Can your HVAC air filtration system get rid of COVID-19?

January 15, 2021

If you’re trying to make the air in your home or retail store healthier by capturing virus particles, it makes sense that you’d look at upgrading your HVAC filtration system. But can an air filtration system actually kill COVID-19 in a way that reduces risk? Let’s take a look.

According to the EPA, your HVAC system can help make indoor air healthier through ventilation and filtration. Proper ventilation “can help reduce indoor airborne contaminants, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.”  So running your system more often—by turning on the fan function, for instance—can help clear viruses and other contaminants from the air.

But ventilation alone isn’t enough to protect you, your family, your customers, or your tenants from the virus. It takes a multi-pronged approach, including ventilation, filtration, proper hand washing and sanitation, masking in public spaces, and social distancing to effectively reduce risk. But making improvements in each of these areas, including air filtration, can help keep people safe.

How does good air filtration help make indoor air healthier?

Good air filtration can remove many pathogens from the air. It’s not a silver bullet—air has to pass through the system before pathogens can be removed from your surroundings. But high quality, properly maintained air filtration will make indoor air healthier.

HVAC systems with disposable filters

Use a high-quality disposable filter

Not all disposable filters will remove viruses and other tiny airborne contaminants. Be sure you’re using a filter rated at least MERV 13 to ensure that it’s capturing viruses. Here’s a quick rundown of disposable filters based on their ability to filter out Sars-CoV-2 and other viruses. According to USA Today, “The COVID-19 particle is indeed around 0.1 microns in size, but it is always bonded to something larger.” In the world of masks and HVAC air filters, the ability to capture 0.3-micron particles is the standard; because of physics of airflow, these particles are the most difficult to capture.

The industry standard rating scale is the MERV rating, for Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value. HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air.

Here’s the percentage of particles the size of the COVID-19 virus (between 0.3 and 1.0 microns) that each type of filter captures:

MERV 13: more than 50%
MERV 14: more than 75%.
MERV 15:  more than 85%.
MERV 16: more than 95%.

HEPA: 99.97% of 0.3-micron particles..

Use the highest grade filter your system can take, but keep in mind that many highly rated filters are thicker and may not fit in your existing air filtration system. If yours won’t accommodate at least a MERV 13 filter, talk with an HVAC professional about your options.

Check your air filter positioning

Take a look at the filter in your system and make sure it’s properly fitted. If the filter is out of place or folded over, there could be gaps allowing unfiltered air to recirculate through the system.

Change your air filter regularly

Disposable filters need to be changed at regular intervals in order to be effective. Most need to be replaced every 3 months. To cut down on hassle, buy packs of filters and store them near your unit so a new one is always ready. When you change it, label the filter and the outside of your HVAC unit with the date. Make a note on your calendar or set a reminder on your phone to help you remember to change it.

HVAC systems with electronic air filters

These air-cleaning devices are attached to your HVAC system and remove tiny airborne contaminants by charging particles or by generating ions.

Clean the prefilters in your electronic air-cleaning system regularly

Most manufacturers recommend checking the prefilters in your electronic air filtration system every month or two months. According to ASHRAE, it’s critical to keep the wires clean because silicone buildup will make the unit less efficient.

If there’s a light coating of dust, use a vacuum with a brush attachment to clean the prefilter. If it’s greasy, spray with a disinfectant and allow it to sit for 30 minutes. Spray with water to rinse and leave to air dry before returning it to the unit. This post has more information on cleaning your filters.

Filtration alone won’t stop the virus. But getting an effective air filtration system in place is an important piece of the virus-mitigating puzzle. So clean or replace your filters and keep wearing a mask!

Photo Credit to One Beautifull Life Photo

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