Coronavirus in Air Conditioning & ventilation systems. How to minimize the spread of the virus?

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It is time to talk about COVID-19 or more known as corona-virus, and what can we do to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus through our air conditioning and ventilation systems. This Is a text issued by Eurovent, an Association for Indoor Climate (HVAC), Process Cooling, and Food Cold Chain Technologies. Its members from throughout Europe represent more than 1.000 companies, the majority small and medium-sized manufacturers.

These are recommended actions for healthcare  facilities, facility management providers, building owners and operators.

The current crisis highlights the responsibilities of HVAC engineers, along with service and maintenance personnel, building owners and operators to carefully assess building ventilation systems and their conditions. Proper ventilation, with a higher degree of fresh air supply, the use of the correct filter types and careful maintenance can be important factors in the containment of the corona-virus outbreak.

General Considerations

The novel SARS-CoV-2 virus which causes the COVID-19 disease, is mainly transmitted through contact with infected persons according to WHO. Breathing, as well as coughing and sneezing releases tiny infectious droplets into the air which potentially contaminate surrounding surfaces and of course the air in the immediate surrounding. These droplets, so called aerosols, can be of varying sizes, from 1 to over 10 μm (micron or micrometre, 1 micron equates to 0.001 mm). It is assumed by experts that viruses do not fly occasionally in the air but are always enclosed in droplets or attached to other particulate matter.

This raises the question in which way ventilation and air-conditioning systems play a role in the transmission or containment of epidemic diseases like COVID-19. In the following, you will find basic recommendations, which directly or indirectly bear on the spread of viruses and the well-being of people in occupied spaces. These recommendations are based on an industry wide consensus and should give guidance to best practices in relation to air filtration and ventilation in the current crisis.

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Indoor Air Quality has become a popular topic over the past years as more and more countries shift their focus towards the health and well-being of building occupants in their daily life. Most people in the industrialized world spend up to 90% of their time indoors. The exposure to air contaminants, from dust to spores, bacteria, viruses and chemical compounds has direct influence on people’s immune systems and can cause a variety of conditions, from allergies to cancer or —an epidemic disease like COVID-19. Maintaining a healthy indoor air quality as a consequence becomes a general, basic —yet extremely important —necessity. While this is true at all times, it is imperative in times of a wider health crisis to avoid not only the direct spread of a virus, but to support peoples immune systems to withstand more serious impacts by an aggressive disease and thereby reducing pressure on a healthcare system fighting against overload.

Air Filtration

The selection of air filters depends on the application environment and should be carefully assessed. While regular air filters are not designed to prevent the spread of viruses, they are essential in minimizing the risk as viruses tend to attach to airborne particulate matter and aerosols. For that reason, regular filters with a high filtration efficiency (ePM1 filters) are crucial to reduce the risk of diseases transmitted through the air. HEPA filters (High Efficiency Particulate Air) are mandatory in critical environments such as hospitals and healthcare facilities and can be also recommended for medium risk environments (high density of people) like airports, schools or other public spaces. In light of the COVID-19 problematic to severely affect the elderly and people with existing medical conditions, it is also recommended to use HEPA filters in all facilities designed to support, help, house or care for these groups. In general, the industry recommends increasing filter efficiencies for the duration of the epidemy.

Ventilation

The exchange of air in occupied spaces helps to reduce the exposure of people to contaminated air. Therefore, an increase in the number of air exchanges is recommended through higher ventilation rates. The industry recommends increasing the fresh air supply and stop or reduce re-circulation where possible.

Maintenance

Regular, carefully executed maintenance is essential for the ventilation and air filtration systems to work properly. In light of COVID-19, Eurovent Middle East, wants to underline that protective measures for maintenance personnel is of utmost importance.

1.Replacement of filters is to be done using masks and appropriate personal protective equipment.

2.The disposal of filters needs to be done correctly (sealed bags), and in line with local and international standards.

3.HEPA filters need to be treated as bio-hazardous waste. For critical areas such as quarantine rooms and bio safety labs, providing a safe change Bag-in-Bag-out containment system will not only help protect the environment while maintaining a negative pressure in the room but also help prevent maintenance personnel from being exposed and infected.

As this is not a genuine GarClime made text, we thought that could be of interest for many people and of course, the more we all know about this disease, the better we can face this unreal situation. You can find the full text here.

GarClime recommends you all to follow government orders, stay home, stay safe and take care of your loved ones, we all will be back stronger than ever.

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