When it comes to public health, fresh air is a requirement, not an option. While no HVAC ventilation system can completely prevent a virus from spreading, dedicated outdoor air systems (DOAS), such as Reznor’s R7DA, provide fresh air and ventilation critical to virus mitigation.
If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that fresh air and proper ventilation are of critical importance. Even in the middle of a pandemic, it is necessary for many buildings to remain open for essential workers and work. Buildings need to provide clean air and safe spaces to protect both essential workers and nonessential workers who have returned to work outside the home. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ASHRAE have issued new standards and guidelines to address indoor air quality for a variety of applications. These new COVID-19 guidelines usher in a new era of normal for HVAC ventilation applications in large, public spaces.
In this article, we will discuss the CDC’s and ASHRAE’s recommendations for addressing indoor air quality going forward. We will take a look at Reznor’s R7DA Ventilation Unit, and its role in promoting clean and healthy air in a post-COVID era.
CDC & ASHRAE Standards
Even though information about the transmission of coronavirus is incomplete, the CDC & ASHRAE have released new standards for building operations during COVID-19. According to the CDC website and ASHRAE Journal’s article “Guidance for Building Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” it will likely be years before a scientific consensus is reached regarding many components of the pandemic. It is important to follow current and up-to-date guidelines in order to maintain maximal safety and air quality in large buildings.
The following are a series of new recommendations laid out by the CDC and ASHRAE to maintain the best air quality possible in indoor spaces and prevent viral transmission as much as possible:
Increase Ventilation Rates
Ventilation rates can vary significantly based on different building specifications. Different HVAC ventilation rates have been shown to affect people in different ways. Buildings with increased ventilation contribute to fewer adverse health effects and superior work performance. In several studies, buildings with above-average ventilation rates contributed to faster performance of standard office tasks, improved school performance and healthier building occupants. Fewer symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome, such as headache, irritation, dry cough, itchiness, dizziness and nausea were also reported.
At a time when health is of the utmost importance, fostering a healthy indoor atmosphere is critical. Increased HVAC ventilation rates can help reduce some of the negative effects of indoor air and keep buildings safe and healthy for their workers.
Provide Acceptable Indoor Air Quality
Indoor air quality (IAQ) plays a huge role in the health and comfort of building occupants. An important step in reducing the spread of coronavirus in indoor spaces is ensuring HVAC ventilation systems operate properly and provide acceptable indoor air quality for the current occupancy level of each space. With regulations reducing the number of people allowed in a building space at any given time, providing acceptable indoor air quality is essential in maintaining the health of building occupants.
Increase Outdoor Air Ventilation
Beyond general health and performance benefits, increasing HVAC ventilation rates can be beneficial in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in buildings. When coupled with lower numbers of buildings occupants and social distancing measures, higher ventilation rates help people breathe fresh, clean outdoor air as often as possible. It’s best to exercise caution and consult local experts about HVAC ventilation in areas of heavy outdoor pollution. For most buildings, increased HVAC ventilation is crucial to providing a safe environment for building occupants.
Disable Demand Controlled Ventilation (DCV)
In many buildings, DCV is an essential part of HVAC ventilation design. DCV considers the ventilation demands of a building’s occupants and adjusts outside ventilation air to meet those demands. For example, a building could automatically reduce outdoor air intake on the weekends when most employees aren’t around.
In a post-COVID era, it is critical for building occupants to have access to the cleanest and freshest air available, to help curb the spread of coronavirus. Disabling DCV is one way to do this. A huge concern for COVID prevention is its ability to spread rapidly in indoor spaces. While frequent disinfecting, social distancing measures, and decreased building occupancies can help decrease infection rates, access to clean air indoors is essential. Pairing decreased occupancy with increased outdoor air intake is a critical combination that can help keep occupants safe and healthy. In order to do that, disabling DCV is necessary.
Reduce or Eliminate Recirculation
The CDC has stated that one of the biggest ways coronavirus spreads from person to person is through respiratory droplets on surfaces or through the air. Access to fresh air is more important than ever, and recirculated air does not provide a clean, safe environment for building occupants. While a 100 percent non-recirculated air environment is ideal in a post-COVID era, in extreme temperatures this can be difficult to achieve, due to humidity and outdoor air temperature. In these situations, minimizing the amount of air recirculation is the goal.
Improve Central Air Filtration
Upgrade central air filtration to the MERV-13 or highest compatible with the filter rack. Seal the edges of the filter to limit bypass. When handling any sort of HVAC filter, remember that the filter itself may be contaminated. Personnel handling the maintenance, replacement or cleaning of these filters should take extra precautions to maintain their own safety and the safety of other building occupants. Make sure filters are properly sealed before disposing of them. When it comes to the spread of coronavirus in indoor spaces, you can never be too cautious. Without proper filtration and HVAC ventilation, viruses can incubate and spread rapidly throughout a building and from person to person.
