The Indian market is currently using over 7 million units of an air conditioning unit per year as of 2020, this number was 6.5 million in the year 2019. This increase in demand has raised concerns regarding the harmful effects of an AC in the long run. The use and manufacturing of aircons have come under the authorities’ radar and are being heavily regulated.
Last year, the authorities released additional regulations for AC in India such as the mandatory default temperature of the AC has to be 24 degrees to minimize the harmful impact on the environment. Both health and environmental activists are raising their concerns regarding the growing use of AC in homes.
This is why it becomes very important for you to make an informed decision as a consumer. Today, we will help you in this decision by discussing the advantages and disadvantages of an air conditioner in detail. Stay till the end to find out how to overcome the disadvantages of an air conditioner if you already own one.
Why is an AC Required?
Before we get to the pros and cons of an AC, let us first understand: do we really need an AC or is it just another modern luxury product that is being passed off as a necessity?
The simple answer to that is yes, in a country like India where the temperature in some parts can reach up to 50 degrees during the peak summer season, owning an AC is not a luxury anymore.
Approximately 1500 people die every year due to heatstroke during summers in India. In 2015 alone, 2000 people died due to heatwaves. This number is likely to rise over the years due to global warming. In such a scenario, ACs have become essential.
Also, in bigger cities and towns due to population explosion and lack of space, the ventilation has become minimal making it necessary for public spaces to have AC in order to avoid asphyxiation. It also controls humidity in an area and decreases the chances of spreading diseases as microorganisms grow faster in humid areas.
Advantages of an AC
AC is no longer a luxury that people used to think it is, it has become essential in recent years. And this is due to the following reasons:
1. Prevents Heat Exhaustion:
Heat exhaustion is a serious issue in a hot and humid country like India. Hundreds of people die during heatwaves in India and a thousand others are left feeling sick for days due to heat exhaustion.
Some of us have even experienced heat exhaustion without knowing as the symptoms are common with other health conditions. However, if left untreated this can lead to heatstroke which can be deadly.
ACs can significantly reduce the aftereffect of experiencing heat exhaustion. The cool AC environment allows you to relax and manage your body temperature and recover from excessive heat exposure.
2. Improves the Quality of Air:
AC filters air while cooling it down. This periodic filtration minimizes the exposure to many allergy-causing particles such as dust, pollen and more. These particles are extremely harmful to people with breathing conditions like asthma etc. AC prevents this from happening.
AC also removes humidity from the room. This prevents the growth of many microorganisms like mould which are harmful to humans. These microorganisms would otherwise multiply rapidly in warm and damp areas.
3. Improves Work Efficiency:
During peak summers, the hot and humid climate makes it difficult to concentrate on your work. Research shows that complex cognitive tasks such as critical thinking and problem-solving are significantly impaired during heat exhaustion.
AC prevents this by providing a cool and comfortable atmosphere for you to be able to concentrate properly on the work you are doing.
4. Prevents you from Getting Cranky:
Studies have found that people tend to get more angry and irritated during hot weather than colder weather. This is because the stress hormone increases during the summers as compared to winters, making us more stressed and therefore irritable. Studies have also found that people tend to behave more aggressively during hotter days as compared to colder days.
AC prevents you from feeling irritable and aggressive by providing a cooler and pleasant environment.
5. Helps you Achieve Better Sleep:
Excessive heat in the environment affects thermoregulation. Thermoregulation is the body’s way of adjusting the core temperature and keeping it balanced enough for the proper functioning of all the organs and maintaining the sleep cycle.
In this process, the body needs to release heat and cool down in order to fall asleep. When the weather is excessively hot, this process becomes difficult as the body temperature does not go down. This has a severe impact on the sleep cycle and can even lead to insomnia if left untreated.
Sleeping in an AC room during excessive heat prevents this as it allows your body to cool down effectively and give you a proper night’s sleep.
6. Protects Furniture from Humidity:
Furniture, especially the ones made up of high-quality wood is prone to damage when exposed to a humid environment for a long period. This is because the water content in the environment is absorbed by the wooden furniture and over a while, it starts to swell. This swelling destroys the wooden furniture as it forms cracks as well well as chips the exterior paint of the furniture.
All of this can be prevented by an AC as it reduces the humidity content in the room significantly and makes it dry.
7. Cools Down your Electrical Appliances:
Most electrical appliances like a laptop, PC or even a phone release heat energy during operation. When multiple electrical appliances are working in a room, then it becomes difficult for the electrical appliances to cool down as the entire room temperature is hot. This can lead to malfunctions, and frequent freezing and other performance issues, especially in laptops and cellphones.
In an AC room, this cooling down of the gadgets is easier as the AC is removing the heat energy released by them from the room. This makes it easier to cool themselves down and prevents premature performance issues in the long run.
8. Makes you Look Energised and Refreshed:
Excessive heat can cause sweating and also sunburns both of which can make you look tired, dull and unhealthy. Waking up in a hot room will make you sweaty and irritated. This will also damage the neat appearance of the clothes you are wearing. On the other hand, sunburns will cause red and patchy looking skin. Both of these can not only adversely affect the way you look but also lower your confidence.
An AC prevents all that by giving you a clean and refreshed look. It also keeps you calm and makes you appear more confident.
