How to Keep Your Air Conditioning From Spreading Viruses

How to Keep Your Air Conditioning From Spreading Viruses

HVAC
Cleaning
Small Projects and Repairs
By Mateos Glen Hayes April 26, 2021

The Coronavirus pandemic permanently changed many parts of everyday life. So many habits and conventions we had grown used to were thrown by the wayside as we tried to grapple with the disease.  And since we have discovered that Covid is aerially transmitted and prone to spreading more effectively indoors than outdoors, HVAC and Covid have been two things that are always on our minds. There has been a lot of debate on whether your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) system can spread Coronavirus. 

Nevertheless, Covid 19 and other aerially transmitted viruses spreading through your heating and cooling system is far from impossible, especially as many of us live in buildings with outdated or poorly maintained HVAC systems. Many big building owners and public building administrators have resorted to major HVAC retrofits since the start of the pandemic in an attempt to make things Covid-safe. The start of lockdowns saw the demand for HVAC contractors rise exponentially, as stay-at-home orders put more pressure on heating and cooling systems nationwide. So, it is no surprise that there have been huge changes in the industry since the onset of the pandemic. Best practices among HVAC contractors are now evolving so that contractors recommend technical solutions aimed at improving interior air quality

How to Ensure that the Air In Your Home Is Truly Clean

How to Ensure that the Air In Your Home Is Truly Clean

As vaccines become available, it’s important to bear in mind that there will always be other aerially transmitted pathogens to deal with. It is crucial for the health and safety of you and your family that you keep your interior air clean and free of these potential diseases. In our world of quarantines and lockdowns, we're spending more time indoors than before, and so we must ensure that the air we breathe is sanitary. Fortunately, there are quite a few different solutions that can make your HVAC Covid-safe, and they range from free hacks to more through retrofits. These solutions are based on the recommendations of the HVAC industry and health officials and intend to keep your air conditioning from spreading viruses. 

Open Air Dampers and Windows

Of course, one way to improve your interior air quality would be to upgrade an outdated heating and cooling system or, better yet, replace it completely with a new unit. However, seeing as how an HVAC unit replacement costs as much as $12,000, this may not be a viable option for everyone. Also, a full HVAC upgrade of this kind won’t be required in most cases to achieve better air quality. Sure, upgrading your HVAC equipment can increase the clean air pumped into your house, and keep out contaminants, but there are other ways of achieving this. There are two free ways to immediately increase airflow in your house and make interior air cleaner.

Air Volume Damper and Why They're Important

Air Volume Damper and Why They're Important

One thing you can do is open up your air dampers. These are the slats that sit inside your air vents and regulate how much air flows through. Opening these up will keep air from being recirculated in your HVAC system, ensuring you are getting fresh air from the outside. If you are planning to do this though, you should keep a few things in mind. For one, opening your air dampers works best in mild weather. If you live in an especially humid, hot, or cold place, we recommend that you consult with an HVAC technician before opening up your air dampers since doing so could adversely affect thermal comfort and humidity.

Free Ways to Keep Your Indoor Air Fresh and Avoid Impurities

Free Ways to Keep Your Indoor Air Fresh and Avoid Impurities

Another free solution is to open your doors and windows. This may sound contradictory since open windows can reduce your HVAC system’s efficiency. But when done for short periods and at the right times in the day, opening your doors and windows can greatly increase the fresh air you get in your house. For instance, opening your windows every day when you leave the house gives your interior air a chance to filter out and let in clean, pine-scented air. You can turn off your HVAC during these periods to save energy, which will help make your house more sustainable. This solution works best in warmer weather, but you can also open your windows for brief periods in the winter to get some fresh wintry air in your home. If you live in an area with high levels of air pollution or in a residential tower, opening your windows may cause health and safety issues (asthma or the danger of falling). If you have small children and one of these two situations applies to you, it is recommended that you avoid leaving your windows open. 

Take Advantage of Indoor Fans

There are many ways you can use the fans already in your home to improve airflow. First off, switch your thermostat so that your fan is set to ‘on’ rather than ‘auto’. This will keep air circulating in your home even if the air conditioner or furnace isn’t operating. You can use other fans in your home to help air circulate via your windows. In rooms where the windows are open, turn your ceiling fans on if you have them. Then, install window fans in the open windows so that these can act as exhaust fans. These fans will help move the air along, and will also help draw air from other open windows, keeping your interior air fresh. This will also prevent strong air currents from forming in your home. These air currents are more likely to happen in the summer and can cause damage to doors and anything hanging on your walls, so preventing them is very helpful. If you happen to live in a home with higher ceilings such as in a barndominium, you may want to consider installing some gable fans and roof ventilators. These ceiling-mounted devices will greatly increase air circulation even in homes where HVAC systems may struggle. 

