How Indoor Air Quality Systems Can Dramatically Reduce Coronaviruses
From homeowners to those in commercial spaces, indoor air quality seems to be on everyone’s mind today. COVID-19 is, obviously, the biggest concern right now, but it is not the first (or last) coronavirus. To protect your air today and in the future against other potential coronaviruses, here are three different technologies that can effectively neutralize viruses in an occupied space.
First…Why Reducing Coronavirus Is So Important
Improving the quality of your indoor air today is more important than ever. Reducing the COVID-19 virus in your occupied space means less opportunities to be exposed to and infected by the virus. This can have hugely beneficial health and safety ramifications.
For commercial spaces, the benefits go even further than that. Ensuring the air in your commercial space is as clean and safe as possible can boost productivity, reduce absenteeism, and increase patron confidence when returning to a place of business.
Educational institutions are also more likely to be able to meet established indoor air quality requirements and open back up. (Interested in this topic? Learn more about how to reduce coronaviruses in schools.)
Better air quality can also reap numerous economic benefits, including increasing patron confidence to return to the place of business, increasing the productivity of workers, mitigating the effects of sick building syndrome, and more.
3 Technologies That Improve Your Indoor Air Quality and Neutralize Coronaviruses
1. Upgraded Filters (HEPA, MERV 13, or MERV 14)
Upgrading your existing HVAC filters is one effective way to mitigate coronaviruses in your occupied space. To improve your indoor air quality, consider a HEPA, MERV 13, or MERV 14 filter. These kinds of filters have a tighter weave, which makes them more effective at catching smaller particulate.
To compare the efficiency of various MERV filters, check out this chart from the EPA.
When considering a filter change, just make sure your HVAC system is equipped to handle the pressure drop associated with forcing air through a filter with this tighter weave. The extra strain of this can increase utility bills and expenses related to preventative maintenance, or it could even cause an outright HVAC system failure. Always consult with a licensed HVAC contractor before making any upgrades or changes to your system.
2. UV Technology
UV technology is an effective means of air purification. (Learn more about how UV can be used to inactivate SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.) If you’re considering UV technology, just be aware that UV can only deactivate or kill harmful particles in its direct line of sight. If the UV light doesn’t touch something, it won’t be cleaned.
For the particles that do enter its line of sight, it’s also not an instantaneous process. UV takes time to kill or to neutralize. There are different classifications of UV, but the ones that kill the fastest are also ones where humans or living things shouldn’t be in those environments. If you’re installing UV technology into an HVAC vent, you can use these more potent forms of UV. If you’re using UV that’s going to be active around people, you’ll need to adjust the technology to ensure everyone’s safety.
(See below for more information about the operating cost considerations associated with UV technology.)
3. Air Ionizing Devices
Devices that introduce ions into the occupied space are shown to be extremely effective in neutralizing COVID-19. Devices that specifically utilize needlepoint bipolar ionization also do not produce any harmful by-products, such as ozone. If you’re considering a particular brand or model that uses this technology, make sure to ask the manufacturer to provide a UL 867 or UL 2998 certification. This confirms the device does not produce more than fifty or five parts of ozone per billion, respectively.
Read more about ASHRAE’s stance on this technology.
Cold plasma generator technology can neutralize coronaviruses, but it can also simultaneously eliminate mold, odors, and remove allergens.
Word of Warning: Not All Air Purifying Technologies Are the Same
Whether you’re a homeowner or you’re responsible for a commercial space, it’s essential to know that some technologies and devices that claim to purify the air or to neutralize viruses, such as COVID-19, create harmful by-products. Namely, be especially wary of technologies that generate ozone.
Ozone-Generating Indoor Air Purifiers
A number of air purifying technologies actually produce ozone as a by-product. Ozone is an extremely powerful and effective disinfectant. It’s routinely used in remediation after fires, floods, or other natural disasters because it is so effective at eliminating mold and odors.
However, depending on the level and time of exposure, ozone can be very harmful to humans, pets, and even plants. Read more about ozone and its negative health effects. Additionally, the EPA has this to say about ozone generators that are sold as air cleaners.
Types of indoor air purifiers that often produce ozone include the following:
Corona discharge technologies can produce known lung irritants, including ozone, nitric acid, and nitric oxide.
Photocatalytic oxidation (PCO)
In addition to ozone, PCO technologies produce titanium dioxide, which is a carcinogen when breathed.
Advanced photocatalytic oxidation (APCO)
APCO technologies produce hydrogen peroxide, which is also harmful when breathed.
Even if the levels of ozone generated in any of these technologies is within legal limits, there is a percentage of the population that is immediately sensitive to ozone. They’ll be able to smell the distinctive ozone odor. The most common complaint when exposed to this is headache.
Many indoor air quality improvement systems have a significant operating cost. UV technology, for example, requires the replacement of expensive UV bulbs about every two years. These bulbs also become less and less effective as the bulb intensity diminishes over time.
PCO technology requires not only replacement UV bulbs but also replacement consumables, such as the catalyst of titanium dioxide.
From residential to commercial applications, these cost implications over the life of the product should be taken into account.
Combine Technologies to Reduce Coronaviruses More Effectively
Depending on the nature of a facility, the most effective virus mitigation strategy might leverage multiple air purifying technologies. For example, a hospital contains many different types of “space.” This includes common areas, patient rooms, laboratories, and operating rooms. Installing cold plasma generator technology in an HVAC system is ideal because the constant flow of air distributes billions of ions through the ductwork and into all these individual spaces.
Of all the spaces in a hospital, operating rooms have the greatest need for clean air. In that scenario, two additional technologies could be considered: HEPA filtration and UV. The HEPA filtration enhances the effectiveness of ionization, cleaning the air when the room is both occupied and unoccupied. Concentrated UV can be used to safely “flash clean” the space during unoccupied periods.
For increased results, consider combining compatible air purification technologies in this way. Not sure what technologies work together? Ask an air purification expert for guidance.
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