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Indoor Air Quality During a Pandemic

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Air is essential for human life, and because of that the quality of the air we breathe has a major impact on our health. Humans today spend 80-90% of their time inside, the indoor air quality (IAQ) in our homes, offices, and other buildings has become an increasingly important public health issue as the nation deals with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Part of the challenge is that the problem is mostly invisible. Many pollutants are so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye, and a building’s air filters are typically out of sight and out of mind.

Fortunately, there are options for building owners, managers, and engineers to improve IAQ. Joe W. Fly Co. has been serving Texas’ IAQ needs for over 50 years. During that time, we’ve become the largest distributor of air filters in the state, so we’ve seen our share of filtration problems. Some of the things we commonly recommend include: 

  • Using higher efficiency air filters to capture more particles or optimize energy use 
  • Making sure filters fit and are installed properly to eliminate air bypass 
  • Establishing a routine preventative maintenance plan 

Higher Efficiency Air Filters 

The world’s leading health-related organizations consider PM10, PM2.5, and PM1 fine dust fractions as the most important and dangerous for humans. Because these particles are so small, viruses and other contaminants can penetrate deep into the lungs and bloodstream, where they pose a threat to our health. 

Fortunately, proper air filtration has been proven to reduce the spread of viruses and other contaminants. Research has demonstrated that appropriate air filtration limits the pass-through of virus particles. This result may be achieved with MERV 14-16 air filters, as well as with high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, when installed in suitable air handling systems. That is why, in the midst of Coronavirus, we recommend upgrading your existing filters to help collect unwanted pathogens from circulating in your facility.  

Preventing Air Bypass 

One of the most important things you need to do is ensure that air filters in your HVAC system are working properly and preventing air bypass. Common problems with HVAC air filters include: 

  • Filters are the wrong size or not installed properly 
  • Seals, spacers, or clips are missing or loose 
  • Gaps or holes allow air bypass 

The efficiency of air filters is typically measured according to Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV). When unfiltered air passes through the system, it effectively decreases the MERV level of your filters. A gap as small as 1/8 inch reduces filtration efficiency by an entire MERV point. This can cause a variety of problems, such as increased energy use, filters getting bent or blown through, and accumulation of dust and germs that can damage coils and feed mold or bacterial growth. 

Maintenance Plans 

There is more to maintaining your HVAC unit than just changing the air filters on a regular basis. While changing filters is a vital role in keeping the equipment and air stream clean, making sure the coil, drain pan, and interior cabinet is clean is just as important. 

In Texas, your HVAC unit is likely a hot, humid environment during the summertime months. Hot, moist air can lead to rapid growth of illness-causing mold and bacteria. The HVAC system in your building can become a hotbed for this growth if it isn’t properly cleaned and maintained on a regular basis.  

Joe W. Fly Company recommends cleaning your HVAC’s coil once a year. We apply a special probiotic formula that helps continually fend off build up of germs and pollution particles to ensure your ability to #BreatheEasy. Check the video below to see an example of a coil overdue for a cleaning!

Air filters seem like a minor thing—a line item in the operating budget that you just want to make as small as possible—but this is not an area where you want to cut corners. Skimping on filters or maintenance can end up as a costly expense and have negative impacts on occupant health. 

When Joe W. Fly Co. sends our technicians to assess a building, they thoroughly examine the HVAC system to identify any issues that could be negatively affecting operating costs and IAQ. Then they recommend ways to save the customer money and improve their system’s overall performance. Sometimes this requires new filtration products, but in other cases it could just mean minor changes in the way filters are installed or maintained. 

No matter what we recommend, the goal is always to deliver a better indoor environment in a way that’s cost-effective for you. Contact us to learn more about how we can help. 

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