What Heating and Air Conditioning Engineers Need to Know About COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended industries all over the world, and the HVAC industry is no exception. Indeed, the spread of a dangerous virus is being taken extremely seriously by heating and air conditioning engineers since families depend upon their HVAC systems being in good working order, not just for comfort, but for safety as well.
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air Conditioning Engineers, or ASHRAE, has released an official COVID-19 response to help ensure heating and air conditioning engineers perform their work safely for both their clients and themselves. Below, we’ll discuss some of the key things that engineers need to know to help to prevent further spread of this disease.
What Is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is an acute respiratory disease caused by a new coronavirus first discovered in 2019, hence, the name: COronaVIrus Disease 2019. While coronaviruses are common in humans and are responsible for mostly harmless diseases such as the common cold, the virus that causes COVID-19 has a much more severe effect on many people. While many people will have mild symptoms or even be entirely asymptomatic, some patients will experience a severe form of pneumonia that can prove to be lethal.
How Is It Spread?
As a respiratory disease, COVID-19 is spread from person to person by droplets that are produced when talking, coughing, or sneezing. The virus can also survive on many surfaces for a period of up to 72 hours. It can therefore be spread by touch if a patient coughs or sneezes into their hand and then touches an object. This makes objects such as door handles, tables, and other commonly touched surfaces vectors for the disease.
How Is It Stopped?
Since it’s caused by a virus, the spread of the virus can be slowed by thorough decontamination of surfaces. Proper filters in heating and air conditioning structures can help reduce the spread of the virus through droplets. In public areas, person-to-person spread can be reduced by regular handwashing and the wearing of a face cover, such as a mask.
Can It Be Spread Through Ventilation?
If a house is well-ventilated, it’s unlikely COVID-19 will spread through the vents. However, experts at ASHRAE warn that poor ventilation could serve to make the disease worse, both in its spread and in its severity for those who have already been afflicted. Since COVID-19 is a respiratory disease, recovering from it effectively requires clean, healthy, well-circulated air. This means that heating and air conditioning engineers are critically important for helping to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and for helping those already afflicted to recover safely.
Steps to Take to Reduce Airborne Spread
The CDC has reported on only one case of the COVID-19 disease apparently being spread by air conditioning. Notably, this was at a restaurant in Guangzhou, China, where the standards for HVAC systems are not nearly as stringent as they are in the United States or other countries. As long as ASHRAE’s standards are adhered to, the odds of transmission through heating and air conditioning ventilation are vanishingly low.
The virus is quickly dispersed by fresh air, so regular circulation is a key factor in reducing its spread. Airborne droplets can also be blocked by proper filtration. That means clean filters, clear vents, and an efficient HVAC system can do a lot to slow down the spread of the disease.
Other Disinfection Methods
While research seems to show that the disease is extraordinarily unlikely to be spread by a properly ventilated home, it’s still crucial to take as many steps as possible to prevent the virus, even if those steps seem to be redundant. Viruses can be destroyed by the ultraviolet light waves, so a proper disinfection system can utilize this to eliminate them.
One example that is gaining popularity is the Air Scrubber Plus system used by Entek. This is an extremely powerful purification system that utilizes UltraViolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) technology. This is the same technology used by hospitals and is even trusted by NASA to keep pathogens out of their most sensitive equipment.
Working with Building Owners and Residents
A key part of safety during the COVID-19 pandemic is collaboration. Heating and air conditioning engineers cannot do all the work themselves to slow the spread of the disease. Working together with building owners, workers, and operators is critical, especially since the disease spreads differently in different types of buildings.
For example, it’s likely to spread more slowly in a large house where the occupants can easily stay distant from each other. On the other hand, it will probably spread more quickly in a tightly packed apartment building. HVAC workers can help to reduce this spread by working closely with those who are in charge of these buildings and learning where all vents are, as well as any vulnerabilities the system may have.
Keeping Engineers Safe
Besides doing everything possible to avoid the spread of disease through HVAC systems and doing everything possible to maintain the health and well-being of clients, HVAC engineers should take every step to keep themselves safe from the spread of COVID-19. This is especially true since they will be visiting the homes of strangers to perform their work. It’s important they put forth the effort to avoid getting the disease themselves, both for their own health and safety and to prevent transmission to others.
As with anyone trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19, social distancing is key. An engineer or technician visiting a home to perform work should avoid getting close to anyone living in the household. They should also wear a mask to filter out any airborne particles. Vinyl gloves are extremely helpful, as well as the disinfecting of all tools and surfaces. Regular hand washing should become a part of every HVAC worker’s routine. If you’d like to learn more about the safety measures Entek is taking, please visit our website.