At Hurckman Mechanical, during these unprecedented times, we are regularly washing our hands and doing extra cleaning on frequently touched surfaces, but these are just a few of the things we are all doing to stay safe.
In addition, you might find yourself asking, “What should we be doing with our HVAC systems regarding COVID-19?”
The American Society for Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) came out with guidance related to COVID-19 last month. Its recommendations revolved around the following:
- Supplying clean air to susceptible occupants
- Containing contaminated air and/or exhausting it outdoors
- Diluting the air in the space with clean and filtered outdoor air
- Cleaning the air within a room
With these topics from ASHRAE in mind, here are some important steps you can take to be proactive about COVID-19.
Due to how new the COVID-19 virus is, there are no filters or building system features that have been proven to remove the virus from the air, so it is our recommendation to use outdoor air to dilute indoor contaminants.
Some HVAC systems control the amount of outdoor air flow based on demand. For example, your large open area HVAC system may bring in less outdoor air when it is at a lower occupancy. This energy-savings measure makes sense in a typical situation. However, the spread of coronavirus is not a typical situation. Consider asking your HVAC technician to stop the demand control ventilation while COVID-19 continues to be a concern. Setting your system to increase outside airflow will maximize the amount of clean air in the building.
Another option would be to “purge” the building by bringing in more outside airflow than required. The best time for this to occur would be during unoccupied hours, as your HVAC system is likely not designed to maintain temperature and humidity set points with this amount of outside air. During the many shutdowns and limited hours, this may be the ideal time to do so. This is something we can work with you on to accommodate an abnormal schedule. You can contact us in the service department with questions or special requirements. Be sure you talk to a building system or mechanical engineering professional before doing so, if needed.
If your air handling units have ultraviolet lamps, make sure they are turned on and operational. If your system doesn’t have these, now might be a good time to think about upgrading your system with this feature, as UV lights have added benefit all year round, not just in times of a pandemic. According to the EPA, HVAC systems with ultraviolet germicidal irradiation cleaners may help destroy pollutants such as viruses and bacteria.
While new filters won’t stop the spread of infectious disease, dirty or ineffective filters can exacerbate underlying respiratory issues that make occupants more vulnerable to COVID-19. We recommend focusing your near-term maintenance procedures in three key areas:
- Replace air handling unit filters on a regular and consistent basis. If your filters have not been changed recently, now is the time to do it.
- Look at increasing the Minimum Efficiency Rating Value (MERV) rating of your filters. The higher the rating, the more airborne particles you will capture.
- Cleaning the interiors portions of your HVAC Equipment i.e. cooling coils, heating coils, Dampers, Blower assemblies, etc. The cleaning should be accomplished be trained service technician since using the wrong cleaning products or procedure could damage the coils and/or void MFG warranties. Following the above steps will help ensure your HVAC equipment is providing clean air to the occupied spaces served.
- Air purification systems remove inhalable particles and pathogens – including dust, allergens, molds, VOCs, odors, airborne and surface bacteria, viruses and germs – to create healthy indoor environments where people thrive, while doing it efficiently and cost effectively.
Follow the Latest Guidance
There is no way to completely prevent the spread of COVID-19 in your businesses and buildings but proper maintenance and building operation strategies will help. It is also important to reference the World Health Organization, the Center for Disease Control and other government agencies for the latest guidance on washing your hands, cleaning surfaces and staying home when sick.
Hurckman Mechanical Industries, Inc. consistently monitors for HVAC updates from our industry leaders i.e. ASHRAE, MCAA, MCSA, SMACNA, etc. to ensure we are maintaining our customer HVAC system(s) properly, and providing any HVAC recommendations based on the COVID-19 pandemic.
What are we doing at Hurckman?
As the coronavirus pandemic and the response by key government and domestic and international medical organizations evolves rapidly, HMI continues to implement key measures to ensure business continuity and support the health of employees and those we work with on projects and office locations.
HMI has been reviewing and implementing actions to prepare, including the following:
• First and foremost, we are working closely with all employees to ensure that anyone who is ill or believes they have been exposed to COVID-19 is staying home. This includes mandating the recommended 14-day quarantines for anyone who has potentially been exposed.
• We are committed to keeping our customers updated on any confirmed COVID-19 cases within HMI. We will not divulge employee names but we will let our customers know if any of our employees who have worked at that customer location has been diagnosed with the virus.
• We have significantly increased communications and oversight of personal hygiene requirements for employees and visitors to drive better prevention practices.
• We are practicing social distancing to the extent that this is possible on the job, starting at 6’ apart but recommending 10’. If we have employees who are able to work from home, we are supporting those efforts.
• We have implemented sanitary processes throughout the company – wiping down door knobs, handles and other high traffic surfaces on a regular and consistent basis; providing hand sanitizer and soap; no shared food; cleaning trucks and equipment.
• We continue to monitor travel and have prohibited company travel to CDC Watchlist locations, while significantly limiting travel to other countries and locations. We are supporting employee use of telephone and video conferencing instead of face-to-face meetings as much as possible during this outbreak.
• We will comply with all customer policies and procedures related to COVID-19, including completing forms, signing guest registers, staying offsite when ill or after possible exposure, maintaining personal hygiene standards to prevent infection, and any other necessary steps to protect everyone involved.
The management team and board of directors at Hurckman Mechanical Industries takes the COVID-19 threat seriously and we are taking all reasonable measures to prepare for and mitigate the risk of COVID-19 to our team members, customers and our business.