Kick COVID-19 Out the Door with Ventilation

For the past year, Coloradoans have been bombarded with the messages to wash your hands, stay six feet apart and wear a mask. This has been great advice as it’s helped to curb the rise of COVID-19 in areas it’s been put into practice. But as the coronavirus is new (although it seems like it’s been here forever), scientists are continuing to learn new things about it and its transmission.

Kick COVID-19 Out the Door with Ventilation

In July of 2020, 239 scientists from 32 countries wrote an open letter to the WHO showing evidence that tiny virus droplets people expel when they cough or sneeze can hang in still air for hours, making crowded indoor spaces with poor ventilation risky.

Plus, in late August of 2020, a team of infectious-disease experts argued in a new analysis in the BMJ (a weekly peer-reviewed medical journal), that six-feet protocols are too rigid and are based on outdated science and studies of different viruses. Health experts now believe the evidence shows that the novel coronavirus can travel farther than six feet under certain conditions and that six feet is the bare minimum of space that should separate people, especially in poorly ventilated indoor areas.

So, although the end of Covid-19 is hopefully in sight, it seems that in the meantime good ventilation will be key in avoiding the disease. The following are 4 ways to ensure proper ventilation:

Keep it Fresh

Trust your nose. If you walk into a room or building where the air feels stuffy and stale, chances are there’s not sufficient ventilation. Turn around and leave. Simply put, the more outside air that enters a building, the better. Bringing in fresh air dilutes any contaminant in a building, whether a virus or a something else, and reduces the exposure of anyone inside. "Having 100% outside air or close to 100% is a good thing," says Prof Cath Noakes of the University of Leeds. "The more fresh air, the less you're running the risk of recirculating the virus through the building."

In warm weather, it’s pretty easy to get more outside air into a building by keeping windows and doors open (or cracked if the AC is on) and by putting a box fan in a window blowing out which can greatly increase the air exchange rate.

In cold weather, try micro-ventilation where you just crack open one window in each room to permit a little fresh air to enter. To help keep the room warm, switch ceiling fans to "winter" mode. Most ceiling fans have a switch that reverses the blade direction. This reversal pulls the cold air up and pushes the warm air downwards.

Check the Air Conditioner

If a building you enter has a split air conditioner (a slim white box mounted on a wall or ceiling), try not to spend too much time there. All air conditioners recirculate air, but smaller ones like these don’t have the filtering capacity of larger, outside units.

For your Colorado home HVAC, it’s recommended using a MERV-12 level filter that removes particles down to 1.0–3.0 microns as a good medium between effective filtration and likely compatibility with your existing equipment. (Note: Since higher-rate filters allow less air to flow through your furnace, it’s a good idea to check if your system has a maximum MERV rating. The wrong type of air filter can force your furnace to work harder and increase the risk of it breaking down.)

Use Air Cleaners

Lew Harriman , director of research & consulting at HVAC consulting company Mason-Grant, and a member of the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force, says concerning filtration, “Don’t let the air conditioner carry that load. Frankly, you should have an air purifier even if you’re not concerned [about airborne viruses].”

Air purifiers remove particles from the air, usually using a filter made of tightly woven fibers. They can capture particles containing bacteria and viruses and can help reduce disease transmission when used along with other best practices recommended by CDC and others. But not all air purifiers are equal. Here are points to keep in mind:

  • Your best option is a cleaner that uses a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter, as these remove more than 99.97% of all particle sizes
  • Think about how powerful an air cleaner you’ll need. The bigger the room – or the more people in it – the more air needs to be cleaned.
  • Scrutinize the validity of the claims made by the air cleaner manufacturer. The Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) certifies air cleaners, so look for their verified seal.

Use a CO2 Meter

Since the coronavirus is most often spread by breathing, coughing or talking, you can use this meter that checks CO2 levels to see if the room is filling up with potentially infectious exhalations. A well-ventilated room will have around 800 ppm of CO2. Higher numbers are a sign the room may need more ventilation.

Good air quality is just one way to help protect yourself, your families and coworkers from the spread of the coronavirus. But you should not rely on ventilation alone. The EPA states , “By itself, increasing ventilation is not enough to protect people from COVID-19. When used along with other best practices recommended by CDC and others, increasing ventilation can be part of a plan to protect people indoors.” So, use ventilation alongside following the rest of the CDC’s guidelines; social distance, wash your hands, wear a mask, and treat frequently touched surfaces with disinfectants.

Cyclone Kleen Up can help with two of those guidelines. First, we’re able to help properly disinfect and decontaminate your home or facility as we provide decontamination services to commercial and residential properties across central Colorado. Second, we provide air duct cleaning services. The EPA found indoor air may be two to five times—and occasionally more than 100 times—more polluted than outdoor air and may cause health problems. To improve the function of your air purifiers, have us clean your air ducts regularly. That way you’ll be able to breathe easier – both literally and figuratively.