Ensuring HVAC System Safety for Reopening Schools & Office Buildings

The current COVID-19 pandemic spread and breadth is unprecedented. Because of this, it is important that precautions are taken when reopening schools and office buildings. The question we find ourselves asking as professionals in the HVAC trade is this:

How do you return the HVAC system back to normal operations (and continued operations) during this pandemic? 

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has formed an Epidemic Task Force that provides guidance on how to re-occupy a building and what measures should be taken. Their recommendations can be found here. In this article, I will briefly discuss ventilation control and upgrading/improving filtration.

Several of us in the United States and abroad are lucky enough to live in a country where the outside air is very clean. Increasing air exchanges between outside/inside air helps to pull in fresher air from outside, reduce allergens, and increase air quality.

ASHRAE’s guidance encourages building operators to increase their system’s outdoor air ventilation as much as the system and/or space conditions will allow. Increasing outdoor air ventilation creates more air exchanges, but if not tempered, this could have a negative impact on: 

  • Indoor humidity levels
  • Indoor temperature levels
  • Building pressurization (if the area is unable to exhaust the additional air intake) 

The building system needs to be evaluated and tested with proper equipment by qualified HVAC professionals to ensure that the system is running safely and efficiently.

ASHRAE also recommends upgrading filtration to at least a MERV 13 filter efficiency. Higher efficiency filters help remove smaller particles from the air, but also require greater air pressures to force air through the filter. When changing the filter, make sure to validate the changes in airflow caused by the filter change. This will help keep the system running safely and efficiently.

In conclusion, increasing outside air input and improving the filter efficiency where necessary will help improve the wellness of buildings and occupants as our country reopens. Dwyer offers a complete suite of test and balance equipment and indoor air quality (IAQ) sensors for HVAC professionals when determining air flow, temperature, humidity, and building pressurization.