With about half-a-million deaths and over 9 million confirmed cases, the coronavirus is affecting humanity at unimaginable levels. Of course, MEPs have not been spared in this rampage as MEP services and other related services are witnessing severe disruptions.
However, these disruptions do not hinder information channels. Thus, it’s pertinent that we stay abreast of MEP solutions to adapting to – and surviving – the new normal. In this article, we discuss how you can leverage HVAC systems to solve rising Covid-19 concerns.
HVAC means heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. So, an HVAC system is used to provide heating and cooling services to buildings. HVAC systems have become the required industry standard for the construction of new buildings. As such, these systems form a vital part of MEP, especially the mechanical aspect.
While the coronavirus continues on its rampage, owners of HVAC systems can implement specific short and long-term strategies to increase the safety of their long term care facilities and optimize the accruing health benefits. Given this backdrop, the one million dollar question is, what is the link between HVAC systems and the coronavirus?
Here’s an attempt: COVID-19 is a new highly contagious virus that predominantly spreads through contact and dispersion of droplets between people and nearby surfaces. Due to this contagion level, there’s a need to take precautionary steps for existing HVAC systems and encourage its global best practices in reducing coronavirus transmission.
Filtration refers to the action or process of filtering something. Hence, filtration may be effective for any particulate that is captured and pulled into the HVAC system. However, it must be applied appropriately.
For a start, each system should be analyzed to determine if the air-handling unit has adequate capacity to add filtration or increase the MERV rating of existing filters. Considering that the virus is transmitted and carried by occupants, merely installing high-efficiency particulate air and ultra-low particulate filtrations air on 100% outside air equipment (i.e., makeup air units) will not reduce the spread of the virus. Instead, supplemental recirculation equipment can be installed to filter and recirculate the air.
Overall, to optimize the effectiveness of filters, it is advisable to utilize filters with antimicrobial coatings. They can kill dangerous microbes on contact.
Humidification refers to the process of increasing the water vapor content of a case. This can also help minimize the spread of contagions. Research has shown that humidity above 40% inactivates almost 80% of viruses within 15 minutes. And while humidification introduced by steam injection is smart, other methods, such as ultrasonic or spray injection, maybe explored if sanitization of the system is maintained.
Ionization refers to the process by which an atom or a molecule acquires a negative or positive charge by gaining or losing electrons, often in conjunction with other chemical changes.
So, as a technology, bi-polar ionization releases positive and negative ions into the airstream. Air flows along the ionization tube, and oxygen from the air is charged to form ions. The ions are attracted to airborne particles like dust, smoke, VOCs, allergens, and other air pollutants. The ions latch onto and neutralize any contaminants they come into contact with.
But this is not all. When charged particles are drawn together, forming clusters becomes heavy enough to drop out of the air. These ions work to de-activate single-celled, carbon-based organisms such as fungi, viruses, and bacteria, whether in the air or resting on surfaces.
According to Science Daily on 24th June 2020, a new study has found that a type of ultraviolet light called far-UVC kills more than 99.9 percent of airborne coronaviruses. This isn’t far fetched.
When placed at strategic locations within the duct system, UVC lamps can kill microorganisms in the airstream. However, since the coronavirus must be exposed for some time, placement becomes crucial, and multiple UVC lamps are required within the airstream.
This is because the air velocity inside the ductwork may require long sections of UVC light arrays to provide the proper exposure time needed to de-activate the virus. Properly applied, UV lamps may reduce active coronavirus up to 90%, as noted below.
Noting the difficulty in implementing within duct systems, it may be more practical to utilize UV lamps to disinfect specific surfaces within the duct system.
Equally, the disinfection zone needs to be adequately planned and tested to ensure that it is above the acceptable occupied zone exposure since UVC light is very harmful to human skin and eyes.
The use of air purifiers represents another channel to increase air changes within a space while treating the airflow. These provide the ability to increase air changes when the existing HVAC systems are unable to increase airflow. These units may include several of the HVAC design systems previously noted, such as filtration, antimicrobial coated filters, and air ionization.
These air purification units can be permanently installed in the ceiling and switched on as needed. They may be portable units.
Through the HVAC systems, MEP design systems have returned to the front burner of conversations on global health concerns. Adapting the listed HVAC design systems in battling against Covid-19 presents a leverage anyone should be willing to optimize.