Those of us who rent apartments in Singapore know the importance of quarterly air conditioning services. Our landlord insists on it and we gladly oblige, not just because it’s in our tenancy agreement, but because we don’t want to be inhaling the output of a musty, bacteria filled air conditioning unit.
What many don’t realise though, is that for those of us who own cars, while our home aircon servicing in Singapore AC units are pristine, our car AC remains untouched. Every time we switch it on, we are inhaling months, if not years of debris bacteria, virus, mould, fungi and other microorganisms. As a keen contributor to Expat Choice I asked Michael Lehner, founder of AIRCONCHAMP if I could interview him, and he agreed. Here's what he had to say!
You’re already a successful business owner and CEO of APACTRADE, why are you passionate about now revolutionizing car AC cleaning in Asia?
Having been in Asia for 10 years working within the automotive industry, I noticed substandard practices at many car workshops when it comes to cleaning the AC in cars.
So what is happening to air conditioning when the car goes for a service? Isn’t the AC getting cleaned then?
In fact, the standard is to just replace the filter regularly on the air conditioning. This does not substitute AC cleaning. The main “Problem Zones” is not actually the filter, but the cooling coil & filter box – both normally remain completely untouched. Additionally, generally workshops don’t clean the filter box before inserting a new filter – meaning the new filter sits in the same microorganism infested housing as the old one was, and gets immediately contaminated. The car ac filter is positioned upstream (before the cooling coil) in the airflow and just filters bigger particles like leaves etc. from the street. So changing the filter doesn’t make a lot of difference when it comes to downstream (after the filter) grown micro organisms (on the cooling coil).
That doesn’t sound good. What are the implications of that?
The cleanliness of the air we breathe is a topic on everyone’s mind right now. Inhaling toxic air is obviously a concern. The long-term implications of inhaling the debris that a contaminated cooling coil releases into the car are concerning. Imagine you have a plate of noodles sitting untouched in the humid kitchen, growing mould. Would you want to lean in and inhale whatever it is that’s growing on there? Of course not. The concept is exactly the same. The cooling coil literally blowing out microorganisms that no one should be inhaling.
What are the consequences of that?
The possible consequences of this can include Whooping cough, Tuberculosis, Diphtheria, Meningitis and Pneumonia as well as allergic reactions and asthma attacks.
How do you know when the AC is contaminated? Is it when it starts to smell bad?
Yes and no. Once it starts to smell, you already have a significant problem. That’s a sign that your cooling coil is considerably contaminated. It is like you would finally start brushing your teeth, when they are foul and smelly. In an ideal world you would be cleaning the AC system long before you get to that stage. That said, if your AC is emitting a foul smell, cleaning your cooling coil should be your first action.
What happens if you never clean your cooling coil?
As well as all the health risks we’ve already mentioned and the bad smell that comes with that, the cooling function of the AC itself can be greatly reduced because the build-up prevents the air from cooling down. In the longer term, you may have to replace the cooling coil entirely, which can cost many times the price of having it cleaned regularly. Think of it again like brushing your teeth. If you don’t brush them regularly, eventually they’re need replacing. Expensive and painful!
You’re obviously very passionate about this topic!
I like to joke that I am the AC cleaning police! I was really frustrated to see that people thought their car AC was being cleaned regularly but it really isn’t.
What about those perfume clips that are put onto the AC after a service?
Imagine you go to play sports and get really sweaty. Then you come home, but you don’t take a shower. You don’t smell bad yet and you don’t see any dirt. When you notice a bad smell, you just put some perfume on. Imagine doing this over and over without showering at all. Does the perfume mean you’re clean? No. Of course not. That’s essentially what all the perfume clips or the scented car sprays will do. They’ll mask the smell for a while, but the root cause of the problem remains untouched, getting gradually worse each day remaining unnoticed by the passengers.
Aren’t there many cleaning products in the market?
There were tests conducted of most methods over the course of the last 20 years together with German Health Institutes and Automotive Engineers. Most methods thrown on the market are either not touching the “Problem Zones” at all or practically show almost no cleaning effect on the relevant parts (e.g. Perfume Clips, Click Sprays, Perfumes, Fogging, Foam etc.).
So how are you helping to solve that problem?
I’ve spent years researching and comparing the different methods of cleaning (or in some cases, NOT cleaning!) the car AC units. I’ve even performed hundreds of cleanings myself in workshops in both APAC and Europe. I had the idea for the AIRCONCHAMP concept around two years ago. During circuit breaker I finally had the time to write the business plan. Now I took the time and resources, to get the project off the ground. AIRCONCHAMP tests, selects, and offers the best AC Cleaning to the consumer after educating them about this important topic. We enable people to make a healthy choice for themselves.
What else did you do during circuit breaker?
Please don’t laugh! My friends finally convinced me to give Game of Thrones a try (after the first attempt years ago failed). I got completely addicted and binge watched the entire thing! I also did a complete body transformation, changing my nutrition and working out twice a day. I didn’t get much sleep though because I was so excited about drafting AIRCONCHAMP and another business idea, which I’ll only start next year.
And what is so special about AIRCONCHAMP that it kept you awake at night?
It’s not just about offering the best product. It’s primarily about giving the drivers and passengers transparency. People should know about unseen health dangers lurking in their car AC system. In Germany, there is an industry standard defined which recommends a regular AC cleaning for the car (not only at home). Here is Singapore, where we have the AC on in the car year-round, a different level of humidity and no seasons, this is even more important.
After all my years of research and testing in this industry, I’m now proud to offer the Award Winning airco well® method of car AC cleaning. It is a high-pressure deep cleaning for the cooling coil, plus a thorough cleaning of the filter box. Our customers can go to our AIRCONCHAMP partner workshops across Singapore and can book in for the AC cleaning which only takes about 30-45 minutes. Alternatively, they can add their regular service or other services directly with our workshops. I am aiming to roll out to the other Asian countries too in future.
Before we wrap-up, what would you like people to really understand?
I’d like people to really challenge their workshops, when they have their car serviced. Ask them to explain exactly which parts of the AC will be cleaned and how? Is it really being properly cleaned? Which method do they use? Are the chemicals allergy free tested? Etc.
If the answer is no or doubtful, then they know they’re putting their health, wallet and safety at danger. I just want people to have the information and transparency to make the best decision for their families’ health.
Visit www.airconchamp.com to book a full AC cleaning for your car.