackets and other supports packaged with the air conditioner; purchase your own if you cannot find the air conditioning unit's original supports.
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: The Inside Story: A Guide to Indoor Air Quality
- Mayo Clinic: Legionnaire's Disease
- PlanetFriendly.net: Alternatives to Air Conditioning
- Habitat; Installing Window Air Conditioners in Your Apartment; Stephen Varone and Peter Varsalona; April 2006
- WebMD: Bacterial Pneumonia
- U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Auto Air Conditioners and the Ozone Layer: Background