Upgrading your commercial HVAC system to reduce transmission of COVID-19.
The spark of the COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) has led to much discussion about HVAC systems and how they can contribute to the spread of infectious aerosols, particularly in commercial, industrial and municipality spaces where people are indoors for extended periods of time and in close proximity to one another.
Nationwide Coils strives to bring you the most current information on COVID-19 and HVAC systems. With information changing daily, we advise you to visit CDC.gov for the most up-to-date COVID-19 findings and recommendations to reduce transmission.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly spread from person to person through respiratory droplets. Such droplets are emitted when a person coughs, sneezes or talks, which then can land in the nose and mouth of anyone standing within approximately 6 feet of the individual emitting the droplets. Although it is unclear how long coronavirus-infected droplets remain in the air, findings do show the use of proper ventilation and filtration from your HVAC system can help in reducing airborne concentration of COVID-19.¹ It should be noted that at the date of this article there have been no confirmed cases of the virus spreading through an actual HVAC system itself.
How can you improve the ventilation and filtration in your HVAC system?
Currently, it is recommended that all commercial HVAC systems be upgraded to use high-efficiency HEPA filters, which have been shown to reduce the presence of COVID-19 in the air. In fact, in NY, this upgrade was a mandate by their Governor in order for malls to reopen to the public.
With regard to ventilation, increasing the outside air intake of your HVAC while reducing the amount of building air return will reduce the risk of COVID-19 being re-circulated into the building. While it may seem easy to just increase the amount of outside air, this then increases the required capacity of your AC system to maintain building temperatures and humidity. Depending on your system and the current HVAC capabilities, you can increase the number of rows in your chilled water coil or DX evaporator coil to account for the additional outside air being brought into the system. If you’re not versed in the nitty-gritty of HVAC coils, don’t let that intimidate you. It’s easy to get a quote and upgrades can be done in fast turn-around times, which is vital in the era of COVID-19.
Another line of defense is to add ultraviolet lights to your air conditioning system. UV lights kill airborne coronavirus, purify allergens, bacteria and other viruses, eliminate odors, and vastly improve the indoor air quality of your building.
Although the role of building systems in the transmission and mitigation of COVID-19 in buildings is yet to be fully tested and confirmed, taking the steps above can provide additional peace of mind that the air circulating in your indoor space is safer for all to breathe.
To read more on how to mitigate potential health risks during reopening of buildings closed during the COVID-19 pandemic, see industry-expert guidance from the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers.
The Nationwide Coils Blog is a commercial HVAC blog written by industry HVAC experts with almost two decades of industry experience. We offer invaluable insights into commercial HVAC products and services and invite you to email us anytime.