Most automotive air conditioning users think of it as working like their kitchen fridge. This is true in the principle of cold production, but the means implemented to achieve this are extremely different. This is high-tech equipment, in which heterogeneous elements cohabit such as mechanical systems (compressor, condenser, vaporizer, pulleys, belts, seals, etc.), a specific refrigerantalso serving as a lubricant, hydraulic filters, as well as a complex aeraulic circuit. Everything is controlled and controlled by a set of electronic devices. If we add that all this must be able to withstand the heat of the Sahara, the cold of Alaska, the humidity of Djibouti and sometimes corrosive atmospheres, it is no longer possible to doubt the interest of ensuring serious maintenance of the set to maintain its proper use and longevity. Beyond technical considerations, the maintenance of car air conditioning can directly impact the health, safety, comfort and budget of users. Let’s see how!
Impact of air conditioning on occupant comfort
The main quality, which prevails in the phenomenal success of automotive air conditioning installed today on almost all new vehicles, including entry-level, consists in guaranteeing, in high heat, the thermal comfort of the occupants of the vehicle. To do this, a large volume of air is sucked in from the outside atmosphere or recycled in a closed circuit .in the vehicle. This air, laden with all sorts of particles, passes through a dry filter most often placed under the dashboard, before being distributed in the passenger compartment, rid of its impurities. Over time, this filter becomes loaded with pollutants, to the point of clogging. We then observe the gradual weakening of the flow of fresh air, resulting in a drop in the efficiency of the conditioning of the ambient air.
To ensure the air conditioning service, in the best conditions, it is imperative to periodically replace the dry filtering element, sometimes called “pollen filter”. The replacement frequency and procedure, within the reach of a good handyman, are generally explained in the vehicle’s maintenance booklet.
Beneficial effects of air conditioning on health
During heat waves, the air conditioning reduces the oven effect of the passenger compartment of a car. The supply of fresh air prevents heatstroke and dehydration vulnerable subjects, in particular the elderly, pregnant women, individuals with cardiovascular deficiencies or malnutrition, newborns, etc. There is also a clear regulatory effect on respiratory functions, allowing people with obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to undertake trips that were once strongly discouraged. Most modern air conditioning circuits are equipped with filters that drastically limit the entry of pollen, mold and other harmful substances contained in the ambient air, which are responsible for many allergic symptoms. This additional safety plays in favor of the use of air conditioning in the presence of sensitive subjects.
Air conditioning is therefore positioned as a real public health device, useful in particular during major seasonal migrations on roads that are often congested and overheated by the radiation of the harsh summer sun.
Adverse health effects
The large volume of air pulsed by the forced ventilation of vehicle air conditioning systems can also cause some bodily inconvenience or be the cause of more or less worrying and temporarily disabling illnesses. There is, in fact, a high concentration of fungi, particles, microbes and viruses naturally contained in the ambient air. In the event of absence, design fault or lack of maintenance of the filtration system, this concentration of potentially dangerous elements, inhaled by the occupants, can aggravate or be the cause of various pathologies:
Let us note the particular case of respiratory diseases, especially asthma: air conditioning is in no way the cause of these conditions, but the cold exacerbates the symptoms. It is not uncommon for an asthma attack to occur after prolonged exposure to the draft of cool air from an air conditioner.
How to limit health problems related to air conditioning?
As you will have understood, when it comes to health, air conditioning in the car can be a blessing or a nightmare! We can however affirm that almost all of the potential risks could be avoided by better control in the use of the equipment, accompanied by simple maintenance, often inexpensive and not very restrictive.
First of all, be intractable about respecting the replacement intervals for the dry filter or pollen filter , recommended by the manufacturer (in principle every year or every 20,000 km), as well as about its perfect sealing. In arid and/or very windy regions, during special uses (all-terrain, dusty tracks, etc.) or in areas with a high concentration of pollutants (cities, deserts, etc.), do not hesitate to reduce the interval. . Its saturation with waste, bacteria and viruses of all kinds is the cause of most health-related ailments and some functional setbacks. To avoid this scenario, an annual antibacterial treatment is a reliable solution.
It is essential, upstream, to use car air conditioning, in moderation. Our body does not support large sudden temperature variations, so avoid strong gradients, generators of thermal shocks. A difference of 7 to 9°C between the outside atmosphere and the passenger compartment seems to be a limit not to be exceeded. Finally, track down any condensation water retained in the air circuit. It is most often the counter-slope in a pipe, providing a permanent reserve of warm condensation water, a real breeding ground.
Car air conditioning winter maintenance
It’s less obvious, but air conditioning is also useful in winter. In fact, in addition to cleaning the air, controlling the humidity level to prevent mold in the passenger compartment is one of its basic functions. This function, provided by a filter drier , is sufficient, for example, to completely eliminate, in a few seconds of operation, the fog that has accumulated on the windscreen or on other windows.