Covid 19 HVAC Safety
Covid HVAC Transmission - Your Questions Answered
Can the coronavirus spread through a building’s HVAC or plumbing systems?
Important new guidance from ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers) addresses the challenges that arise in managing the spread of the new Sars-Cov-2 coronavirus in the operation and maintenance of HVAC systems. The guidance has been published as two, separate statements and addresses inaccurate claims which have appeared in the media in relation to HVAC systems in buildings. Specifically, ASHRAE rejects widely published 'advice' that HVAC systems should not be operated in residential or commercial facilities, and asserts further, that keeping air conditioners operational during the COVID-19 pandemic can help control the spread of the virus.
City guidance in most states says no special ventilation precautions are recommended for residential or commercial buildings. City guidance also states, “the spread of coronaviruses from person-to-person over long distances, such as through HVAC systems, has not been shown. ”The advice is to check working windows and the supply and exhaust vent systems to make sure they are working properly".
As the weather warms, the CDC's recommendation to "increase ventilation by opening windows" will become easier for Raleigh residents as part of suggested good hygiene practices.
Can HVAC Systems Spread COVID-19?
COVID-19 is a new virus, and even now the experts are warning us that it is still too early to make evidence-based judgments on this. There is still no data yet published with which to answer this question. We did find a post by Carol Meader to the effect that using GPS needlepoint bi-polar ionization to retrofit and upgrade existing HVAC systems they had found that the challenge for reducing the spread of COVID-19 falls into two categories. One of them is our daily behavior which includes social distancing, wearing masks, cleaning, and sanitation as recommended by CDC. The other category is office layout, and occupant flow when carrying out HVAC improvements. For years, there have been known proven methods for cleaning the supply of air. There is a difference between providing cleaner air to any space and eliminating the pathogens from the contaminated environment.
On April 20, 2020, ASHRAE published two statements to define guidance on managing the spread of sars-cov-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 disease (coronavirus) with respect to the operation and maintenance of heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems in buildings. “In light of the current global pandemic, it’s critically important that ASHRAE responds with guidance on mitigating the transmission of the virus, as well as ventilation and filtration recommendations,” said 2019-20 ASHRAE president Darryl K. Boyce, p. Eng. “ASHRAE has a significant role to play in ensuring safe and healthy building environments and these statements offer the expert strategies needed at this time”.
To reduce the pathogens from the air supply through the HVAC system and thus reducing the spread of pathogens, we recommend bipolar ionization provided by Global Plasma Solutions. Bipolar ionization has been used for clean rooms and health care facilities for many years. It is a relatively simple concept and can be applied to traditional ducted systems. Producing a natural bio-climate rich in positive and negative oxygen ions will help to neutralize the particles. The negative ions contain an extra electron while the positive ions are missing an electron resulting in an unstable condition. In an effort to restabilize, these bipolar ions seek out atoms and molecules in the air to trade electrons with, effectively neutralizing particulate matter, bacteria and virus cells, odorous gases and aerosols, and VOCs.
HVAC Systems Should Be Checked Before Buildings Reopen, Due to COVID-19
Reopening commercial buildings can be problematic if the building owner/manager is not having the HVAC and building systems checked and restarted properly. The building’s systems should be inspected, started up, and functionally tested in the same way a new construction would. This is one of several key points from the recent article “HVAC systems should be checked before buildings reopen, due to COVID-19” published in the ACHR news. In the article, the ACHR News talked with M. Dennis Knight, a member of ASHRAE's epidemic task force, about how contractors can best help commercial clients ensure their HVAC and building systems are running safely and efficiently before people begin returning to work. Now more than ever, building owners and managers need trusted advisors, such as highly skilled HVAC contractors and service providers. These resources can be a valuable asset when planning to re-occupy a building after a shutdown period or period of minimal system use.
We offer to carry out such checks and our air conditioning repair service teams have been retrained in performing this task while also themselves observing the relevant COVID guidelines.
COVID-19 Spread and Air Conditioning
We would warn you that there is a lot of misinformation out there about HVAC systems and the coronavirus risks. Because of this ASHRAE has developed statements to counter those false statements about HVAC systems. We cannot emphasize enough to all our past and future clients that ASHRAE officially opposes the advice not to run residential or commercial HVAC systems. No matter what you may read on social media sites, and regrettably also in some of the press, the official view remains that keeping air conditioners on during this time can help control the spread of the virus.
Changes to building operations, including the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems, is the most effective way to reduce airborne exposures. Unconditioned spaces can cause thermal stress to people that may be directly life-threatening and that may also lower resistance to infection. In general, disabling of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems is not a recommended measure to reduce the transmission of the virus.
HVAC Market - Industry Outlook with the Potential Impact of COVID-19
An "HVAC market industry outlook and forecast 2020-2025" report has been added to the research and markets website. In-depth analysis and data-driven insights on the impact of COVID-19 included the study considers the present scenario of the HVAC market and its market dynamics for the period 2019-2025. It covers a detailed overview of several market growth enablers, restraints, and trends. The study offers both the demand and supply aspects of the market. It profiles and examines leading companies and other prominent ones operating in the market.
Consider increasing the amount of outdoor air to dilute airborne contaminants.
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. Some HVAC systems control the amount of outdoor airflow based on demand. For example, your gymnasium 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 asking your HVAC vendor or your engineering consultant 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.
Improve central air filtration.
There’s an ongoing debate about whether air change rates should be increased or decreased to create a healthier office environment. Our recommendation as it relates to addressing COVID-19 is for organizations to stay with their original strategy for air change rates. But they can focus on air quality over quantity by installing more efficient air filters. Filters with a Merv (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating of less than 13 do not remove particles in the size range of most viruses that are smaller than 0. 3 microns. Merv 13 filters improve filtration efficiency of small particles and are approximately 50 percent efficient for particles from 1. 0 microns down to 0. 3 microns in size, while Merv 14 filters are 75 to 85 percent efficient in removing these particles and HEPA filters are more than 99 percent efficient. HEPA filters usually are not practical for office applications for reasons related to cost, energy use, and operations. Though many newer office buildings already have Merv-13 or Merv-14 filters, older buildings may require more physical space to accommodate them. In addition, they usually need more powerful air-handling systems to overcome the added air resistance. ASHRAE also recommends sealing filter frames to reduce bypass around the racks and, in some cases, running HVAC systems longer. However, we point out that 24/7 operations would be costly and may not provide a commensurate benefit.
As facility managers consider their reopening strategies, of course, cleaning, PPE, and social distancing policies must be top of mind. But the role of the HVAC system cannot be ignored either. This brings us back to our original question. Can improved air filtration and better ventilation actually help reduce the spread of coronavirus? or does recirculated air from air conditioning systems help spread the virus? Those have been the million-dollar questions really since the start of the pandemic and will only in all likelihood be answered, if at all, long after the current crisis has ended and all available data has been pored over and analyzed.
As we write this (27 June 2020) we have found that in response to the nationwide re-opening of businesses, factories, and commercial facilities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, an air filtration leader and clean-air advocate Camfil USA, has released a new informational guide, detailing the considerations businesses should make when it comes to re-starting their HVAC systems. The guide, air filtration, how to refresh & restart (pdf), also includes valuable information on how commercial and industrial businesses can take advantage of energy offsets and high-efficiency filters to cut their operational costs in 2020.