The EPA recently posted an article concerning how COVID-19 affects indoor air supply, quality, and HVAC in general. Here are the takeaways.
The spread of COVID-19 happens primarily through airborne particles and droplets. Infected individuals can release more particles and droplets into the air by sneezing or coughing. The respiratory fluids contained in sneeze & cough droplets can contain the COVID-19 virus.
It is because of how COVID-19 is spread that paying attention to indoor air and HVAC systems is more important than ever. Poor ventilation or circulation can potentially lead to large spreads of the virus.
How Air Circulation & HVAC Systems Help COVID-19 Spread
As research into the COVID-19 virus has gone on, it has been determined that the virus can spread from more than six feet. Many workplaces have employees who work next to vents at closer than six feet.
In addition, particles can stay airborne, sometimes for hours, after an infected person has left the vicinity. HVAC systems move air around, meaning that proper ventilation and circulation can help move potentially dangerous particles out of populated areas, especially air volume, dilution, and filtration.
Making sure an HVAC system is working properly can potentially prevent the spread of COVID-19 particles by moving them around via a well-designed and maintained air system. Routine cleaning and maintenance of HVAC systems should be a priority.
COVID-19 & HVAC: What to Watch Out For
The EPA notes “Though the risk of infection by breathing in particles carrying the virus generally decreases with distance from infected people and with time, some circumstances increase the risk of infection.”
- Being indoors rather than outdoors, particularly in indoor environments where air mixing/dilution with outside air is inadequate
- Activities that increase the emission of respiratory fluids, such as speaking loudly, singing, or exercising
- Prolonged time of exposure (e.g. longer than a few minutes)
- Crowded spaces, particularly if face coverings are inconsistently or improperly worn
Simple steps like looking at the design or layout of a building, checking the occupancy per floor, or looking at temperatures (how often heat/cooling kicks on) can help slow potential COVID-19-carrying particles down.
Although transmission of COVID-19 through surfaces that contain the virus is possible, the pathway of “frequently touched surfaces” is now thought to be less than 2% of confirmed cases. However, it is practical and recommended to continue to practice good hygiene by hand sanitizing, as well as other measures. Many employers have temporarily suspended the use of water fountains in the workplace as a precaution. Remember, 2% of 43,000,000 COVID-19 cases in the US is 860,000 individuals.
Please note that even the best HVAC system will not eliminate the risks associated with COVID-19-carrying particles. With that in mind, great air circulation and a healthy HVAC system can help create a safer work environment.
Illinois Environmental Contractors Association Resources
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