Improving Indoor Air Quality to Reduce Covid-19 Risks

Improving Indoor Air Quality to Reduce Covid-19 Risks

How Your Home’s HVAC System Can Reduce Covid-19 Risks by improving Indoor Air Quality

After 18 months of a deadly coronavirus pandemic, we find ourselves still learning about the best and safest practices. This article is offered to assist families with reducing risks of transmission at home, using the available HVAC system, and suggesting a few modifications.

Let’s start with a review of the information you have heard often.

  • SARS CoV-2 is the virus responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic
  • It is a novel (new) virus, and we are still learning about it
  • Like most viruses, it is adapting, creating variant virus strains
  • The virus is transmitted via airborne moisture droplets
  • No one knows how few or how many droplets are needed for transmission

If we begin with this premise, the goal of this article is to demonstrate methods for homeowners to reduce the concentration of airborne droplets. Let’s start with adding outdoor air.

  • HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, air conditioning. We primarily focus our interest on the heating and air conditioning functions, but with today’s need, we need to focus some attention on the ventilation function.
    • As much as weather conditions allow, you should bring outside air inside. Opening windows as often as possible is a good start. You may need to modify this if a family suffers from severe allergies.
    • WHO guidelines call for multiple air changes per hour and that is hard to accomplish with windows alone. Operating central air and/or ceiling fans with windows open will exchange more air per hour than windows alone.
    • Don’t forget the exhaust fans in the bathrooms and the kitchen. Air movement is the key, so use every opportunity.
  • Another aspect of the ventilation function is the air filter in the central unit. First, the air needs to be moving freely through the system. Second, the blower motor is one of the least expensive components of the system to run, so running the blower fan more will not contribute significant increases to your energy bill. Here are some key things to know about air filters.
    • Air filters remove significant amounts of airborne particles, trap them, and keep them from recirculating. But not all air filters remove particles as small as a virus.
      • Look for the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value or MERV rating on standard air filters. The higher the number (1-16), the more efficient the filter is at removing airborne particles. A MERV 16 filter will not stop every virus, but it will reduce the number of viruses that pass through.
      • A better option is a High-Efficiency Particle Air filter or HEPA filter. HEPA filters remove 97.7% of particles, even particles as small as viruses.
    • Change your air filter at least every 3 months, more if necessary. The filter becomes clogged by all the particles it traps and this restricts the airflow.
  • Talk to your HVAC professional about adding ultraviolet lights (UV) inside of your HVAC ductwork. Even short exposure to UV light will neutralize (kill) organic pathogens, including mold and mildew spores, pollen, bacteria, and even viruses. Your technician can inspect your system and recommend placement for maximum effectiveness.
  • The air filter traps most airborne particles, but some make it through and are deposited inside the circulation system. Schedule a call to have your ducts cleaned and your HVAC components cleaned and serviced regularly.

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Improving Indoor Air Quality to Reduce Covid-19 Risks