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Work From Home Safely and Stay Healthy With These Handy HVAC Tips
Between the need to shelter in place and the new trend towards a remote workforce, it can often feel like the only place where we can’t maintain any social distance is at home!
Of course, as long as everyone in your family is abiding by the current safety and health guidelines, this is no cause for worry.
If someone in your household does get a cold, respiratory infection or comes down with the flu/stomach virus, you could catch it. And once you get sick from any cause, your immune system will be less available to fight off COVID-19.
So it makes good sense to do everything you can to keep your home a safe place for work, school and daily life. In this post, we share handy HVAC tips to help you and your loved ones stay safe and healthy.
The Confusing Link between Home HVAC Ventilation and COVID-19
ASHRAE (American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers) recently released a statement about the link between air conditioning, ventilation and COVID-19.
The document confirmed two seemingly contradictory statements:
1. Operation of HVAC systems may aid in the spread of coronavirus particles.
2. Operation of HVAC systems may reduce the risk of contracting coronavirus.
How can both of these statements possibly be true? Unfortunately, we don’t have all the answers yet. There is still so much to learn about the new novel coronavirus, how it spreads, how to kill it and how to protect ourselves from it.
ASHRAE has recently formed a task force to provide more detailed guidance on how to use HVAC systems safely during this pandemic period.
We do know some important facts that can offer guidance even as ASHRAE conducts more research and gathers more data.
HVAC Ventilation Can Both Spread and Diffuse Coronavirus Germs
The simple truth is, ventilation can be a double-edged sword. We need ventilation to move airborne contaminants like coronavirus away from us and to diffuse the concentration of these particles with fresh air.
We know that ventilation is capable of picking up distant coronavirus germs and moving them into our air space through air ducts and over air currents.
We also know that both heating and air conditioning dries out the air inside a space. And if there is one thing coronavirus germs love, it is dry air!
This has led to some people assuming the best method of protection at home and at work is to simply stop using their HVAC system. So they are going without heat or air conditioning thinking this will keep them safer because the air will become increasingly humid and warm.
This backfires because there is no fresh air coming into the space to keep contaminants and germs from building up and causing illness and disease.
How to Use HVAC Ventilation to Reduce the Risk of Getting Coronavirus
Living and working in an uncomfortable environment can also place more stress on the immune system, causing your body to have to work harder in order to repel germs and keep you healthy.
We are all under enough stress right now as it is – there is no reason to add even more. So it is important to continue using your furnace or heating system and air conditioning as you need to in order to stay comfortable.
When you use your HVAC, you can do something important to get the benefits of the extra ventilation and still fight back against coronavirus and other germs, including the rhinovirus that causes the common cold.
You can add back humidity to your indoor air as well.
Why Humidity Indoors Is An Essential Aid to Fighting Coronavirus
From all the data that researchers have gathered thus far, we know that the main threat from ventilation comes when the initially heavy droplets of water that contain coronavirus particles start to evaporate. With evaporation, the heavy particles become lighter.
When these particles become lighter, this is when social distancing alone may not be enough to protect you from COVID-19. The lighter particles can travel on air currents, entering ventilation systems and traveling greater distances through air ducts just like they did in the original five-story restaurant in Guangzhou, China.
What can potentially keep the coronavirus particles too heavy to ever achieve liftoff? Humidity!
This alone would be enough motivation to start adding back extra humidity to your home or workplace. But humidity can have other protective benefits as well.
Humidity can keep your respiratory passages – your nasal passages, respiratory system, mouth tissues and lungs moist and full of beneficial mucus. Mucus is what your immune system uses as a first line of defence to trap incoming toxins and germs and move them right back out of your body.
When you sneeze or blow your nose, the mucus that comes up and out contains trapped toxins that your immune system has decided don’t need to be inside you.
This is why winter is traditionally a time when more people come down with colds and flu. Winter is very drying and can leave your tissues unable to make enough mucus to trap the germs and keep them from moving deeper into your body.
How to Add Back Humidity to Your HVAC System
Portable and whole home humidifiers are great ways to add back humidity to your indoor air.
Leaving the door open after a bath or shower and opening the door of the clothes washer and dishwasher to let the steam dissipate naturally are more great cheap ways to add back humidity.
You can also boil a pot of water on the stove, put bowls of water around your home and add more houseplants.
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HVAC, electrical and plumbing have all been deemed essential services during the stay at home order here in Ontario province.