Timberline Mechanical Offers Time-Tested Strategies for Reducing Airborne Pathogens in Commercial Building HVAC Systems

Published December 15, 2023

If you own or operate a commercial building, you have an obligation to keep occupants and visitors safe from airborne pathogens.

Air Conditioning System commercial building
Air Conditioning System commercial building

Unsurprisingly, your HVAC system is the foundation of that effort. And if the events of recent years have taught us anything, companies that take action to protect their team members, customers and clients develop strong relationships with those people, which can be a key to success, especially in challenging times.

What’s Circulating in Your Indoor Air?

Viral illnesses like colds, influenza (aka “the flu”), and others can spread from physical contact—like when someone covers their mouth with their hand when sneezing or coughing and uses a doorknob, after which someone else touches the knob and then their nose, mouth, or eyes.

Another way viruses can move from one person to another is through the air. When someone sneezes or coughs, they essentially launch particles into their surroundings, and because the particles are tiny, they can be carried long distances by airflow.

We’re all familiar with that mode of transmission. Still, because the particles are virtually invisible, it’s easy to dismiss it. But if viruses emitted light, like fireflies, we would all be shocked by what is buzzing around a room where someone recently sneezed or coughed!

Fortunately, while we can’t see virus particles, an HVAC system can trap them.

Time-Tested Strategies for Reducing Airborne Pathogens

Viruses aren’t living organisms. Still, they can be sneaky and persistent in their mission of infecting people, which makes them hard to manage. But the good news about airborne viruses, in particular, is that they can only go where the airflow in a building takes them, and your HVAC system can largely control that.

These systems circulate heated or cooled air to regulate the temperature in a commercial building or other structure. As they do so, the air moves through filters that can remove dust and other airborne particles, including viruses.

To get the most disease-prevention benefit from your system, take the following actions:

  • Use high-MERV filters. HVAC filters have a MERV rating (for minimum efficiency reporting value), which is essentially a measure of their effectiveness at trapping particulate matter. The higher the MERV rating, the more particles a filter can catch and the better it can protect building occupants.
  • Allow more outdoor air into the building. The air-handling components in HVAC systems have what are called outdoor air dampers. They control the flow of outdoor air into a building. By increasing that flow, you effectively dilute the concentration of exhaled particulate matter in your indoor air.
  • Run your HVAC system longer. During times of the year when viruses are “making the rounds,” it’s helpful to run your system for more extended periods since your filter can only remove particles from the air when the fan is operating.
  • Use ionizing devices. As we explain in an article on virus eradication, the ionization of particles causes them to clump together, making it easier for a filter to trap them. One addition to an HVAC system that we recommend is from a company called Global Plasma Solutions (GPS), which has patented a process called needlepoint bipolar ionization (NPBI).
  • Implement ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) capabilities. UVGI technology disinfects air using UV light. This light disrupts the nucleic acids and proteins in virus particles, preventing them from causing infections. UVGI devices are often installed in ducts and air-handling units.
  • Maintain moderate humidity. Experts believe that indoor air with a relative humidity below 40% is associated with a higher risk of respiratory infections. But, of course, high humidity can make a space feel damp or muggy. So, a humidity level slightly above 40% may be a good starting point, with modifications as needed to lower the infection risk while ensuring occupant comfort. It’s also crucial to keep humidifying equipment clean and free of mold and bacteria.

Other Considerations for Fighting Pathogens Effectively

In addition to the actions above, keeping your commercial building’s HVAC system operating efficiently and effectively is essential. Efficiency is vital since it keeps your monthly energy costs down. It also minimizes the strain on your system, which can reduce the need for repairs and extend the life of its components.

Operating effectively means delivering the results you expect. That includes maximizing the system’s filtering capability. No system can remove every virus particle, but the better your filter is at doing its job, the lower the exposure of occupants to pathogens and the lower their risk of becoming infected.

If you weren’t responsible for overseeing your HVAC system’s design and installation, it can be helpful to have our team assess its current condition. After an evaluation, we can recommend any changes necessary to increase its efficiency and effectiveness, particularly regarding its filtration system.

Once your system has been fine-tuned, you should consider a regular preventative maintenance program. Periodic inspections and service can keep minor problems from becoming major issues. That’s crucial since system breakdowns can be costly to correct, and downtime can increase occupants’ exposure to virus particles and other airborne substances.

Take Action Today to Protect Your Commercial Building and Its Occupants

Virus outbreaks can take a heavy toll on businesses, employees and customers. While there is no way to completely eliminate the risk of a virus spreading among building occupants, you can reduce the likelihood by making your HVAC system a cornerstone of your illness-prevention efforts.

Consequently, it is vital to get started as soon as possible by following the recommendations above. As we are all aware, it only takes one cough or sneeze from an infected person in the “right” conditions to put the wheels of an outbreak in motion. The sooner you ensure your HVAC system effectively filters virus particles from the air, the better.

Contact Timberline Mechanical today to discuss how your HVAC system can help you and everyone in your commercial building breathe easier.

About Timberline Mechanical
Timberline Mechanical is a Boulder HVAC Contractor located in Boulder, CO, and serving the Colorado Front Range, including Broomfield, Longmont, Louisville, Lafayette, Superior and Erie. We are dedicated to providing the intelligent solutions necessary to keep your Boulder Commercial HVAC equipment running efficiently and at its peak performance. Whether we are completing a service call request, providing Commercial HVAC Preventive Maintenance or conducting Special Projects work, we offer intelligent commercial HVAC solutions to ensure that your business needs are met. You can focus on your business while we make sure your commercial HVAC equipment is running smoothly. https://www.timberlinemechanical.com/

John Kuepper

Media Contact: 303-258-3589

Release ID: 841232

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