RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – With the cold weather upon us, we are spending more and more head indoors and in close quarters.
As a result, ventilation systems are considered the biggest defense against diseases, according to a specialist with Johns Hopkins University.
That is why people and companies are looking at filtration systems as well as retrofitting ventilation systems to make them more effective against COVID-19.
Terry Field is worried about coronavirus in his home.
“We really need to protect ourselves,” he said. “We don’t know what will happen.”
So, he and his wife decided to install something in their heating and air conditioning system to protect themselves.
It is a small device called an iWave that is about the size of a book. It goes right into the duct-work of his HVAC system.
“It seemed like a smart thing to do to help give up a little extra protection,” he said
With COVID-19 being an airborne virus, indoor ventilation is important because heating or air-conditioning systems can recirculate it. But, the ventilation system is also where the virus can be contained if the right equipment is there.
“Ventilation is the best way we know of to remove the virus from the environment,” said Dr. Ana Rule, a biological aerosols specialist at Johns Hopkins University.
But, are current office or home ventilation systems equipped to do that?
Rule said it depends on the design of the system.
Office buildings and schools use a mix of outside and inside air for energy efficiency.
“In the winter, we limit the intake of cold air so we don’t have to heat as much cold air,” said Rule. “We recirculate it more.”
One way to trap the virus in ventilation systems is to use HEPA filters.
HEPA filters are used in airplanes and hospitals, but aren’t designed for typical building systems.
“The higher the efficiency of your filter, like a HEPA filter, require more pressure from the motor of the air system to move all that air through the filter,” said Rule. “Not all systems are designed to move air through a HEPA filter.”
Rule said bringing in more outside air into a ventilation system can help dilute the COVID-19 aerosols.
The virus can be removed if you combine that with a high-efficiency air filter designed for your ventilation system.
“There’s different sizes and categories of filters that remove smaller and smaller particles,” said Rule.
But, filters aren’t the only solution.
An ionization device by RGF can be installed between the outside air intake and the vents of a commercial building’s air system.
It works by creating ionized hydro-peroxides that will attack and kill microbes like COVID-19 and other bacteria.
But, office workspaces and schools are not the only concern.
When it comes to protecting your home against COVID-19, there are a couple of different units that can be retrofitted right into the HVAC system.
Clay Ewing of Allen Kelly& Company said many customers are choosing to buy the iWave because it can work for a decade once it i in place.
“The actual benefit to this product is there’s no maintenance,” said Ewing. “You put it on and it will work for a ten year lifespan.”
There’s also a home version of the RGF REME HALO device.
“The bulb on this has about a 5-year lifespan, so it would have to be replaced after 5 years on the UV side of it,” said Ewing.
If a duct system is corroded or leaky, it may require a replacement of existing duct work in order to maker sure the coronavirus elimination devices like the iWave or REME HALO work correctly.
Because COVID-19 is a respiratory virus, avoiding exposure to it in the air is more critical than avoiding surface exposure.
Even with the vaccines now available, experts say we need to re-think the way we ventilate our spaces.
“We can’t be playing roulette,” said Rule. “We have to update the technologies.”
Ventilation systems do contribute to the transmission of the virus, so we need to do everything we can to stop COVID-19, or the next contagious pandemic virus, from affecting our indoor air supplies.
Breakdown of cost and installation of COVID-19 ventilation systems for your home:
There are several types of devices that can go into your heating and air conditioning system to help eliminate the COVID-19 virus from the air.
The iWave unit is manufactured by Nu-Calgon. The company said it will kill mold, mildew and viruses like COVID-19 as they float in the air.
The iWave costs between $980 and $1,100 to install.
How it works:
It creates positive and negative ions injecting them into the airstream of your ventilation system.
When they come into contact with viruses, bacteria, or mold, they decompose the surface proteins of those pathogens which kill them. The ions will also attach to allergens such as pollen and other particles causing them to clump together.
That makes them easier for your system’s air filter to capture them before they can recirculate into your home again.
When it comes to filters, you have to make sure you have one that can catch the virus while at the same time allowing enough air to pass through them so it won’t tax the motor of your ventilation system.
Air Filter’s are measured in MERVs, Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value.
When you go to a hardware store, you will see air filters labeled as MERV 1 through MERV 16. Doctors say 13 and above is enough to control COVID-19.
The other device we mentioned in our special report is the REME HALO unit which uses UV light to help do the job.
Manufactured by RGF, the unit costs between $1,100 to $1,500 to install in your ventilation system.
How it works:
The unit creates ionized hydroperoxides which are injected into the air stream of your heating or air conditioner unit.
Every time a hydroperoxide molecule comes to contact with a containment like COVID-19, it breaks down and destroys them.
The ions it creates also cause dust, pollen and dander stick together, making it easier for the air filters to capture them because they are now larger than the pores of filter.