Gregg Little, President of Springbank Mechanical Systems, was recently featured on CTV News discussing how the COVID-19 pandemic has prompted commercial property owners to upgrade their HVAC systems.
The goal of these upgrades is to provide the cleanest, freshest air possible and help slow the spread of airborne pathogens between workspaces. High-quality air filtration is a key part of these initiatives.
Most HVAC air filters are made from similar materials used to create facemasks and other Personal Protection Equipment (PPE). This has put air filters in short supply as production focused on creating PPEs to satisfy public demand. The situation has prompted many HVAC companies to buy quantities of high-grade filters so their clients aren’t waiting for as long as six weeks to have their filters upgraded or replaced.
Which Commercial Air Filters Offer The Best Air Quality?
Currently, some commercial properties use air filters that have a minimum efficiency rating value MERV 8 or less. These filters don’t trap particles from respiratory droplets, which have been identified as a primary transmitter of the COVID-19 virus. However, MERV-13 filters can trap 85 percent of particles from 1.0 to 3.0 microns in size, making them the better choice for providing the purest air possible.
When arranging to purchase and install air filters, ensure that you work with experienced, licensed HVAC technicians who can provide customer references that document their commercial air filtration expertise.
What Other Air Purification Measures Can Property Managers Take?
Although upgrading your central HVAC air filters is a great way to protect your occupants from airborne pathogens, there are other cost-effective strategies you can implement to maintain healthy indoor air and enhance the operational performance of your overall HVAC system. Here are some of the tactics we’re suggesting to our clients:
- Increase dilution ventilation: Exhausting stale indoor air and replacing it with fresh air provides an increase of clean, purer air to your occupants
- Add humidity control to the airflow: Respiratory droplets don’t travel as far in indoor environments that maintain a humidity level between 40 and 60 percent (ask your HVAC professional about an ERV system that can help you better control air humidity while cutting energy costs)
- Run your HVAC system more often: A constant circulation of air will enhance the ability of your system’s air filters to catch airborne particles
- Install variable-speed fan motors: Variable-speed fan motors give you better control of the airflow than single speed, allowing you to adjust airflow according to your needs
- Integrate ultraviolet (UV) light into your HVAC system: Installing UV light at the air conditioning coil and/or within the system ductwork will help neutralize pathogens before they reach the indoor space
- Use particle air cleaners: High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters can capture over 99.97 percent of airborne particles as little as 0.3 microns in size
While these measures are all helpful in providing clean air, it won’t stop an infected person from spreading COVID-19 within the space. Building occupants should still be encouraged to continue following proper health and safety practices, including:
- Regularly washing their hands
- Practice social distancing and wearing masks when being physically distant isn’t possible
- Keeping surface areas clean and disinfected
- Staying home and getting tested for COVID-19 when they have symptoms or have been close to someone who has tested positive
- Downloading the COVID Alert mobile app
- Following provincial updates on the pandemic
Other air purification technology has also garnered attention, such as dry hydrogen peroxide and bipolar ionization, but neither of these solutions have been tested enough to be recommended by HVAC experts with confidence.
However, what is recommended is to have your HVAC system regularly inspected and maintained to ensure it consistently performs with maximum efficiency.
Invest in professional HVAC inspection and upgrading
On November 14th, 2020, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa recommended that businesses and workplaces review their HVAC systems to ensure they offer the best air quality to their tenants and occupants. During these challenging times, some businesses slashed maintenance budgets to remain afloat while their businesses were closed. However, as companies begin to open up again and return to traditional operations, investing in a professional assessment and upgrade of their HVAC setup is crucial to open safely and providing your occupants with both cleaner air and peace of mind.
In most cases, when companies ask us for our recommendations, we find ways to enhance their system operations to not only provide the best quality indoor air, but also help them significantly lower their energy bills, reduce equipment repair and replacement costs, and keep their building occupants safe.
When you’re ready to have a look at your HVAC system, give us a call. We’re always happy to answer your questions and help you discover how we can help save you money with efficient energy and clean air enhancements.
Gregg Little, Paul De Thomasis, and Hugo Lopes are co-owners of Springbank Mechanical Systems. They can be reached at 905-569-8990, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or Hugo@springbank.com.