Life as we know it in Ontario, and the world for that matter, has certainly changed drastically in the last few weeks. Other than doing our part, like all Canadian citizens, and heeding to our government’s warnings and recommendations, there isn’t a lot we can do to control what is happening outside of our homes and around the world.
But you can take charge of your home and make improvements to your indoor air while you are spending more time than ever at home. Part of your current daily routine might be cleaning surfaces in your home and washing your hands – a lot. But did you know that your home’s HVAC system can also play a part in keeping your family healthy? Here are a few ways that you can reduce viruses and bacteria in your home’s air.
Choose a HEPA Filter
HEPA (High-particulate air) filters can improve your air quality by reducing debris, allergens, dust, bacteria, mold spores and some viruses from the air. HEPA filters achieve this with very small filter sizes. They can remove things as small as 0.1 microns from the air. It’s important to note that a HEPA filter can reduce the number of viruses in your home but can’t eliminate them.
HEPA filters needs to be cleaned regularly to keep doing their job properly.
Control Your Humidity
Humidity levels contribute to our personal health as well as the health of our homes and furnishings. Let’s skip over the fact that proper humidity levels in the home protect our hardwood floors, furnishings, artwork and pianos and get to OUR health. Improper levels of humidity will affect our breathing, sinus soreness, colds and flus, and the harbouring of dust mites and other critters that can bring on bouts of asthma. There is no such thing as the perfect temperature as we all feel heat and cold differently, but there is such a thing as the perfect humidity level.
In the winter, a healthy home should be between 40 – 50 percent relative humidity. In the summer, we should target 30 – 50 percent humidity levels to keep the health of our home at peak performance.
HRVs, ERVs and Humidifiers
A heat recovery ventilator (HRV) is a controlled ventilation system that reduces high humidity, pollutants and odours by replacing stale air with fresh warm air. The two air streams are always 100 percent separated. The fresh air introduced into your home is warm and dry and provides a permanently fresh, healthy, indoor environment.
An energy recovery ventilation (ERV) works by expelling stale, polluted indoor air and injecting fresh outdoor air by exchanging the energy contained in indoor air and using it to pre-condition the incoming outdoor air in your HVAC system. ERV goes a little further than the HRV units, as this type of system also captures some of the humidity in the air. In summer, the humidity in the outside air is removed before it is injected into the home. This saves energy by reducing the load on air conditioning systems and/or a dehumidifier.
Whole home humidifiers come in a variety of configurations. There is the drum type, where a rotating foam pad dips itself in a standing tray of water and air passes through the drum, transferring water into the air to create vapour. Next is the pad style humidifier where the pad is standing upright as water is trickled down over the pad while air passes over it, picking up the moisture and transferring it to the home. A step-up form of this model is the “power humidifier” that works on the same principle, but this unit has its own fan to deliver a higher amount of air across the pad. This process is a more efficient use of the water. All the above can assist in maintaining healthy humidity levels in varying degrees of competency.
Too much humidity
But what about too much humidity? The whole home dehumidifier extracts moisture out of the air by having the warm moist air passing over a coil like that of an air conditioner coil. When the warm moist air hits the coil, the water vapour condenses into a liquid and is extracted from the air. Not only is it controlling the ability for dust mites and other critters to survive, but it reduces the load on our whole home air conditioner, making the whole system more effective and efficient.
It’s also worth noting that the right humidity levels can make you more comfortable if you do catch a cold or flu. Low humidity can make your throat and sinuses feel drier, but boosting humidity can make you feel more refreshed and comfortable.
UV Lights to Reduce* Viruses
We know that UV lights are being used for many applications such as sterilizing hospitals, sterilizing water, germicidal lamps in food establishments, and even drying nail polish faster. It only makes sense that UV light can be applied to improving indoor air quality for residential HVAC systems.
UV lights neutralize airborne contaminants that air filtration alone can’t eliminate. Many inorganic particulates like dust and fibres can be controlled by a quality air filter. However, other indoor contaminants such as viruses, bacteria and mold spores can be so tiny that they easily slip through.
So how can we neutralize these pollutants? There are various UV lights available that can be installed inside your HVAC ductwork to expose these contaminants to the natural germicidal effects of ultraviolet light. As your home’s air flows through the ductwork the UV light continually disinfects and leaves it sanitized.
Being cooped up at home is a good time to pay attention to making improvements to your indoor air quality.
Your safety has been, and remains, our top priority. Home comfort is an essential service, and all our local ClimateCare locations have taken proactive steps to continue to provide you with service as best they can.
*The rate at which viruses are reduced varies by type and manufacturer.