Covid-19 and Residential Indoor Air Quality
Everything You Need to Know About Covid-19 and Residential Indoor Air Quality
In March 2020, the whole world became more aware of how respiratory illnesses spread when Covid-19 began to attack our world and disrupt our lives. Scientists and medical professionals encountered a new, highly contagious illness and we all have been learning best practices “on the fly.”
The current understanding is that the virus transmits via aerosol droplets; we were reminded to cough or sneeze into our elbow or a tissue, wash our hands frequently, and stay home when we are ill. Later we were introduced to face masks, social distancing, and the term “indoor air quality” (IAQ).
Significant instruction centers around public spaces; we are encouraged to wear face masks inside, continue to be socially distant, and limit indoor gatherings. Current research has not uncovered the perfect, fail-safe solution to prevent viral transmission and ensure public safety.
Instead, we are encouraged to use many different methods together to improve Residential Indoor Air Quality. The personal safety measures are inexact since we all follow them imprecisely.
Owners of public indoor spaces take extra precautions to keep guests and employees as safe as possible. These measures give us more confidence in returning to activities such as working, worshipping, and shopping and are not based on choices made by occupants.
The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) offers guidelines for improving all IAQ; remarkable improvements in ventilation, air filtration, and air cleaning devices are creating safer indoor spaces.
- By increasing the exchange of outdoor air, we can dilute the “dirty” indoor air.
- High-quality air filters can remove 99.7% of all airborne particles.
- Air purifiers can neutralize and remove viruses and other pollutants.
Applying these same principles, ASHRAE has provided guidelines for residential Residential Indoor Air Quality in regards to Covid-19.
Here are Residential Indoor Air Quality recommendations1 for keeping your home safe:
- Operate your HVAC system within normal comfort levels.
- Temperatures should range between 68-780F and relative humidity should stay between 40-50%.
- If you turn the system off, make sure to open windows for plenty of ventilation.
- The lack of ventilation or the circulation of air leads to poor Residential Indoor Air Quality.
- Improve Residential Indoor Air Quality by adding fresh, outdoor air as often as possible.
- Increase air movement. Ceiling fans increase energy efficiency; moving air feels cooler and allows you to raise the air conditioner settings by as much as 100F. It also increases air circulation, preventing the air from being stagnant.
- Improve the quality of your air filter. Before Covid-19, most homeowners did not put much forethought into air filtration. Air filters were cheap and needed to be changed routinely every three months.
- Back in 1987, ASHRAE completed research and set standards for the manufacturing of air filters.
- Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) is the rating standard to help consumers determine quality. The higher the MERV number, from 1 to 20, the smaller the open. Smaller openings trap more of the airborne particles and remove them from circulation.
- MERV 13 and higher are recommended for removing particles the size of viruses.
- A denser air filter will reduce airflow, so check with your HVAC manual for air filter tolerances. Call your HVAC professional if you need further help balancing the need for cleaner air and sufficient airflow.
- Consider air purifiers. If your HVAC system cannot handle a MERV 13 air filter, explore air cleaners or purifiers to improve IAQ.
- Ultra-violet lights can be installed inside the ductwork. Ultra-violet light will neutralize (kill) microbes, mold spores, and pollen, including viruses. The inert (dead) cells will be trapped by the air filter.
- Air purifiers have multi-level filtration and remove particulates, including viruses. Both whole-house and portable, room-sized air purifiers are available.
- Use exhaust fans as needed. Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans provide valuable ventilation when needed and contribute to air circulation.
- Keep your HVAC system running smoothly with regular maintenance. Not only does preventative maintenance keep your system in operation as long as possible, cleaning the interior components removes deposits of potentially harmful particles, including viruses and prevents them from recirculating throughout your home.