As we move into the seventh month of pandemic, it is undeniable that our daily way of life has changed, maybe forever. We are beginning to adjust and adapt our lifestyles to living and working from home, maybe for a long term, and it is important that we do not let our safety guard down against the coronavirus. Staying informed and up-to-date on the most current information about fighting the virus is essential to keep you and your employees safe.
As the pandemic began, people had many questions about the nature of the virus, how it spread, and what could be done to prevent it from spreading further. While the initial advice of social distancing, wearing masks, and proper handwashing is still effective for preventing the spread of the virus, our original thoughts on how the virus spread was not quite accurate.
Airborne Respiratory Viruses and COVID-19
Originally, it was thought the virus was being spread by contact with contaminated surfaces. People all over the world began wiping down the exteriors of their boxes and shopping parcels. Now we have learned that most coronavirus contaminated surfaces are safe after about 24 hours, or less if in direct sunlight.
Cleaning surfaces is still recommended for total safety, but now we know that coronavirus spreads mainly through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks. While you are unlikely to be infected by long distance airborne transmission, up close these droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
Knowing that the virus is airborne means we can start to deploy measures to prevent the spread further. Modifying the heating, ventilation, and air-condition systems in your commercial building can help reduce the spread of the virus by improving ventilation, managing airflows, and purifying the air. Here are some of the common effects and improvements business owners can make to their commercial air filtration system to keep your employees and customers safe.
Mitigate Airborne Spread of COVID-19 by Improving Your Building’s Air Quality
As a building owner, it is your responsibility to provide the cleanest air environment possible for your occupants or customers. Now that we are in a pandemic caused by an airborne virus, it is time to reevaluate your current air filtration system for areas that could be improved.
One of the first things you can do to make a quick and effective change is to adjust the settings on your system. A common money saving practice is to have your system set to recycle air. This is energy efficient and still technically clean, but in a world with coronavirus, recycling air is not recommended. Try switching your system over to a 100% supply air setting so that you are continually drawing fresh air into your building. Fresh air helps to dilute the concentration of the virus circulating through the air.
You can further improve the quality of the air circulating in your building by upgrading the industrial air filter in your system or adding an air purifier.
Commercial Air Filters for Airborne Illnesses
Current research indicates that the coronavirus can remain active for up to a few days under ideal conditions once captured by a filter. Once trapped, the virus will become bound to the fibers in the filter media and eventually dry out and die. A proper filter will guarantee this process occurs and prevent the captured virus from being released back into the airstream. But what type of industrial air filter is best for this?
When shopping for your filter upgrade, you want to look for one an ePM1 filter or better. These are the most effective at removing infected droplets larger than 1 micrometer from the airstream. Do not be tempted by ePM2.5 filter or ePM10 filters as they are not built effectively to filter out the smallest particles in the air. Also, don’t feel the need to invest in a dual-stage filter as studies haven’t found them to be any more effective than single-stage filters.
Maintaining Your Air Filters During the Pandemic
If your commercial air filtration system is already equipped with the right air filter and set to the correct supply setting, then you may want to consider the maintenance of your system. The best advice is to stick to your regularly scheduled maintenance schedule, but if you haven’t done maintenance in the last year, now is the time.
When you go to change your filter, it is important to use proper hygienic procedures. It is unlikely that any trapped virus will survive until you go to change the filter, but it's always better to be safe than sorry. Make sure to wear eye protection, a respiratory mask, disposable gloves and protective clothing such as long sleeves and pants. Once the used filter has been safely extracted, seal it in a plastic bag before transporting it, even if it's going into the waste bin.
Managing Your Building’s Air Flow
Staying on top of your air filter and system maintenance is critical, but your building’s air flow is also an important consideration. Recent evidence suggests that changing the indoor airflow patterns in your building could play an important role in reducing the transmission of the coronavirus.
Changing airflow patterns to create laminar vertical airflow—air moving at the same speed and in a straight path—may effectively prevent the airborne transmission of coronavirus particles. Creating airflows that are close to laminar will involve far more than changing HVAC settings. In new construction, for instance, builders must include a sufficient number of air outlets. In existing structures, technicians may need to upgrade the outlets in HVAC systems. For both new and existing buildings, the placement of air outlets is critical and must be based on planned occupancy, room architecture, furniture placement, and other factors that influence airflows.
Following these simple tips will help to keep your commercial building a safe, healthy, and clean air environment for you and your customers or occupants during this troubling time.