Disadvantages of an AC
While there are many advantages of an AC, the disadvantages of an AC cannot be ignored. Let us take a look at them in detail;
1. A Sudden Temperature Change:
When you come into the cold AC room from a hot outside climate, your body recognises the sudden drop in temperature and tries to resist the tries to hold onto the heat. This is because your body sees the sudden switch between two extreme temperatures as a threat and tries to protect itself against it. This results in sore throat, sneezing, itchy and watery eyes and headaches as well.
If this sudden temperature change persists for a long time then you might develop chronic colds and a weakened immune system.
2. Can Cause Dryness:
Humidity is an important component of air, it keeps the environment from getting too dry. When AC removes the humidity from the air, the dryness of air combined with the cold can cause dry and itchy skin. It can also irritate the eyes and cause a burning sensation in the eyes and nose. If you already suffer from dry skin and hair then an AC environment might aggravate this. The dryness of the eyes can be especially bothersome to people with poor eyesight.
3. Causes Noise Disturbances:
Both split and window AC emit constant noise that might get aggravating after long hours. This constant noise also affects your eardrum and harms your hearing ability. It is also tricky for sensitive people such as those with migraines who are prone to headaches from exposure to noise for long hours.
This noise might also adversely affect your sleep and concentration during work or studying.
4. Respiratory Diseases:
As discussed above, the body when exposed to sudden cold tries to resist it and perverse the heat it already has. One way to do this is to reduce the blood flow by constricting the veins in the body. When the body constricts the veins in the nose and throat, it reduces the ability of our body to fight the bacteria and viruses that are commonly found in the area. This is because the white blood cells that are responsible for fighting against diseases also reduce in the area. This makes you prone to infections such as hypersensitivity pneumonitis which causes inflammation in the lungs.
5. Allergic Reaction:
If you have any airborne allergies, then AC can flare up this allergy. This is because sometimes allergens like mould and pollen get stuck in the filter of an AC and the AC circulates this contaminated air in the room and aggravates your allergies especially if it is a seasonal allergy.
6. Eye Infection:
Eye infection such as itchiness and dryness is a common disadvantage of an AC. But, this is worse and harmful for people who wear contact lenses as dryness while wearing contact lenses can cause severe redness and inflammation. It can also cause watery eyes and make your eyes unfit for lenses. If this continues, it might even temporarily affect your vision.
7. Drowsy and Lethargy:
As we discussed above, our body uses the process of thermoregulation to maintain the body temperature and regulate the sleep cycle. In this process, the body slowly cools down in order to go into the sleep state and warms up in the morning to wake us up.
When we are using AC during the daytime, the coldness of the room makes our body cold and this tricks our body into thinking that it is time to sleep. This is why we feel drowsy and lethargic in an AC room. The AC emulates the natural cooling of the body and can disrupt the sleep cycle.
8. Decreases Heat Tolerance:
Continuous exposure to AC can decrease our tolerance to heat. This is because we get habituated to a cooler temperature and then even mild heat becomes intolerable. This is especially harmful to people who live in hot and tropical climates as the AC harms your endurance to the natural and regular climate of the area.
9. High Carbon Emission and Global Warming:
The refrigerant used in ACs are notorious for releasing harmful CFCs into the environment which are extremely harmful to the Ozone layer of the earth. Not only that, the constant heat released from the AC warms up the outside environment significantly contributing to the global warming problem that we are all facing.
10. Decreased immunity:
ACs are not releasing natural air like a fan or a cooler. ACs use chemicals to significantly cool the air before releasing it. And as we discussed above, this extreme temperature is taken as a threat by the body and the body tries to fight it. This continuous fight can diminish your natural immunity over time.
The constant irritation in the nose, eyes and throat may also leave you vulnerable to cold, flu, allergies, conjunctivitis and more.
How to Protect Yourself Against These Disadvantages:
Many of us already own an AC or are planning to own an AC. In that case, it is possible to at least diminish the harmful effects of an AC. Following are some of how you can protect yourself and the environment while owning an AC;
Rehydrate Frequently: As we know, ACs cause significant dryness in the environment and affects your skin, eyes and hair. In such a scenario, it becomes vital to rehydrate yourself and drink plenty of water to combat the moisture loss. Sufficient water will minimise eye irritation, throat dryness and nasal passage infection.
Clean and maintain the AC: It is very important to clean and maintain the AC to minimise any dust, pollen or mould from accumulating in the filters and vents. A well maintained and properly serviced AC can reduce many adverse health effects.
Limit your exposure: The best way to avoid the disadvantages of an AC is to limit your exposure, do not set your temperature too low while sitting in an AC, keep it at 24 to 26 degrees to avoid getting habituated to an extremely cold environment. And regularly move out the AC room to a relatively warmer but not hot area, in order to promote proper blood flow in the body.
Invest in a humidifier: If you have severely dry skin or suffer from health conditions such as eczema which gets worse in a dry AC environment, then you might want to invest in a humidifier. A humidifier is a device that increases the moisture content in the room and hence decreases dryness. This will also relieve any irritation in the nose, eyes and throat due to the lack of humidity in the room.
Allow ventilation: AC rooms are notorious for being closed up and not allowing outside air into the room. While this can be a good thing in some cases; it can also restrict the movement of fresh air in the room. Therefore, it is important to periodically switch off the AC and allow proper ventilation into the room.
Look for energy-efficient ACs: In order to minimise the harmful effects of an AC, new and innovative technological development is being conducted often. The refrigerants are being developed to make them less harmful. Energy-efficient, eco-friendly ACs are being brought to the market that are considerably less dangerous for our environment. Choose a 5 star and high SEERS rated unit to reduce the carbon emission of the AC.