Now, maybe more than ever, many businesses are concerned about indoor air quality (IAQ) to protect employees and customers from coronavirus. With the current spread of COVID-19 across the globe, it is important that we are all taking the necessary steps to reduce the spread of the virus. As part of this, it is important to recognize how your HVAC system can impact your IAQ during long hours of social distancing, as well as steps that can be taken to limit the spread of the virus in buildings.
In a normal year, the typical American spends 90% of his or her time indoors. With current guidelines about social distancing, this number is expected to increase over the next few months. Prior to recent events, the American Medical Association stated they believe 50% of illnesses are caused, or aggravated, by polluted indoor air. Furthermore, per the EPA, indoor air contains two to five times more pollutants than typical outside air.
So what does this mean for the COVID-19 crisis? Now that we have learned the novel coronavirus can be spread via airborne transmission when in close contact, there is the possibility that the HVAC system could cross-contaminate. That means air from an infected person could recirculate through a facility’s HVAC system and infect another individual. An example of this is how cruise ships experienced severe outbreaks. All cabins share an HVAC system, which is working as a mode of transmission from one individual to another.
While this risk of shared indoor air cannot be completely eliminated, there are a few items that can be addressed to reduce the potential for transmission through the HVAC system including:
- Enhanced Ventilation & Ventilation Effectiveness
- Source Separation
- Air Filtration
- Operable Windows
First and foremost, facilities should ensure their HVAC equipment is bringing in the correct amount of outside air required by the engineered designed plans, as well as managing the pollution and exhaust from your building properly. To further mitigate this risk, one should attempt to increase the percentage of outside air being brought into a facility to a higher percentage than minimally specified. In doing this, the equipment will reduce the amount of air being recirculated through a building. This will not only reduce “shared air,” but will also decrease levels of CO2 and other indoor air pollutants that can create an uncomfortable, or unhealthy, facility.
For a residential facility, where air source isn’t as easily controlled, it can also be helpful to open windows to bring in fresh air to any given room. In addition, it is worth verifying that any fresh air being brought in is being evenly distributed. If it isn’t, certain rooms may have less air turnover, meaning that the air isn’t circulating in and out of the facility properly.
The next few months may be difficult with longer hours than normal spent indoors. It is important that we are all taking steps to minimize the spread of coronavirus and other airborne illnesses both now and in the future. Melink offers products and services specifically designed to track, trend, and improve indoor air quality. Click to learn more about our HVAC test and balance services or PositiV® building health monitor, or contact us today. Our techs are the certified pros in indoor air quality — let us help you mitigate your risk while protecting employee and customer wellness.