Shipton's CleanAir Solutions Blog


May 2020

COVID-19 Air Quality Safety: What We Can Learn From Health Care Workers

doctor with face mask

We knew nearly from the start that the coronavirus can be spread through close contact.

But recently, a number of research studies presented compelling evidence that the coronavirus spreads through HVAC systems as well. (You can read more about this research in last week's blog post here.)

This is pretty scary stuff!

But as they say, more knowledge also means more power to protect ourselves. When we know where the threat is more likely to come from, we can put protections in place against that threat.

To learn how to protect against the airborne transmission of virus germs, we must look to the front lines - to the health care industry. What are health care systems and workers doing to limit risk and stay as safe as possible?

In this post, we outline exactly what is being done and how you can implement the same strategies at home or workplace.

4 Steps to Improve Indoor Air Quality and Safety

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has released its recommendations for maintaining and upgrading indoor air quality and safety for frontline health care workers treating COVID-19 patients.

While not all recommendations are applicable to the general public, these four are vitally important and can be easily implemented without delay.

1. Maintain a relative humidity level of 40 to 60 percent

Nearly from the beginning, research has verified that warmer temperatures combined with higher relative humidity can be an effective means of limiting virus transmission.

The cold season is typically a time when humidity levels plunge to 10 percent or lower. Combined with cooler temperatures, this makes right now the most dangerous time for virus transmission.

There are a number of ways to boost indoor humidity levels. Adding houseplants, leaving the door open after showers and baths, steaming water on the stove, and even placing bowls of water around the house can all add some ambient humidity back into the air.

However, the easiest and best way to regulate and maintain the desired humidity range is to install a whole-home humidifier. These units work with your existing ductwork to keep relative humidity levels consistent inside your space.

If your space lacks central ductwork, you may want to consider purchasing one or more portable humidifiers to add back humidity in high traffic areas.

2. Use HEPA air filtration systems

HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters were invented in World War II. They are still heavily in use today. The HEPA filter is particularly dense and can trap incredibly tiny particles and keep them from travelling any further into your space.

HEPA filters are too dense for most residential HVAC systems - there is a risk of home fire from over-taxing the blower motor.

But aftermarket HEPA filtration systems can work directly on the air as it leaves the blower and passes into the air ducts, filtering out toxins before they can enter the duct system.

If your space lacks central ductwork, portable HEPA filtration units are also available.

3. Install ultraviolet air purification systems

ASHRAE and other organizations have been recommending the use of ultraviolet light as a purifying agent since the start of the pandemic.

Ultraviolet light (band C) is the most powerful natural disinfectant and decontaminant we have on Earth.

Modern UV air purifiers use focused short-wave bands of UV-C light to neutralize gaseous and liquid particles so they cannot cause harm.

UV air purification systems can work in a number of different ways depending on where they are placed. Some systems irradiate the HVAC coils, while others may be placed at the start of or even inside the air duct system to purify the air there.

If your space lacks central ductwork, portable UV purification units are also available.

4. Improve indoor air ventilation (eliminate or limit air recirculation)

Recirculated air has become a major problem in new construction today. This is largely thanks to new airtight construction processes that seal up every tiny crack and crevice where outside air might come in and indoor air leak out.

This is great for energy bills, but not nearly so good for ventilation. Heat recovery ventilators have now become the norm for new construction because they act like a set of mechanical “lungs,” constantly “breathing in” fresh air and “breathing out” stale air.

Heat recovery ventilators also help balance indoor air humidity levels and recycle otherwise lost and wasted heat energy. But most importantly, they eliminate the threat of virus transmission through recirculating stale indoor air.

Is It Time for an Indoor Air Duct Cleaning?

In most parts of Canada, homes that have indoor air duct systems have never once been cleaned out and sanitized.

Over the last five years, we have seen increasing interest in this service as people get more worried about the health consequences of toxic indoor air.

Initially, many of our customers express concerns that the duct cleaning process will be messy and time-consuming. But today's indoor air duct cleanings can generally be done in less than a day and are completely safe.

We use an enormous industrial-strength negative pressure vacuum to pull out all the trapped debris and then go back in with a powerful sanitizing and deodorizing agent to neutralize any remaining residual threats.

Many of our customers tell us their indoor air is so clean afterward, they can literally smell the difference.

An indoor air duct cleaning is an essential step in eliminating recirculated toxins and ensuring a steady supply of fresh, safe air inside your space.

Get in Touch

We have been deemed an “essential service” during the shelter-in-place order here in Ontario. We are here to serve you in three ways: through curbside pickup, online orders, or shipping.

Our technicians are also available for service calls on a case-by-case basis.

Give us a call at 905-549-2470 or visit us online to let us know how we can help.

