Immediate Information About Your HVAC And Covid-19
I received a phone call from one of our larger clients whom owns several large businesses in Middlesex County NJ who is experiencing employee labor issues regarding the building safety and COVID-19.
“What should we be doing with our HVAC systems to be proactive regarding the COVID-19 coronavirus? Our employees are concerned about air transmission of COVID-19.”
We shared our answer as quickly as possible. And in the hope that it will help other facilities and clients, we are publishing that answer on our website.
On February 27, the American Society for heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers came out with guidance related to COVID-19. It recommends a focus on:
- Supplying clean air to susceptible occupants
- Containing contaminated air and/or exhaust it to the outdoors
- Diluting the air in the space with clean and filtered outdoor air
- Cleaning the air within a room
Based on our own in-house knowledge and the recommendations of ASHRAE, here are some steps you can take to be proactive about the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Bring More Outside Air Into Your Buildings
We will discuss filters and maintenance procedures in a moment. But first we want to be clear: There is no filter or building system feature that is proven to remove COVID-19 or any other airborne infectious disease from the air. Our best recommendation is to use outdoor air to dilute indoor contaminants.
Most Commercial HVAC systems control the amount of outdoor air flow based on the demand. For example, your office HVAC system may bring in less outdoor air when it is at a reduced occupancy. This energy-savings measure makes sense in a typical situation. However, the spread of the coronavirus is not a typical situation. Consider making an appointment to stop the demand control ventilation for now. Setting your system to design outside airflow will maximize the amount of clean air in the building and reduce the circulation of contaminated air.
Another possibility would be to “purge” the building by bringing in more outside airflow than required. The best time for this to occur would be during unoccupied hours, as your HVAC system is most likely not designed to maintain temperature and humidity setpoints with this amount of outside air. This would take direct communication with South Jersey Heating and Cooling in order to make sure the programming on your systems are correctly set.
Turn on Your Ultraviolet Lights
If your air handling units have ultra violet lamps, make sure they are turned on and operational. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, HVAC systems with ultraviolet germicidal irradiation cleaners may destroy pollutants such as viruses and bacteria. While this isn’t a sure thing, now would be the time to have your UV lamps operating as designed. If you do not currently have these installed, it may be a wise decision to do so.
Increase Maintenance Procedures Focused on Delivering Clean Air
While new filters won’t stop the spread of infectious disease, dirty or ineffective filters can exacerbate underlying respiratory issues that make occupants more vulnerable to COVID-19. We recommend focusing your near-term maintenance procedures in three key areas:
- Replace air handling unit filters on a regular and consistent basis. If you haven’t changed your filters recently, now is the time to do it. If you haven’t enrolled in a aggressive maintenance program, you can be putting building occupants as well as Maintenance Techs at risk.
- Look at increasing the Minimum Efficiency Rating Value (MERV) rating of your filters. The higher the rating, the more airborne particulates you will capture. However, these filters are more expensive and you will need to change them more often.
- Wipe down the inside of your air handling unit cabinets. When doing this, be careful with cleaning the coils. Using the wrong cleaning products or procedures can damage the coils and/or void your warranty. Consult with South Jersey Heating and Cooling for proper cleaning products and procedures.
Consult Government Agencies for the Latest Guidance
There is no way to completely prevent the spread of the coronavirus COVD-19 in private and public buildings. Proper maintenance and building operation strategies will help, but please reference the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and other government agencies for the latest guidance on washing your hands, cleaning surfaces and staying home when sick.
In the meantime, please be careful and stay safe.
Yours in Prayer
Owner – South Jersey Heating and Cooling