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HOMEOWNER TIPS:

COVID-19 vs HVAC IAQ

TIPS FROM HVAC PROFESSIONALS ON HOW TO PROTECT YOUR HOME FROM THE NOVEL CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19)

· Coronavirus,COVID-19,respirator,air filter,Barrington HVAC

Quote of the Season:

“You’re like air to me, I need you to be there, but I don’t want to see you or think about you. I just need to know, to believe, that your there. However, If I am thinking about you then we both have a problem.”

                                    -Unknown General

The entire planet is on high alert and closely monitoring the 24-hour news updates from around the world commenting on new safety measures, people that are infected and those that have died due to the Novel Coronavirus (COVID19).

It seems like every minute of every day, Scientists are discovering more and more about the coronavirus and ways to stop the spread or cure those infected. Now, the latest updates reveal that the virus can be transmitted via Aerosol (air), Direct Contact (Touch) and Respiratory Droplets (Sneezing & Coughing). It’s not uncommon in the Barrington area to see people preparing for the worst by stocking up on food, water and basic necessities.

Many fear that its only a matter of time before a quarantine is implemented in the United States to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. In this article, we will be discussing things you can do to prepare your home to keep you and your family healthy and safe.

We are nearing the end of the Influenza season, about to enter the allergy season and now we also have a deadly virus sweeping the globe. Maintaining a safe and healthy home is now more important then ever. This includes keeping your home & the air in your home free from unwanted contaminates that could lead to asthma, allergies, respiratory diseases and other various health conditions.

Sanitary Measures

Coronavirus can survive on surfaces in your home, car or office for over 3-days so proper sanitation should be a priority to reduce the risk of infection.

  • Wash your hands as often as possible and avoid touching your face throughout the day until directly after washing your hands.
  • Use paper towels in public restrooms instead of the air powered cleaner.
  • Wipe down all of the surfaces in your home with a disinfecting cleaner.
  • Carry around sanitary wipes or +70% ethyl alcohol to sanitize things such as your cellphone, work space, computer and other things that you commonly touch or bring near your face.

Open Your Windows

Some people may find it logical to keep your home tightly sealed in order to keep the virus out. This practice causes the air in your home to become stale and unhealthy, eventually leading to what they call “Sick Building Syndrome” due to a lack of ventilation.

  •  Open your windows to allow the fresh air to sweep through your home and replace the stale air.
  • Use an electric fan to help improve the ventilation if necessary. Some people may find it logical to keep your home tightly sealed in order to keep the virus out. This practice causes the air in your home to become stale and unhealthy, eventually leading to what they call “Sick Building Syndrome” due to a lack of ventilation.
  • Have your furnace cleaned and change your air filter.
  • Try to keep clutter to a minimum around the house to allow for proper air circulation in your home. 

Improve Your Home Ventilation System

Homes have become more energy efficient over the years as technology improves the ways we insulate and seal homes. This allows homeowners to save money on heating and cooling but also creates a situation where the home cannot breath. To improve the ACH (Air Changes Per Hour), Fresh air ventilators are recommended and sometimes required in many municipalities to allow the stale air inside to be exchanged with fresh air from outside.

  • Heat Recovery & Energy Recovery Ventilators: Similar to fresh air supply ventilators but these systems balance the pressure in your home by adding fresh air and removing stale air. Some equipment will also filter, heat, cool and/or dehumidify the fresh air that enters your home prior to being introduced into your HVAC System.

Control Humidity At Home & In Your Office

  • Make it common practice to keep the Relative Humidity(RH) level in your home and/or workplace between 40% and 50% to promote good health for you and your home.
  • Proper maintenance and care for you humidifier and/or dehumidifier is a crucial part of keeping the relative humidity level in your home at a safe level.
  • Levels below 40% Relative Humidity provide a breeding ground for Micro-Organisms (Microbes) such as bacterial and viral infections to thrive.
  • Typically these infections are trapped in microscopic water droplets (aerosols) that originate from a sneeze or cough. Naturally dry out when the humidity levels are low which allows the virus to take flight and drift further throughout the air in your home.

Example: Imagine one of the many cottonwood trees we have in the Barrington area after a rainstorm. The wind could blow but the seeds will not go anywhere but when the sun comes out the next day, those seeds dry out and float miles away.

What About Air Purifiers and Filters?

Most homeowners are correct to assume air purifiers help those with respiratory problems by removing odors and large particulates (ie. mold, pet dander/fur, pollen & dust). But are they capable of removing or reducing virus particles such as Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

  • "NIOSH N-95 Respirator” is being used by healthcare professionals around the globe to protect them from catching or spreading Coronavirus. This respirator is comparable to some furnace air filters available that deliver hospital quality air filtration. An N95 respirator and air filters with a MERV16 rating share the same ability to filter out 95% of particles that are 0.3 Microns in size or larger.

*PLEASE NOTE: A MERV rating of 16 or above is equivalent to the efficiency of a NIOSH N-95 Respirator.

Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV)

  • Rating from 1 to 20 awarded to certified air filters that classifies them into groups based on their ability to capture particles (measured in microns). As the MERV rating increases so does its ability to capture smaller particles such as viruses. The drawback is that as the filter efficiency increases, so does the restriction of the filter media.
  • Increased restriction puts additional stress on your HVAC system and leads to a variety of problems including premature failure, overheating, ice accumulation (A/C) and many other issues due to improper air flow.

Why is .3 Microns The Smallest Measured MERV Particle Size?

