Jason Wall is an HVAC technician with over 23 years of experience.  His free time is usually spent watching a baseball game or grilling up some steak.  He writes for Griffith Energy Services, which provides air conditioning services and heating maintenance.

If you work in an office full of people and computers, you are probably well aware of the need for a working air conditioning system.  If the air conditioner isn’t working properly, productivity inevitably slows down and employees become increasingly uncomfortable and in some cases irritable.  Sweat stains showing up in the armpits of suits and blouses and flushed faces are a sign that something needs to be done to improve the air conditioning system.

Knowing how air conditioners work will help you to understand the hazards of a poorly working unit.  Air conditioners are part of the building HVAC system (heating, ventilations, and air condition).  What HVAC systems do is essentially draw air in from the outside and into the building through ductwork.  The ductwork is connected to air supply fans, which push the air through a filter to remove particles and to heat or cool the air depending on the thermostat setting.  The air is then sent into the workplace through air vents before it is drawn back into the ductwork by the buildings’ exhaust fans.  This system is intended to create a comfortable work environment and protect against small amounts of toxic materials.  When the system isn’t running efficiently, it not only makes the temperature unpleasant but can create a hazardous environment. (You’d hate to walk in and see all your employees wearing respirators!)

Here’s a small breakdown of what can happen when the system isn’t working properly in the workplace:

Employees become drowsy-partly from the heat and partly from the buildup of carbon dioxide in the air.  Solvent vapors can begin to build up depending on the workplace and can cause headaches and nausea.  Dirty filters can increase the presence of allergens which can affect sinuses and cause skin infections.  These symptoms are all part of what is known as “Tight Building Syndrome”.  All in all, a poorly working air conditioner results in a pretty miserable work environment, not to mention potentially dangerous.

Maintenance Matters

The only way to prevent this from happening is to keep up on maintenance and do regular checks to make sure that the air conditioner is functioning properly.  Don’t just let any employee who offers try to fix the air conditioner.  While it might seem like a good idea in the heat of the moment, it can lead to further damage of the air conditioner, not to mention accidents and potential injury at the responsibility of the company.  Unless you have someone who really knows what they are doing when it comes to air conditioners, it is best that any repairs that need done are left to professionals.

You can, however, perform basic maintenance tasks.  The first thing you should always check when evaluating an air conditioners’ performance is the filter.  Dirty filters not only make the air conditioner have to work twice as hard and use more energy, but they also circulate allergens and skin irritants throughout every room in the building.  Once you determine that the filters are sufficiently clean and that they are the right size, check the outdoor air intake openings.  Make sure that they are clear of all obstructions and that the wire-mesh screens are still in good condition.  The last thing you want is some sort of rodent making its way into your air conditioning system.  Trust me when I say that it’s a terrifying experience.

If you ever come across something that you are not sure how to deal with, make sure to consult a professional to prevent injury or further damage.