Essential workers know the best advice to avoid COVID-19: Wear a mask, maintain social distance and wash your hands. But what about “essential buildings?” Ventilation improvements are another way to keep employees safe from the coronavirus.
The idea of improving building ventilation may trigger visions of expensive HVAC contractor invoices.
But the CDC says that’s not necessarily the case. Some improvements are no- or low-cost.
Among the no-cost options:
- opening windows
- inspecting and maintaining local exhaust ventilation, including bathroom and kitchen fans (even these smaller fans help circulate indoor air and diffuse virus particles)
- disabling demand-controlled ventilation (DCV) that reduces air supply based on occupancy or temperature – set the fan to the “on” position instead of “auto,” which will operate the fan continuously, even when heating or air conditioning isn’t needed to bring a room to the desired temperature, and
- opening outdoor air dampers beyond minimum settings to reduce or eliminate HVAC air recirculation (this works best in mild weather; cold, hot or humid conditions might make it more difficult).
Options less than $100/room:
- using fans to increase effectiveness or open windows (place a fan at one window to force out indoor air, so other open windows will draw in fresh outdoor air), and
- repositioning supply/exhaust diffusers to create directional airflow.
If you have a larger budget, you can consider:
- adding portable HEPA fan/filter systems, and
- adding upper room ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI systems can be in-room or in-duct).
The CDC reminds building owners and operators that ventilation measures don’t replace the need for social distancing, wearing face masks and hand hygiene.