Normally, we don’t give much thought to our furnace and air conditioning system – unless it stops working. Then it gets our full attention!
But right now, as people around the world grapple with how to stay safe when the enemy is airborne and microscopic, having an HVAC system that is “working fine” may not be enough.
Increasingly, we are finding evidence that the coronavirus can spread through ventilation systems (you can read last week’s post to learn more about this research).
This means we need our HVAC systems to do better than just work well. We need them to bring their A-game to protect us, our families, and our workers.
In this post, learn exactly what to do to take care of your HVAC system during this pandemic so it will take great care of you.
Ventilation + Filtration: Two Keys to Indoor Protection
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recently released its position statement regarding the respiratory droplets versus airborne transmission debate.
ASHRAE believes both transmission methods are equally viable and possible.
Because of this, ASHRAE strongly advocates for maintaining indoor temperature control to support strong immune system function. Disabling HVAC systems, even temporarily, may put stress on your body and weaken your resistance to COVID-19.
Instead, ASHRAE recommends improving the ventilation and filtration of your indoor air so that your HVAC system operates optimally to protect you.
What to Do to Improve the Function of Your HVAC System
These are the steps ASHRAE recommends to make sure your HVAC system is protecting you by doing its best work filtering and ventilating the air inside your home or workplace.
1. Wear appropriate PPE when working on your HVAC system
Gloves and a face mask give you good baseline protection. Hand sanitizer or soap and water are appropriate to use as needed.
2. Change your furnace filter on schedule
Make sure you are changing your furnace filter regularly. ASHRAE does not recommend more frequent changes if this will increase risk of exposure. But it is important to keep the filter from becoming clogged.
For the most protection, make sure you are using the highest MERV-rated air filter that your furnace system is rated for.
3. Add extra protection to your existing HVAC system
Aftermarket HEPA filters, ultraviolet air purifiers, and surface duct disinfection (indoor air duct cleaning) can all support improved HVAC system performance.
In most cases, residential HVAC systems are not built to work well with HEPA filters. These filters are simply too dense and can cause blower-motor failure and fire risk.
A better approach is to install an aftermarket standalone HEPA filtration system that works with your central (ducted) ventilation system. This places no extra pressure on your furnace or air conditioning blower motor and simply filters the air before it enters your ductwork.
Ultraviolet air purifiers work in a similar manner. A number of different types of UV purifiers exist. Purifiers can be installed to work with or even inside ductwork.
4. Clean out your air ducts
We are lucky to have all of this technology at our disposal to help manage the risk of catching COVID-19.
But in many ways, even the best technology in the world can help us only so much if our ventilation system is not well maintained.
Each of the appliances we just mentioned – the HEPA filtration system and the ultraviolet purification system – work with your existing ductwork to help clean the air. But what if your ducts themselves are dirty?
An indoor air duct cleaning is currently the only way to thoroughly clean and sanitize your entire duct network.
Now that the research indicates that transmission of the coronavirus via HVAC system is more likely than not, making sure your ducts are cleaned and sanitized has never been more important. Luckily, this treatment typically takes less than a day to complete and has long-lasting health results.
Improve Your HVAC Ventilation with a Heat Recovery Ventilator
We have had the same basic central HVAC technology for many decades now. The setup is both simple and ingenious – you have two appliances, one for heating and one for cooling. Both work with a single network of ducts to transmit warmed or cooled air.
But as building standards have changed to combat dwindling natural resources, new airtight construction methods have all but ended a building’s natural ability to “breathe.”
Instead, homes and workplaces today increasingly rely on a set of mechanical lungs called the heat recovery ventilator.
A heat recovery ventilator, like a HEPA filtration system and an ultraviolet purification system, works with the HVAC and duct system to clean and purify your indoor air. But how it does this is different.
The heat recovery ventilator divides your indoor air into two air streams – fresh incoming air and stale outgoing air. The stale air and the fresh air never mix, which means you don’t have to worry about cross-contamination and reintroduction of toxins or germs.
Heat recovery ventilators also recycle heat energy and balance indoor humidity levels to lower energy bills and guard against mould or mildew.
Routine HVAC Maintenance Is An Important Safety Measure
Here in Ontario and in many other places around the world, HVAC services have been deemed essential even during the quarantine period.
But we are just now starting to find out how essential HVAC maintenance and strategic upgrades may be to protect us from the airborne transmission of the coronavirus.
Now is definitely the right time to make routine HVAC maintenance a priority on your list. A clean, safe, and efficient HVAC system is one of your best protections against COVID-19.
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HVAC, electrical, and plumbing have all been deemed essential services during the stay-at-home order here in Ontario.