The COVID-19 pandemic that’s sweeping its way around the world is an unprecedented crisis. In addition to the danger it poses to public health everywhere, it’s also causing massive economic disruption. No business owner could have anticipated these developments, but they are offering us all a lesson in the importance of creating safe and healthy spaces for all.
One of the most impactful ways to create those safe and healthy spaces is to ensure excellent air quality. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates there are over 1 billion cases of the common cold each year, while the World Health Organization estimates there are 3-5 million cases of severe flu each year. In the United States alone, the CDC estimates American business lose around 7 billion dollars annually in lost productivity due to flu-related absenteeism.
Without question, COVID-19 is orders of magnitude more dangerous than either the common cold or the flu. But the current global pandemic has highlighted the need for business owners to promote safer, healthier workplaces.
How virus spreads
All in all, there are more than 200 different types of viruses that cause the common cold and common flu. And while we all may be used to getting one or two each year, even mild colds or bouts of flu can cause us to miss work for a few days. Conversely, many people still try to work when sick, which spreads the illness to co-workers.
Most viruses are spread by direct contact with someone who is sick or when a sick person touches a shared surface, such as a doorknob. Sneezing and coughing are other common forms of transmission, as they throw tiny droplets which spread and fall on a range of surfaces.
Most notably, studies have also shown that some viruses can be spread through the air, including ductwork. These same studies have shown that virus can live in the air for hours and even be spread by breathing, and not just by coughing and sneezing.
This has obvious implications for the HVAC industry. As air quality professionals, we can educate our customers and business owners on the benefits of investing in high-grade HVAC filtration and cleaning, in order to mitigate the economic effects of annual absenteeism.
Creating safer and healthier air
There are a few ways HVAC professionals can help their customers create safer and healthier air in their homes and businesses.
One of the most obvious ways is to educate them on the benefits of higher-grade HVAC filters that can capture airborne particles, including those carrying virus pathogens. HEPA filters are typically used in hospitals and other critical care facilities because they capture around 99.97% of particles greater than 0.3 microns in size.
The trouble is that many virus pathogens are even smaller than this, so they can still pass through HEPA filters and into the ductwork. This is why more and more HVAC pros are also installing UV lights as well as HEPA filters. When pathogens pass through the HEPA filter, they’re disinfected by the ultraviolet rays.
Beyond installing higher-grade filters and UV lights, air quality professionals should be educating their customers on the importance of a yearly check-up. During these maintenance calls an HVAC professional can change filters, do a deep clean of blower fans and coils, and even arrange to have the ducts cleaned. It’s estimated that in the average home, up to 40 pounds of dust can accumulate in the ductwork each year, so you can only imagine the amount that can build up in a large commercial building.