Will Your Commercial Property Need an Upgraded HVAC?
Updated: May 25
Increasingly, commercial buildings are reopening with new COVID-19 restrictions and precautions. However, in order to do so, business owners worldwide need to demonstrate that these buildings are as safe as possible for workers and patrons.
Building owners and businesses are responsible for sanitation, PPE, and enforcing mask requirements for their customers and employees. Still, they also need to determine how ventilation impacts the safety of each structure.
There is one thing that is certain, though, as your HVAC experts in the Kansas City and Johnson County region, we know it pays to be prudent.
We have created the following guide to determine the best solution for your HVAC system in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In it, we have recommended simple upgrades that you, as a building owner, can have made to your HVAC systems to conform to these safety guidelines.
We will also answer some questions your clients might ask about your buildings' air ventilation systems and the rest of the HVAC system.
Why HVAC is Important to Manage the Spread of COVID-19
There have been many changes to what is known about COVID-19 as scientists study the disease further.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) have both released guidance for improving air quality and eliminating potential airborne viruses within a commercial building space.
ASHRAE’s claims that the airborne transmission of COVID-19 is a possible means by which the virus spreads.
And the CDC has stated that proper air ventilation in office buildings is essential to minimize the possible community spread of COVID-19 in an indoor setting.
Covid-19 can spread in two ways:
By close physical contact or close-quarters proximity, either by touch or airborne transmission (at a distance less than six feet or two meters)
By airborne transmission as tiny droplets move through ventilation systems over long distances (within a commercial building)
HVAC and medical experts alike agree that COVID-19 is airborne and contagious.
Even if this turns out not to be the case, COVID-19 has proven to be the deadliest virus in a generation and you can never be too careful.
Your tenants and employees rely on you to provide a safe work environment.
An outdated HVAC system may keep your commercial building cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Still, as times have changed, your HVAC system may not deliver the recommended level of ventilation.
How to Mitigate the COVID-19 Risk in Your Commercial Building
In the HVAC world, we have three ways to increase or decrease the threat of exposure to contagious droplets. These are indoor air filtration, ultraviolet (UV) light purification, and HVAC ventilation.
Each of these safety systems can reduce the risk of visitors to your commercial building contracting COVID-19.
Let's suppose that, much like the original COVID-19 outbreak site, an infected person enters a building with air conditioning. This person is coughing and sneezing. Somehow, the virus is transmitted even with social distancing precautions. How does this happen?
In other areas of a building, people believed to be in relative safety are susceptible to contamination due to an outdated ventilation system.
Airborne droplets released from a contagious person's cough or sneeze, especially microscopic droplets, can travel through the air ducts—the droplets course throughout the building.
Suppose the droplets did not encounter any barriers on the way through the air ducts. In that case, they could be released into other rooms and infect people there.
Now that we know how COVID-19 travels through the ventilation system, it is crucial to take certain precautions to ensure your patrons that their safety is paramount.
Fortunately, current HVAC system technology offers several excellent tools to help us fight the spread of COVID-19.
Air Filtration, Ventilation, and Purification
Your first line of defense in your commercial building is your air filtration system.
An HVAC filter alone cannot protect your building from the passage of COVID-19-infected microparticles from entering other parts of your commercial structure.
Even so, keep your air filter working at its most efficient level by keeping it clean or replacing it periodically.
Even if your HVAC filter is not quite dense enough, there are three other options to help you keep your building safe from COVID-19.
The team at Dillon's Heating & Cooling is here to help you use the following three tools so that you have covered your business' cooling and heating system.
1. Heat Recovery Ventilator:
The design of the heat recovery ventilator (HRV) fights the stale air created by modern, air-tight, energy-efficient. Some new constructions demand the addition of an HRV. An HRV works to send stale (and possibly infectious air) outside and brings fresh air back inside.
The HRV is best suited for buildings with central HVAC systems.
2. HEPA Air Filter:
The design of High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filtration systems halts the transmission of micro-particulate solids (or droplets) that carry COVID-19. HEPA filters work directly with your air ducts instead of your HVAC system.
Suppose your building lacks central heat and air. In that case, HVAC technicians can deploy a portable HEPA filtration system to filter the air in a non-ducted location.
3. Ultraviolet Air Purifier:
UV light was one of the first things that emerged from the pandemic as a disinfectant. UV light destroys the outer protein of COVID-19, so the virus is inactivated and therefore no longer contagious.
UV light air purifiers can be used in both buildings with central heating and cooling systems (ducted) and buildings without ductwork.
How Can Your Current System Be Upgraded?
We know that airborne particles cause transmission of the coronavirus.
So, several control-setting tweaks or upgrades to your system can decrease the airborne spread.
Not only are these steps healthier for anyone that enters your commercial building, but your tenants will also feel safer and more trusting of you as a landlord.
HVAC technicians can configure a central HVAC system to strengthen the fresh air exchange rate from outside of the building.
Changing the control settings to a constant, low run will reduce recirculation.
You may also have your HVAC professional adjust the control settings to keep your HVAC system running overnight and on weekends.
A constantly working HVAC system will increase the transfer of air and lower airflow speeds. These adjustments work best on newer HVAC systems.
Suppose your commercial building has an older HVAC system. In that case, your HVAC professional might consider replacing your HVAC hardware with more efficient and flexible systems.
For instance, your HVAC professional can replace a fixed-speed fan motor with a variable-speed fan. This switch means that you or your building manager can easily control the airflow.
Lower-speed airflow can slow air droplets. The air droplets will, in turn, not travel throughout your building as frequently or easily.
Your HVAC technician can install advanced airflow control systems that will allow for gentle adjustments of the building's airflow or install an air purification system.
They can also set your heating and cooling systems to 'all fresh air' to stop air recirculation within your building.
Your HVAC professional can control the airflow between your building's zones to protect your occupants from airborne droplets.
Your HVAC technician will re-evaluate the position of your supply and exhaust air systems and your dampers.
The HVAC technician will follow this by adjusting flow rates so that the pressure differentials are measurable.
Your HVAC technician can also install UV lights (specifically Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation lights)installed at the chilled water coils on rooftop HVAC units.
Dillon's Heating & Cooling
When you are considering any of the above upgrades or modifications to your HVAC system, remember to also think about your HVAC system's efficiency as a whole.
Even a top-of-the-line HVAC system will eventually need maintenance. Hence, as a part of your COVID-19 safety upgrade, create a maintenance program for your HVAC system to ensure regular service from a professional HVAC technician.
Do you need your HVAC system replaced, repaired, or updated? Dillon's Heating & Cooling services the Kansas City area, and we are ready to service and optimize your HVAC system.
Contact us today.