In March 2022, the U.S. White House released the National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan, a “roadmap” to help fight COVID-19 in the future. While the plan on its face is for COVID-19 mitigation, it includes a “Clean Air in Buildings Challenge” to improve indoor air quality, an effort that, if successfully implemented, would help mitigate the spread of not only COVID-19, but also other infectious diseases, as well as tackle sick building syndrome. The challenge is “a call for all building managers/engineers, business owners, or organization leaders to take on key strategies to improve ventilation in buildings and implement cost-effective ventilation and air filtration improvements in buildings across the country.”
The clean air in buildings strategy laid out in the White House plan includes a checklist approach that includes the following:
- Steps and suggestions to help building managers connect with HVAC and other ventilation experts to make more extensive improvements, upgrades, or replacements to ventilation systems, fixtures, and equipment.
- Steps for increasing outdoor air coming into buildings.
- How to improve air filtration.
- Supplementing air handling with portable air cleaners.
Germicidal UV lights for HVAC systems and standalone upper air UV systems like those manufactured by Aerapy can play a crucial role in meeting the clean air objectives for buildings.
Is the pandemic over?
“Complacency is going to be the killer here. Despite the consensus some irresponsible people are calling the pandemic over or suggesting we’re done with mitigation efforts We said that last spring. Late last fall too. Then delta and omicron arrived.”
Gregg Gonsalves, PhD, Associate Professor of Epidemiology, Yale School of Public Health, March 6, 2022
As any remaining mask and vaccine mandates are lifted, it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security. But experts caution that vaccine immunity may be waning—Pfizer’s CEO just advised of the necessity of a fourth vaccine dose—and a subvariant of omicron, BA.2, is on the rise. BA.2 has been known to global scientists since mid-November 2021. It caused a second surge in Denmark this past winter and has been slowly spreading around the world, including within the U.S. As of March 15, 2022, COVID-19 infections were notably on the rise in the United Kingdom and Europe. China is suffering its worst outbreak since the start of the pandemic and millions of people in China are now in lockdown. In the U.S., according to a Bloomberg report, a wastewater network that monitors COVID-19 trends across the country warns that cases are once again rising. As of March 7, 2022, BA.2 was doubling in proportion every two weeks and represented about one in 10 sequenced cases in the state of New York. Harvard epidemiologist and health economist Eric Feigl-Ding estimated a late April/early May uptick in COVID-19 infections in the U.S. For those less concerned about infection from “milder” variants, recently published studies reveal the potentially devastating effects of even a mild case of COVID-19, including changes to and accelerated aging of the brain.
Preventing the spread of flu and other airborne diseases
Understandably, many people are anxious to return to “normal” but, given what we know now, it should be a new normal. Valuable lessons have been learned—or should have been learned—since early 2020. Today, we have the knowledge and a broader understanding of how infectious diseases are spread via aerosols and how effective mitigation strategies require a multilayered approach. During the height of the pandemic, flu rates plummeted—why wouldn’t we want that as the new normal? As personal protective layers fall by the wayside, it’s more important than ever to focus on cleaning the air in buildings to help protect the health of all. The cost savings in terms of employees, for example, can be measured against absenteeism, reduced overtime to cover absent employees, and costs to train replacement employees.
How to use UV light to clean air in buildings
In a public statement, ASHRAE was “encouraged that the White House recognizes the importance of buildings in continuing to fight COVID, as well as other public health crises to come.” The professional association, dedicated to advancing human well-being through sustainable technology for buildings, has been at the forefront of mitigating the spread of COVID-19 and creating healthier indoor environments. Included in the ASHRAE Epidemic Task Force’s “Core Recommendations for Reducing Airborne Infectious Aerosol Exposure” is air cleaning guidance that Aerapy products address:
Ventilation, Filtration, Air Cleaning
2.1 Provide and maintain at least required minimum outdoor airflow rates for ventilation as specified by applicable codes and standards.
