For the last two years, our world has been in the grip of a pandemic that has tragically ended the lives of more than 6 million people worldwide. Thankfully, mitigation strategies like shelter-in-place orders, vaccines and high-quality masks have proven successful at slowing the spread of illness and saving lives.
Still, SARS-CoV-2, the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, continues to mutate and evolve into new, increasingly infectious variants. For all the people who have died of COVID-19 and the millions more who are at risk of developing long-term disabilities after an infection, this illness has proven to be cruel, unpredictable and severe.
With case counts rising again in Europe and North America, a growing coalition of epidemiologists and scientists say improved ventilation could be one of our most powerful tools in the fight against COVID-19 — if business owners are willing to take the threat seriously and invest in HVAC upgrades.
Experts have known for some time that SARS-CoV-2 is airborne. When an infected person coughs, sneezes, laughs, sings or talks, they release respiratory droplets that can linger in the air, where other people can inhale them.
Because of how far these droplets can spread and how long they remain infectious, you can contract COVID-19 indoors even if you aren’t in the same room as a sick person. However, the risk level largely depends on the type of ventilation and other preventive measures inside the building.
Throughout the pandemic, the most dangerous indoor settings for contracting SARS-CoV-2 have proven to be poorly ventilated areas where people pack closely together, including:
If you own a business, taking steps to improve your indoor air quality can have multiple health benefits for your employees and clients. With most Americans spending the bulk of their time inside, indoor air pollution is a health threat worth considering, especially during the pandemic.
One simulation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that combining universal masking and the use of portable air cleaners with HEPA filters could reduce SARS-CoV-2 transmission by 90%.
Consider that a single sick person inside your space can infect many others with the viral particles that build up over time. That’s why one of the simplest, most effective ways to improve indoor air quality is to swap out most of the air in a room as often as possible by opening windows and using high-quality filtration.
According to a report issued by the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, exchanging the air at least five times an hour cuts the risk of viral transmission in half. Despite that recommendation, most buildings today only exchange the air once or twice an hour.
For responsible building managers who want to protect their tenants and business owners who expect their employees to return to in-person work, updating these outdated ventilation systems should be a crucial safety consideration.
Air cleaners and HVAC filters remove allergens, pollutants and contaminants from the air that passes through them. When used alongside other expert-recommended best practices, filtration can be part of a plan to protect people indoors.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers recommend upgrading HVAC air filters to the highest possible level your system will allow and checking the filter fit to minimize air bypass.
To determine resistance, HVAC filter manufacturers use minimum efficiency reporting value, or MERV. The higher the MERV rating, the fewer particles and other contaminants will enter the space.
A MERV rating of 13 means the filter can remove 90% of particles between 1 and 3 microns in size.
The five best brands of MERV filters include:
While improving your HVAC system’s ventilation and filtration is one significant step you can take, consider supplementing this safety measure with portable HEPA air cleaners — especially if your building’s windows do not open or you have any areas where adequate ventilation is challenging to achieve.
Directing the airflow so it does not blow directly from one person to another reduces the potential spread of droplets that may contain infectious viruses.
The five best brands of portable HEPA filters are:
At Pileiro Heating & Cooling, we provide high-quality work at a fair price. As a Trane Comfort Specialist and a member in good standing with the Air Conditioning Contractors of America and the Top-Rated Home Advisor network, we are one of the leading HVAC specialists in New Jersey.
To learn more about updating your HVAC filtration and ventilation for health and safety during COVID-19, contact us today. We’re here to answer your call 24/7, and we’ll respond quickly when you need us.