As we turn the corner on the pandemic, many of us are anxious to gather with the people we’ve missed and to enjoy the simple pleasures that have been denied us for well over a year.
But we’re not out of the woods yet.
If you’re vaccinated, you have a strong level of protection from a serious COVID-19 infection.
But as restrictions ease and more of us begin hosting indoor gatherings, experts say we need to stay aware that the virus is still among us.
For large gatherings, air circulation is vital for minimizing the risk of viral transmission.
But how can we be sure our homes and gathering places are safely ventilated?
One researcher has gathered proof that a simple and inexpensive solution can control the spread of the airborne virus particles that cause COVID-19 infections and make your next social function much safer.
The air in your space
Over the past year, there’s been concern about HVAC systems in homes and offices contributing to the transmission of SARS-CoV-2. That’s why it was widely suggested to open windows as much as possible during the pandemic. But oppressive summer heat makes that nearly impossible.
HVAC stands for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. In standard homes with an HVAC system, the entry of fresh air comes from doors, windows and cracks. Your home isn’t sealed airtight so that’s where the “fresh air” comes from that is recirculated through your HVAC system to be heated or cooled and returned through vents throughout your home.
Some commercial HVAC systems are equipped with devices that pull air from outside such as what’s known as an economizer.
But if you want to be sure the air in your home isn’t recirculating the SARS-CoV-2 or any other virus for that matter, room to room, there’s an extra layer of protection you can bring into your home.
Portable HEPA filters eliminate airborne virus particles
Dr. Ahmad Sedaghat is director of the Division of Rhinology, Allergy and Anterior Skull Base Surgery at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
“Guidance from the Centers for Disease Control indicates that we can rely on our HVAC systems to slowly decontaminate the air during an hour timeframe,” says Dr. Sedaghat. The HVAC system he’s referring to is in a hospital setting.
According to Dr. Sedaghat, “Studies in the medical literature are showing us that we can use portable air purifiers to do a better and faster job of decontaminating these airborne particles to keep our patients and staff safe.”
And you can do the same in your home to add a level of safety to your next inside gathering.
Along with an international team of researchers, Dr. Sedaghat conducted a systematic search of the literature on the effectiveness of portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) purifiers in eliminating airborne SARS-CoV-2 from indoor environments.
The team searched four major research databases: Medline, Embase, Cochrane Databases, and the World Health Organization’s COVID-19 Global Literature on Coronavirus Disease.
They found repeated evidence that “air purifiers with HEPA filters can be used as very effective means to decontaminate the air above and beyond what many HVAC systems may offer.”
“If you want to host larger gatherings, you should consider putting the air purifiers into your living room to help decontaminate anything that is released into the air,” says Dr. Sedaghat. “HEPA-based air purifiers work the best.”
Choosing and using a HEPA purifier in your home
COVID-19 is not expelled on its own. It must attach to something else to travel: mucus, a respiratory droplet or a piece of dust in the environment.
A HEPA filter does not kill the COVID-19 virus. But when droplets or dust are captured by the filter, this prevents the virus from circulating further in the air in your home, or elsewhere.
Think about the size of the area you want to cover. The manufacturer’s specifications will tell you the number of square feet the unit is meant for.
When choosing your air purifier, you’ll come across two abbreviations: CADR and ACH.
CADR stands for Clean Air Delivery Rating. This is the volume of clean air an air purifier can produce in one minute. The higher the rate is, the better the air purifier works, and the bigger the area it can service.
The other abbreviation, ACH, stands for Air Changes per Hour. For example, a unit that can completely change the air in a room four times per hour will have an ACH rating of “x4.” A higher ACH rating means cleaner air for a longer period.
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Portable HEPA purifiers to eliminate Airborne SARS-CoV-2: A Systematic Review —Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery
What is an Economizer and How Can it Benefit My Commercial HVAC Unit? — North East Air Conditioning
HVAC 101: What’s a Ventilator or Air Exchanger? — staycomfy.com
Cleaner air: Another layer of protection from COVID-19 — Mayo Clinic Health System