The coronavirus outbreak has posed a unique problem for air conditioner brands in India. AC makers have been inundated with calls from both customers and dealers checking if switching on the device will have exacerbate the rate of transmission.
"Dealers want to know if they can return the inventory of ACs because of a hit in sales. The distributors are worried that customers may not buy these products in the near future due to a fear of contracting the virus," said the head of consumer durables at a large appliance firm.
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Experts across the world have clarified that there is a risk of contracting a virus from the recirculated air only in central ACs installed in large commercial establishments like offices and malls. Hence, government offices managing critical functions like healthcare, water and transport have been advised to keep switch off ACs.
According to Leo Yee Sin, professor and executive director of Singapore's National Centre for Infectious Diseases (NCID), there is currently no evidence that coronavirus can spread through air-conditioning systems.
COVID-19 virus is not suspended in the air and settles on surfaces where it is said to stay for a long duration. Hence home ACs do not have a risk where people are no infected.
The Western zone head of a white goods firm said that their customer contact service has received multiple requests from users seeking clarity on if there is a special mode to kill viruses or if some tweaks could be done to existing devices.
“While a few AC makers claim to kill bacteria, the reality is that deadly viruses like COVID-19 cannot be eliminated merely by switching on the AC. Similarly there is no research that suggests that one can contract the illness by using home ACs,” he added.
March to June is a period when afternoon temperatures touch upto 40 degrees Celsius across Indian towns and cities. Hence, this is also the peak season for AC purchase.
On one hand while the lockdown has led to deferment of AC sales, on the other there is also a perception that usage of ACs could be detrimental.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray also advised the masses to avoid switching on ACs at home.
Meanwhile, AC makers are planning to come out with a campaign to sensitise the general public that home ACs will not cause any illness and it is only crowded spaces like shopping centres which people must avoid to minimise the risk.