New HVAC Guidelines for Reopening and Reducing Risk of Viral Transmission

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Changes to the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems in buildings nationwide will play a key role in the reopening of American businesses. In May, The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) issued a series of recommendations aimed to curb the spread of COVID-19 once customers return to stores. ASHRAE’s epidemic task force took into account the current positions of the CDC and WHO on the most likely form of coronavirus transmission (respiratory droplets) and used that information to shape their reopening strategy. Key recommendations include:

  • Make sure all HVAC and electrical equipment is fully functional and up to date.
    • As a part of this step, you may want to check what equipment upgrades would be useful for continued pandemic operations, e.g., changing control sequences, upgrading filter types, and retrofitting equipment to support larger ventilation loads.
  • Provide ventilation flushing two hours pre- and post-occupancies.
    • Change your thermostat schedule to automate increased outdoor air ventilation. This includes operating the exhaust fans as well as opening the outside air dampers. For buildings without the capacity to treat large quantities of outside air and when outside air conditions are moderate, open all windows for a minimum of two hours before reoccupation.
  • Run the system on minimum outside air when unoccupied.
    • ASHRAE also recommends maintaining consistent, positive air pressure inside the building at all times to reduce risk of outside contamination.
  • Establish proper cleaning procedures for high-touch areas of HVAC and electrical equipment.
    • When possible, automate the control over thermostats, lighting, and other scheduled on/off loads to lessen physical contact with equipment. Otherwise, disinfect those high-touch areas frequently, especially the interior of refrigerated devices where the virus can potentially survive for long periods of time.

Contact us if you have any questions about how SiteSage can assist with safer reopening practices.

If you want to learn more about ASHRAE’s recommendations, please visit their resources page.

If you want to read about experts’ opinions on the role of building systems in the reopening process, check out this article from ACHR News (May 31, 2020).