As cited in the White House Plan, improved ventilation and increased outdoor air coming into building are excellent recommendations but the reality of buildings today is that they are designed to be “tight” for energy efficiency and occupant comfort. Further, mechanically pumping in adequate amounts of fresh air cannot only be cost prohibitive, it can create a significant carbon footprint. Many modern buildings have few or no operational windows to increase ventilation and, even with those that do, other practical factors come into play. Who’s opening windows when it’s below freezing outside or over 100°? And what about open windows versus security protocols? Urban spaces must also contend with relentless street noise. In short, increasing ventilation is not always an option. So, what should buildings do when ventilation cannot be increased? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) among other experts suggest harnessing the power of UV-C light as a supplemental treatment when options for increasing ventilation and filtration are limited. Learn more in “But What If You Can’t Increase Ventilation?”
2.2 Use combinations of filters and air cleaners that achieve MERV-13 or better levels of performance for air recirculated by HVAC systems.
From the beginning, Aerapy has utilized a combination of MERV-8 filters with the right amount of UV to achieve a greater than 99.9% kill rate in one air pass. This meets or exceeds the “proper installation and maintenance of MERV-13 air filters” recommendation in the White House plan. For some indoor spaces, higher rated MERV filters are not recommended. Simply put, not all HVAC systems can handle the static pressure and high airflow restrictions of MERV-13 and HEPA filters. Further, some spaces are limited due to industry-related variables. For example, in the animal care industry, no greater than a MERV-8 is often recommended due to the excessive amount of animal hair that can block airflow. In short, there can be no “one size fits all” solution of simply using a MERV-13 filter. But by combining the power of Aerapy UV with a more appropriate filter, a MERV-13 or better level of performance can be achieved.
2.3 Only use air cleaners for which evidence of effectiveness and safety is clear.
UV as an air cleaner has a well-documented and science-backed history of effectiveness and safety. But not all UV manufacturers meet the standards you need for both safety and effectiveness. Aerapy has manufactured researched, tested, and study-backed UV products since 2008. Our UV disinfection technology has been tested against bacteria, including MRSA, and viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, and achieved a greater than 99.9% pathogen reduction in one air pass. Moreover, Aerapy upper air UV products are ETL (UL 10598) certified and have passed testing by ETL to ensure safety for use in occupied spaces and to meet the photobiological requirements based on IEC/EN 62471 standards.
Air cleaning UV light for HVAC
HVAC systems can play a crucial role in creating and maintaining clean air in buildings. In-duct UV lights work in concert with HVAC systems to prevent the spread of infectious disease throughout an indoor environment. With Aerapy UV equipment installed, as air enters your air intakes, it passes through our in-duct UV systems that neutralize both coil surface and airborne mold, viruses, bacteria, and other harmful microorganisms before they circulate throughout your indoor environment. Having UV as part of a building’s HVAC system is common today but is often for the primary purpose of coil cleaning versus air cleaning. This is certainly a smart and money-saving benefit of using UV in your HVAC system, but HVAC equipped with UV designed for air cleaning also helps mitigate pathogens in the air—same principle but potentially different outcomes if a key goal is to prevent the spread of infectious disease. Coil cleaning is not the same as air cleaning and, for the health of a building and its occupants, it’s important to understand the difference. Aerapy UV for HVAC systems is designed for, and properly sized to, prevent the spread of infectious disease as well as clean coils. When connecting with HVAC experts, as recommended in the White House plan, make sure they understand the difference and consider UV for air cleaning as an improvement or upgrade to your HVAC system.
Upper air GUV
For those with HVAC air cleaning in place you’re already ahead of the game, but it can take hours for air to circulate throughout a building. For those who need immediate air cleaning in more specific areas, upper air (also known as upper room) UV systems offer a targeted solution. Also designed for buildings with no HVAC in place, Aerapy’s standalone upper air germicidal UV products offer immediate airflow, circulation, and disinfection. Aerapy upper air UV products are currently used in restaurants, schools, healthcare facilities, fire stations, offices, banks, meat packaging plants, churches, and other indoor environments where people gather. Depending on the product, these air cleaning UV solutions are either ceiling-mounted and direct wired or wall-mounted and designed to simply plug in, providing a fast, effective, and portable (if needed), air cleaning solution.
Aerapy UV disinfection technology
Aerapy offers science-backed and award-winning UV-C disinfection light solutions. As a respected UV manufacturer and innovator since 2008, Aerapy is your trusted partner for UV devices for upper room and HVAC disinfection. To schedule a free UV consultation, call us at 866-994-2473 or contact us online.