Air Circulation Is Key In Avoiding Virus Circulation

Air Circulation Is Key In Avoiding Virus Circulation

Improve Your Filters

One small change you can make that will increase air quality is improving your air filter. There are several choices when it comes to efficient air filters, but the top of the line are high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters. These filters cost an average of $150 and are the best standard in the industry today. HEPA filters are the kind used in places where clean air is crucial such as in senior living homes and medical facilities. 

These filters are high-efficiency because they will filter air effectively without reducing airflow, which is great since we want to increase clean air circulation. Aside from this, it’s important to have your filters checked regularly to make sure they are clean and aren’t past their service life. If you are going to replace your filter, it’s also important to make sure that the new filter is the right size. An improperly sized filter won’t do its job well since air will just go around it rather than through it. 

The Maintenance Required for Your HVAC to Work Efficiently

The Maintenance Required for Your HVAC to Work Efficiently

An HVAC system will require monthly maintenance to work effectively. To ensure that your HVAC system stays on when you need it, it’s a good idea to hire an HVAC contractor to check it and to clean your system out regularly. An HVAC system that isn’t cleaned regularly is more likely to become a harbor for dust and mold, and these can both adversely affect your health. Cleaning your HVAC system can cost up to $1,000, but given how much of a positive difference it can make to your air quality, it’s money well-spent.

Check Out Other Ventilation Systems

Most homes are equipped with different ventilation systems. For example, your bathrooms probably have fans in them. These are exhaust fans that help keep air circulating in your bathroom, which is great since this is one room you especially want to have fresh air in. However, bathroom exhaust fans are very seldomly cleaned, and this means that they are often caked with dust which makes them less effective. Excessive dust can even cause bathroom fans to overheat and cause a fire, so these must be kept free of dust. Most of these fan vents open without the need for a screwdriver, so keeping them clean is a simple matter of unclipping the plastic casing and dusting the vent and fan twice a year. To eliminate fire risk, consider replacing your bathroom fan with a thermally protected unit.  

The Different Kinds of Ventilation Systems Around Your House

The Different Kinds of Ventilation Systems Around Your House

Your kitchen exhaust also needs regular cleaning and maintenance as it does the important job of taking the dirty emissions that come from cooking food out of your house. They also keep out excess moisture, which prevents mold. So, you should also clean your exhaust system at least twice a year to keep your kitchen properly ventilated. Regular cleaning will also reduce the risk of a fire due to grease buildup. This is an easy DIY job and can be done with household kitchen products. Your kitchen exhaust fan also comes with its filters, so be sure to clean these and replace them as needed. Your kitchen vent manufacturer will usually have recommended service intervals for their models. To maximize clean airflow, always run the exhaust fans in your kitchen and bathroom(s) when these areas are occupied, and turn these fans off when these areas are not in use.   

Spots to Remember to Hit When Cleaning Out Your Vents and Air Filters

Spots to Remember to Hit When Cleaning Out Your Vents and Air Filters

The High-Tech and Highly Effective Alternative

If you want to add an extra layer of security to your air filtration, consider getting an ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) HVAC air purifier. These devices run air through a UV filter, killing any bacteria and pathogens including SARS-CoV-2. These devices can be installed within your vents or as a standalone device mounted to the wall. They won’t clear your air of all contaminants, but they are very effective at keeping out viruses. As you can expect UVGI devices are rather expensive, ranging from $1,500 to $2,500. UVGI devices may require a licensed contractor to install since they require their own source of power to work. Your HVAC contractor can advise on where best to place these devices in your HVAC system to maximize their effectiveness. As a rule of thumb, standalone UVGI devices should be put on the upper part of a wall. This allows them to catch hot air as it rises, filter it, and let it out as it becomes cold air which then falls and recirculates, passing through the device many times. 

When Your Ventilation Works Well, You Can Definitely Feel the Difference

When Your Ventilation Works Well, You Can Definitely Feel the Difference

MG

Written by
Mateos Glen Hayes

Written by Mateos Glen Hayes

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