Ventilation & Air Quality Upgrades to Keep You Safer This Fall
Boy has this year felt like a rollercoaster! For starters, the new decade had barely begun when we went into quarantine.
From there, we have heard one set of conflicting instructions after another, leaving us without a clear idea of how to avoid getting COVID-19.
Recently, the Ontario education minister released a $500M fund designed to upgrade the air quality and ventilation in schools this fall.
$500 million is a pretty forceful number - wouldn't you agree? This decision is in alignment with what air quality engineers and research virologists are now asserting: that the virus that causes COVID-19 is primarily an airborne pathogen.
Scary, yes, but it is also good to have actual facts to work from. Whether or not you can control the air quality at your children's school or not, you can absolutely improve the air quality at your home. We will explain how in this timely post.
Improve Air Filtration
Even back before research confirmed the airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had already released updates encouraging the use of portable or central air cleaners.
Here, the term "air cleaner" refers to both air filtration systems and air purification systems, however, all air cleaners are not equal when it comes to addressing concerns specific to COVID-19.
In particular, you want to avoid any air cleaner that produces ozone as a by-product. You also need to be aware of the limitations of basic air filters (lower-rated MERV HVAC filters).
The type of air cleaner that is being widely used in hospitals, clinics and laboratories worldwide is called a HEPA filter.
HEPA stands for "high efficiency particulate air" and it refers to the filter's ability to trap airborne solid particles, in effect straining them out of your indoor air.
Of course, this is exactly what your normal MERV filter does but HEPA filters do it much, much better.
A HEPA filter can remove particles as small as 1/100th the width of a single one of your hairs! Are you in need of your own HEPA filter to help improve your at-home indoor air quality? Contact our team at Bi-Temp in Belleville, Ontario!
Can HEPA filters trap SARS-CoV-2 particles?
The short answer is "yes", however, it is important to understand that the particles that carry the virus are liquid droplets, not solids. What happens is that a liquid droplet containing viral RNA hitches a ride on a solid particle.
The solid particle with its viral hitchhiker then gets propelled by air currents into the HEPA filter, which then traps it and permanently removes it from your indoor air.
The average size of an airborne viral droplet is 0.125 microns, or 125 nanometers (so, basically, it is very small).
HEPA filters can trap solid particles as small as 0.01 microns, or just 10 nanometers, and they can do it with 99.97% efficiency.
Installing a HEPA filter is a reliable way to trap any airborne droplets that have attached to airborne solids such as dust particles, specks of ash, mould or mildew spores, bacteria and other micro-solids.
The key here is making sure that the entirety of your indoor air supply passes through the HEPA filtration unit before it reaches you.
This can be accomplished in one of two ways: either through installing a central (ducted) HEPA filtration system that works with your existing HVAC system or through adding a portable HEPA air cleaner to your indoor space.
WARNING: What you don't want to do is go out and buy a HEPA-rated furnace filter and install that in place of your normal furnace filter. Unless your HVAC system is rated to handle a HEPA-grade filter, you risk a blower motor burnout, home fire and extremely expensive energy bills trying to clean your air this way.
Increase Air Ventilation
Circulation is the method by which you ensure that every single bit of your indoor air supply has to pass through whatever air cleaner system you choose.
Ventilation, however, is still the single most important ingredient to protect you when you are inside a space where infectious virus droplets are also present.
This is because ventilation is what reduces the concentration of infectious droplets and other toxins so that they are less dangerous if you come into contact with them.
Ventilation is the reason that people are being encouraged to hold necessary meetings and gatherings outdoors whenever possible. When you are outdoors, even if an infected person is in your immediate vicinity, the amount of infectious viral matter is likely to be at a lower density with so much fresh air surrounding it.
You can add ventilation by opening a window or door to the outside. Turning on your HVAC fan or running exhaust fans can also improve ventilation indoors.
The heat recovery ventilator (HRV) is the gold standard for adding back fresh, pure outside air into your indoor space. HRVs are a good choice for homes and buildings that have existing ductwork already installed.
Where it is not possible to boost ventilation in any of these ways, air cleaners are your best bet to reduce the risk of infection.
Add Air Purification
Air purification is another way to clean the air. The most powerful purifier on Earth is ultraviolet light from our Sun, and specifically the UV-C light band.
In its short-wave form, UV-C does a fantastic job of damaging the active RNA (the part of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that can harm you) so it cannot replicate and make you sick.
Here, again, it is vital to make sure that any infected air inside your space passes through the UV-C light band before you breathe it in.
And here again, as with HEPA air filtration systems, there are two main ways to achieve this: either install a central (ducted) UV air purification system or add a portable UV air purifier to your space.
Get in Touch With Bi-Temp LTD. In Belleville
Our pandemic extra safety protocols at Bi-Tempt LTD. in Belleville, Ontario allow us to continue providing our clients with prompt and professional 24/7 emergency service - including nights, weekends and holidays!