It always bears repeating that it is important to check all filters to ensure that they are properly installed and within their service life. Today, buildings are built better: they are better insulated, more tightly sealed, and more efficient than ever before. Without proper filtration, indoor air can be significantly less healthy than outdoor air. It is important to ensure that the proper filters are used, correctly installed and properly maintained. Filters can block contaminants from circulating back into the building and keep pollutants out of indoor air.
Keep HVAC Ventilation Systems Running Longer
In order to enhance air exchanges in building spaces, ASHRAE recommends keeping systems running longer. If possible, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is ideal. Keeping systems running for as long as possible helps to increase the outdoor air in buildings and cut down on recirculated air. It can also improve central air filtration.
Consider Portable Room Air Cleaners
Consider portable room air cleaners with HEPA filters. Portable room air cleaners with HEPA-rated filters can remove dust and airborne pollutants from indoor air. Their portability means that they can be moved from room to room to provide the freshest air where it is most needed. Portable room air cleaners can help provide targeted clean spaces in buildings that are not yet operating at full capacity.
Consider Ultraviolet Germicidal Radiation (UVGI)
Sometimes, the nature of a particular space makes social distancing among building occupants difficult or impossible. Examples of these types of spaces include waiting rooms, prisons, and homeless or emergency shelters. In these situations, consider UVGI to help prevent virus spread. This ultraviolet lighting technique has been shown to deactivate viruses and bacteria in the air and on surfaces. While research on the effectiveness of UVGI is ongoing, results in certain applications appear promising. UVGI is most effective when used in tandem with fans and HVAC ventilation.
Many of these guidelines and standards described by the CDC and ASHRAE can be accomplished in any building or commercial space. However, some of these recommendations will require changes to the existing DOAS equipment in order to have the biggest impact on HVAC ventilation and indoor air quality. In order to maintain the safest of spaces, building owners may want to consider upgrading existing HVAC ventilation equipment for maximum effectiveness and safety.
The Reznor R7DA DOAS rooftop unit is configurable for makeup air and HVAC ventilation air applications. DOAS brings fresh, outdoor air into high occupancy buildings such as schools, restaurants and bars, medical facilities and retail shops. Reznor DOAS equipment is designed to provide comfortable, high-quality air for building occupants.
The R7DA is part of a product line that provides optimal indoor air quality (IAQ) and space comfort in commercial applications. It can be used to complement existing measures and safety precautions to help provide safer work experiences and high-quality HVAC ventilation for workers in commercial building spaces.
The primary features of Reznor R7DA include the following:
- 100% outside air intake damper and control
- Exceeds the minimum efficiency of 4.0 ISMRE per ASHRAE standard 90.1-2016
- Built to spec at the factory and already configured upon arrival to the job site
- More than 750,000 configuration options
There are many markets in which the R7DA can be used. Applications include:
- Grocery Stores
- Retail Shops
- Medical Facilities
- Sports Facilities
Though the way people interact with many of these types of spaces may have changed since COVID-19, most of them have remained open and operational throughout the pandemic. Many of these buildings are essential to community operations, so figuring out new ways to keep these spaces as safe, clean and uncontaminated as possible remains paramount.
At a time when indoor air quality has a true impact on the safety and wellness of a building’s occupants, businesses and building owners should consider upgrading their HVAC ventilation equipment. Reznor DOAS equipment options require only a small footprint and low cost. The R7DA provides dozens of highly configurable options, for the functionality of a custom-built unit at an off-the-shelf system price.
The Importance of Fresh Air in a Post-COVID World
Don’t take shortcuts when it comes to fresh air. While social distancing and individual measures may comprise the bulk of actions taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19, HVAC ventilation still plays a significant role in mitigating the spread of the virus. It is important to reiterate that in any indoor space, risk can be reduced but not eliminated.
In the short term, keeping spaces clean and safe is a priority, as commercial buildings remain open for essential work and people begin to return to office spaces, schools and more. HVAC ventilation plays a foundational role in providing safe air for people to breathe.
In the long term, the need for fresh, clean, healthy indoor air is clear. As we continue to develop new ways to keep public spaces safe, the importance of effective HVAC ventilation systems and DOAS equipment will rise. As a result of the immediate need for cleaner, fresher indoor air due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are likely to see a substantial increase in the number of buildings with higher-quality HVAC ventilation. These changes will continue to yield positive effects even after the threat of COVID-19, as they will result in higher indoor air quality and a decrease in negative effects, such as Sick Building Syndrome.
Call your Reznor Rep to find a product that works for you, your building and those who work in it. Choosing the correct product for your specific needs is important for optimizing effectiveness and efficiency in your unique space. For more information about Reznor HVAC ventilation products, visit www.reznorhvac.com or call 1-800-695-1901 to find a manufacturer’s representative.