There's a greater focus than ever on providing airflow and filtration in enclosed spaces. One of the best ways to keep your employees and customers healthy and comfortable is to improve the design of your building's HVAC system. Although rebuilding an indoor HVAC system from the ground up may not be practical or cost-effective, there are still ways you can improve yours to improve health and safety.
Even once the current crisis ends, your improved HVAC system will continue to offer health benefits to your building's occupants. These three tips will help you to evaluate and improve your business' heating and cooling equipment.
1. Understand Your Current Airflow
When you walk through a room in your building, can you feel the air blowing across you? When evaluating your current situation, try to determine if your ducts' airflow may be blowing across multiple room occupants. While you want to cycle the air through your facility, you also want to avoid potentially blowing droplets from one person to another.
You have several options if you believe your airflow may be an issue. Installing a variable speed blower fan is one option since it will allow you to reduce your vents' airflow. A more straightforward option is to redirect vents to blow upward (if possible) to avoid blowing air across multiple people. Rearranging rooms so that occupants do not sit directly in line with air movement may also be helpful.
2. Upgrade Your Filtration
You will need to look at your HVAC filter's MERV (minimum efficiency reporting values) to determine if it is adequate for filtering airborne contaminants. For viruses suspended in droplets, a MERV rating of 13 or higher is necessary. Keep in mind that higher filtration levels also restrict airflow more, so they can sometimes force the rest of your system to work much harder.
If your current filter has a much lower rating (MERV ratings of around seven are typical), then you should consult with an HVAC professional before upgrading. In these cases, it may be necessary to upgrade or service other components in your system to avoid increasing the risk of future failures.
3. Supplement Your Existing HVAC
Finally, consider ways that you can cycle more air through your building. Window air conditioners and exhaust fans are two options for exchanging your indoor air with the outside environment. Although these solutions will reduce occupant comfort and HVAC efficiency, they may help keep your employees and customers safe. Avoid using any indoor fans that may circulate air in unpredictable ways.
If in doubt, always consult with a professional HVAC technician before making any significant changes to your building's heating or cooling design.