"Coronavirus (COVID-19) Particles are typically .125 Microns" - CDC

  • The standard MERV rating based on particle size does not mean that it is ineffective to smaller particles such as those found in the Coronavirus (COVID-19). It simply does not specifically test for its effectiveness on filtering particles less then .3 Microns.

    • The University of Minnesota has published studies regarding an air filters effective ability to remove smaller particles. See Link for more information.

  • The .3 Micron sized particles are the standard measured because it is among one of the most difficult particles to capture. Its density (size/weight) and trajectory makes it more likely to travel in a laser straight path that easily penetrates most air filter media.

    • In comparison to smaller, less dense particles tend to travel in somewhat of a zig-zag pattern as they try to float through the air. This allows the smaller particles to collide with and stick to the air filter media more often.

  • According to studies published by NASA, based on the laws of diffusion, HEPA filters are capable of removing "Virtually 100% of particles," even nano-particles. The zig-zagging nano-particles are trapped by most filters as they are likely to stick to the filter media fibers upon collision.

Example:

  • To understand this theory, picture a fish net. If you were to sweep a net through a tank densely packed with fish both (small and large), you would end up catching both the small fish and the large fish. Some of the small agile fish may have the ability swim straight though the net but you would still catch a mix of both sizes including a large amount of those small fish that may not be crafty enough to find the holes in the net.

Air Filter Rules & Guidelines

  • A standard 1” filter should never have a efficiency rating above MERV8 due to it’s limited surface area.
  • Filters with an efficiency rating that exceeds MERV10 should typically only be used in sizes that are 4 inches or wider due to the increased surface area.
  • Think of it like an accordion, if you were to stretch out a 1” wide filter, it may barely double in size. If you were to stretch out a filter that is 5” wide, the surface area would be 5 times the size of a standard 1” filter.
  • Please refer to your local NATE certified HVAC technician or equipment owners manual prior to purchasing or installing any filters with a rating above MERV8.

Alternative IAQ Options

There are many additional solutions for those of you who want enhance your indoor air quality even further and also for those seeking protections from airborne viruses but do not have HVAC equipment that is compatible with MERV16 Filters.

HEPA Filters

High Efficient Particulate Air (HEPA) filters are the next step up from a MERV16 Carbon Media Filter. A whole house HEPA system must be professionally sized and installed on to your existing duct work.

  • These filters have been awarded a efficiency rating between MERV17 and MERV20 (comparable to NIOSH N-99 Respirators).
  • They offer the highest level of protection against airborne viruses and are capable of removing 99.9% of particles that are 0.3 Microns in size or larger.

Ionizers

Ionizers have been around for a long time but were big, they required constant maintenance to be effective and were later found to have negative side effects due to the ozone created. Today, we have Self-Cleaning, Ozone-Free, Active Ionizers are a relatively new product in the HVAC industry.

  • They work by creating charged ionized particles that are distributed throughout your home. The ionized particles latch on to contaminates in your home such as; bacteria, dust, mold, dander, viruses, odor or any other volatile organic compound.
  • The charged ions cause these contaminates to stick together and form larger particles that can then be trapped by your air filter and the organic particles are killed by the UV light.

Testimonial:

“It’s truly incredible how quickly it started working. After only on week we noticed our home feeling cleaner, the air smells fresh and I couldn't believe the amount of things trapped on our air filter. I’ve never seen an air filter so dirty.“ - ICEHVAC Customer

UV Sterilization

  Ultra Violet (UV) purification systems do filter your air to an extent but their primary purpose is to sterilize the inside of your HVAC system. The UV light eliminates the growth of mold, bacteria, viruses and any any other biological organisms inside your HVAC system.

  • These particles would otherwise stick to things such as your ducts, blower wheel, evaporator coil or any other surfaces only to be released back into your home.
  • This is not typically an alternative to proper air filtration but it is an additional layer of defense against the spread of viruses, bacteria, germs, mold and many other various particles leading to unwanted health problems. Some companies like, RGF Reme Halo, do offer both UV and Ionizing technology in one piece of equipment.

Testimonial:

  “We hired Josh recently to install a new UV filter on our furnace. You see, we have 2 dogs, and every floor (save for the kitchen and bathrooms) is carpet. The wife has allergies that never really go away, even in winter. Ever since we installed the filter, she especially has a marked increase in her breathing quality. Happy wife, happy life. Bonus that Josh was easy to talk to and schedule with. No surprises on the final bill and everything looks beautiful. I'll be keeping them for any future furnace/ac needs.” -ICEHVAC Customer

Here at ICEHVAC, our friendly NATE Certified technicians and comfort advisers are always more then happy to educate our community with helpful tips on Heating, Air Conditioning and Indoor Air Quality. Please don't hesitate... Really... Feel free to Call, Email or even text message us at any time. We really appreciate you for taking the time to read this article and hope you learned at least one new interesting fact today.

FOR MORE DETAILED INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT

Disclaimer: Please note, Indoor Climate Experts HVAC is a heating, air conditioning and indoor air quality company located Barrington, Illinois is not and does not claim to be medical doctors. Indoor Climate Experts HVAC is not providing medical advice of any
sort and this article is written based on a collaboration of first hand knowledge & experience in the indoor air quality industry, sited/linked research by credible professionals among various industries and the opinion of NATE Certified HVAC technicians at Indoor Climate Experts HVAC. Please contact a licensed medical doctor for any health related questions or call 911 if you have a life threatening emergency.

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