The proper setup of Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) in commercial spaces has long been known to have a positive impact on indoor air circulation. In the age of the pandemic, recruiting the expertise of and following instructions from an HVAC professional can mean the difference between taking proactive measures to curb the further spread of the virus or aiding it.
In 2020, the government of Canada released a document with guidelines for indoor ventilation during the pandemic. It is important to note that the main source of transmitting the virus is close contact with a person who is infected with COVID-19. The risk is especially high for people who are within proximity to each other in indoor spaces like offices. In addition to the preventative measures suggested which include physical distancing, limiting contact with persons outside your home, the use of masks, and the practice of good hand hygiene, the federal government has also indicated that proper indoor ventilation can help in the fight against the virus.
HOW AN HVAC PROFESSIONAL CAN OFFER SOLUTIONS FOR YOUR COMMERCIAL SPACE?
An HVAC professional can assess whether the system within your commercial space is suitable for the number of people working there at the same time, the kind of activity that is performed within the space, and the amount of time that the space is occupied. A professional can also offer solutions if your HVAC system is not operating properly. These solutions include increasing the air exchange rate and using proper filters to ensure the highest possible Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating. This rating uses a scale of one to 16 to determine how effectively your system traps unwanted particles.
HOW DOES PROPER VENTILATION HELP IN THE FIGHT AGAINST COVID?
The process of properly ventilating a space brings in outdoor air to replace the air inside a room. Ventilation helps to diminish the presence of any contaminants. Good ventilation can decrease the number of aerosols that may be present in the air, which in turn can reduce the further spread of COVID-19 to individuals who are working within that space.
HVAC systems within offices are set up to dilute indoor air with outdoor air and then put it through a filtration system before the air is recirculated. During the pandemic, it is highly recommended to draw additional air from the outside if possible and to ensure that good quality, highly rated filters are always used.
In some cases, outbreaks have been linked to poor ventilation where numerous people are known to have COVID-19-produced aerosols that built up in the air over time. The build-up of the virus happens faster in smaller rooms. Once again, good ventilation would move outdoor air into the space more efficiently, dilute contaminants within the air and remove pollutants using proper vents or open windows and doors. Regardless of the size of the room or proper ventilation, proximity to an infected individual will increase the risk of exposure.
TIPS FOR IMPROVING INDOOR AIR QUALITY:
1. For commercial spaces consider running your HVAC system for two hours before and after the space is occupied.
2. Make sure that filters are well sealed.
3. Clean and replace filters as recommended by the manufacturer and select filters with a high MERV rating to ensure efficiency.
4. Use High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters can offer additional protection
5. Whenever possible, open windows and doors to allow for natural ventilation. While this is not ideal during the winter months, doing this for just a few minutes at a time can help.
Properly designing an HVAC system is often not given the attention that it deserves. It can make a world of a difference, especially during the pandemic by helping reduce the transmission of COVID-19. For more information, contact our experts to learn how we can help you with your next project.