Essential Tips to Use Your Air Conditioning Safely During COVID-19
It’s difficult to comprehend that just a few months ago we were going about our lives as usual. We had no idea that a new novel coronavirus had been unleashed and a pandemic was about to hit the world.
The learning curve has been steep and sometimes feels never-ending, but we are getting there. We are learning how to stay safe and navigate a level of change that is unlike any other we have faced over the last century.
The latest learning curve we are tackling focuses on the role of air conditioning and ventilation in possibly spreading coronavirus droplets. Last month’s blog post focused on the potential link between ventilation and coronavirus.
This month, we bring you up to speed on what researchers know about safe use of your air conditioner during the pandemic. These essential tips will help you stay safe inside your home and/or workplace.
Should You Or Shouldn’t You Use Air Conditioning Right Now?
The first big question on everyone’s mind these days is simply: should you use your air conditioning right now or should you switch it off and sweat?
Which option is safer?
As of late May 2020, the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technology in Health was asked to look into whether coronavirus droplets could potentially spread through central HVAC ducts.
At the same time, a survey of 100 hospitals from the hard-hit state of New York produced evidence suggesting that poor ventilation can work in tandem with HVAC systems to spread COVID-19 at greater distances than current social distancing guidelines protect against.
No one in the HVAC industry (or any other industry) has been happy to hear this, but it doesn’t mean it is safe to just switch off your A/C, especially with one heat advisory after another sweeping across the nation.
The under-appreciated dangers of heat stroke and heat exhaustion can cause fatalities long before a COVID-19 droplet is even a gleam in the eye of your immune system.
You need to stay cool. This simply has to be your first health priority. If you can stay cool without using your air conditioner and that helps you feel safer, then do that.
Otherwise, using your air conditioner is strongly recommended, especially if someone in your family is very young, very old or health-compromised in some way.
How You Use Ventilation Is More Important Than Whether You Use A/C
With further research, scientists and HVAC engineers now believe the link between ventilation and the spread of COVID-19 is a two-way link.
In other words, ventilation can potentially increase or decrease the risk of catching COVID-19.
1. Airflow from ventilation can propel infectious droplets further inside a space.
2. Inadequate ventilation can cause buildup of infectious droplets inside a space.
So let’s look at each one of these issues separately...
Too Vigorous Ventilation Airflow
In the case of the original restaurant in Guangzhou, China, where the pandemic is said to have started, researchers traced the trajectory of the infection from the index (first) patient to the other infected diners.
The path pointed directly back to where the index patient was seated and which direction the air conditioning vent was pointing.
In this case, the vent was directing airflow at the index patient and then outward towards the other diners who would later become infected.
Here, researchers now believe the presence of ventilation was not the primary problem. Rather, it was the directional airflow that caused additional infections.
In the case of the 100-hospital New York survey, which delivered the shocking news that 66 percent of hospitalized COVID-19 patients were already sheltering in place when they became ill, the issue appears to stem from the exact opposite problem.
When the air inside a space becomes too stale (i.e. not enough fresh air from ventilation is coming into that space) then the concentration of infectious droplets can rise.
This is one potential explanation for why the number of COVID-19 cases continued to rise in New York, a city where multi-unit, multi-floor housing is the norm, even after the stay-at-home order was issued.
4 Essential Tips to Use Your Air Conditioner in the Safest Way This Summer
These four essential summer safety tips will help you use your air conditioner safely.
1. Having a clean air filter in your HVAC system really matters!
If your air filter is dirty or is not properly installed, what you are going to get is an increase in toxins circulating throughout your space.
This is simply vital to understand, since scientists now believe infectious droplets get lighter due to evaporation and can attach to solid particles of dust and dirt and get sucked into your HVAC system, where they can travel much greater distances!
2. Air conditioning maintenance can make the difference between clean air flow and dirty air flow.
A dirty air filter will transport toxic particles into the guts of your HVAC system - the blower motor, the fan blades, the belts and the ducts. So you need to clean all that out before adding additional air flow.
3. Do not overcrowd your space so that proper ventilation is not possible.
Social distancing is important even inside your home, since scientists now know that a completely symptom-free person may still be carrying COVID-19 and can infect others.
In other words, you want enough ventilation inside your home or workplace to counteract the potential for an accumulation of infectious droplets that no one realizes is present.
4. Directional airflow matters in safely ventilating a space.
You don’t want the fresh incoming air to be blowing on you or at you.
Get in Touch With Your Bi-Temp Technicians
Our team of qualified technicians at Bi-Temp are here to serve your HVAC, ventilation, air filtration and purification needs. Located in Belleville, Ontario, Bi-Tempt services Quinte and the surrounding regions. We are also currently providing contactless service and payment options during the COVID-19 pandemic.