Summer is officially here, but for many across the country, summer has been here. Excessive heat warnings and record-breaking temperatures affected many Americans as early as mid-June. Seemingly more important than ever before, your air conditioner is probably on full blast to make temperatures more bearable. But what impact does your AC have on air quality? Is the air quality better or worse in summer?
Summer Pollution: Why Air Quality is Worse When It’s Hot Out
Summertime is packed with friends and fun, but it isn’t all ice cream and beach days. In fact, from an air quality perspective, summer can be downright dangerous. In addition to air quality complications associated with wildfires, the summer heat contributes to other types of pollutants, too.
For example, pollution like ground-level ozone is produced more efficiently in hot, sunny environments. Sunlight is an essential component for the reactions that create harmful ozone, which means summer—and especially during extreme heat waves—provides the perfect conditions for ozone pollution. Combined with dryness in the air, summertime ozone can reach dangerous levels in cities or the areas that surround them.
Heat waves also compromise air quality. Considered the deadliest weather phenomenon—even when compared with floods and hurricanes—heat waves were associated with 190 deaths in 2021. In part, these fatalities were a result of high temperatures making air more stagnant, trapping pollutants like fine particulate matter (PM2.5), smoke, and ozone.
Even the activities that we commonly enjoy in the summer can have a negative impact on air quality! Between bonfires, barbecues, fireworks, and air travel, many of the things we love to do in summer result in greater pollution levels. While Fourth of July celebrations just wouldn’t be the same without them, a 2015 study found that our Independence Day shows in the sky produce 42% more pollutants into the air than could be found on a normal day!
And don’t assume that the above factors just influence outdoor air quality. They can all take a toll on indoor air quality, too. Unfortunately, using an air conditioner can make things even worse…
An A/C Will Keep You Cool… While Circulating Indoor Air Contaminants
While feeling that fresh blast of air after a day in the heat may have you feeling refreshed, know that A/C air itself hasn’t been refreshed. While it may feel “new” to your fresh-out-of-the-sun body, air conditioners only recirculate the air in your home. They don’t introduce fresh air, and they certainly don’t do anything to purify it.
Even window air conditioners will just use refrigerant, evaporator coils, and fans to recycle air that’s already present in your home. Worse, central air systems and A/C units can exacerbate the impact of pollutants commonly found in homes—like VOCs, dust, and allergens. Without ventilation, the unpurified air is simply circulated throughout your home, constantly exposing you and your family to the same range of contaminants.
That’s why it’s crucial to run an air purifier with your air conditioner. While there’s a common misconception that one can work without another, using both is necessary for a cool, contaminant-free home. Especially in rooms where other pollutants might be present (smoke, VOCs from candles, cooking pollutants, etc.), it’s critical to have an air purifier to clean up the circulating air.
Running Your AC? Better Run Your Air Purifier, Too
While air purifiers are great to have year-round, summer presents an extra case for their usefulness. Hot, sunny weather traps pollutants like ozone and PM2.5. While they make the heat bearable, air conditioners do nothing to improve indoor air quality. This makes an AirDoctor as important as a cool glass of lemonade this summer. Featuring an air quality sensor with auto-mode, you can sit back and relax in your refreshing home while the unit takes care of any summertime pollutants that might be present.