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Indoor Air Quality Is an Essential Service: Clean Air Fights COVID19

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As more research data becomes available about the new novel coronavirus, aka CoV-SARS-2, we learn more about the link between air quality and risk of COVID-19 infection.

In fact, just this week, not one but two new research studies were fast-tracked into publication because of their relevance to addressing the current pandemic.

In each study, researchers stated that social distancing and handwashing alone are far from sufficient to protect against COVID-19 infection. Their reasoning is simple, yet until now it was overlooked.

The new novel coronavirus can be transmitted through the air.

Yes, this statement flies in the face of current World Health Organization (WHO) guidance. However, researchers and air quality experts on three continents (China, Australia, North America) agree that COVID-19 can be spread via airborne transmission.

Can it or can't it? Do you want to wait and see who is right? Or do you want to take action to protect yourself?

How COVID-19 Goes Airborne

The first article was written by Chinese researchers who studied the original COVID-19 outbreak in the city of Guangzhou in China. This article was published by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

The researchers concluded that it was the restaurant's air conditioning ventilation system that spread germs from one asymptomatic diner to nine other diners who were seated more than one metre away.

The second article was written by Australian researchers who studied the 2003 SARS outbreak and several other viral outbreaks in our recent history. This second article was published through ScienceDirect in Environmental International Journal.

These researchers also concluded that COVID-19, like the other coronaviruses before it, could be spread through the air.

It is true that the initial coronavirus droplets are heavy as they are breathed or sneezed out. But soon the droplets start to evaporate. This makes them lighter. Lighter droplets can linger in the air and travel greater distances.

For this reason, the researchers concluded that simply practising social distancing and handwashing is far from sufficient to protect against COVID-19 infection.

3 Keys to Stopping Airborne COVID-19

A few weeks ago, we didn't even know if wearing face masks served any purpose. We know now that face masks have at least some protective benefit, although they do a better job of protecting others from us than protecting us from others.

So if social distancing, handwashing, and face masks alone are not enough protection, what else can be done to limit risk of exposure?

Thanks to the Canadian, Chinese, and Australian research teams, we now have more information than we did about how COVID-19 spreads. And the more information we have, the more protection we can put into place.

1. COVID-19 uses a liquid medium to spread

With airborne toxins, the first key is to identify what medium they use to spread. In other words, are they solids (particles), gases, or liquids?

In the case of the new novel coronavirus (CoV-SARS-2), the virus germs spread via liquid. Knowing this coronavirus uses a liquid transmission method points us toward ultraviolet light as the best purification method.

Viruses are strange organisms. They are made of organic material, but they aren't alive. Once the thin outer membrane that surrounds the viral code gets damaged, the virus can't replicate and infect you.

Ultraviolet light band C can degrade the outer membrane of coronavirus particles and neutralize its impact.

Today's ultraviolet light purification systems use a synthetic form of shortwave UV-C light that can damage and neutralize these airborne particles so they can't harm you.

Both central (ducted) and portable (ductless) UV air purification units are available.

2. COVID-19 uses forced air systems to travel

When working with airborne toxins, the second key is to identify what means they use to travel. Previously, we thought the liquid particles were so heavy they could travel only short distances before settling on surfaces, be those doorknobs or shirtsleeves.

But now we know the germs can become lighter over time and rise up, catch airwaves, and ride those waves to spread farther.

We also now know that forced-air HVAC and ventilation systems help the lightweight liquid airborne germs travel to greater distances and infect more and more people.

This information points us to duct cleaning and improved indoor air ventilation as key methods to reduce risk.

Heat recovery ventilation systems separate incoming fresh air and outgoing toxic air to ensure any airborne coronavirus particles get exhausted to the outside rather than continuing to circulate inside your space.

Indoor air duct cleaning services can go one step further to clean and sanitize the entire network of ducts, clearing out additional trapped toxins that can compromise lung and immune system function and lower resistance to COVID-19.

3. COVID-19 is more deadly in the presence of dirty air

The third key when working to stop airborne toxins is to identify existing conditions that can make their impact worse.

A couple of weeks ago, we shared breaking news from another research study showing that dirty air makes COVID-19 deadlier.

When the air we are breathing is already contaminated with toxic gases, solids, and liquids, our lungs have less ability to fight off serious secondary symptoms of COVID-19 like pneumonia.

This information points us toward HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filtration, which is the best method on the planet to filter out toxic particles before they can enter our lungs and cause harm.

Both central (ducted) and portable (ductless) HEPA filtration units are available.

Get in Touch

Indoor air quality has been deemed an essential service during this time of sheltering in place.

We are working closely with our sister company, Shipton's Heating and Cooling, to provide you with the very latest in HVAC and indoor air quality technology and service.

If we can help you in any way, just give us a call at 905-549-2470 or visit us online.

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