Importance of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Human health and wellbeing are strongly linked to indoor air quality (IAQ), and as the pandemic carries on, monitoring and ensuring premium air quality in all indoor spaces is essential. In fact, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of improving IAQ, due to the fact that the virus is transmitted and can spread through the air. How can businesses of all kinds ensure clean indoor air now that restrictions have loosened and the expectation for good air quality has increased?

Group of employees in a conference room

Proper Ventilation Can Help Provide Fresh Air

Ventilation is when clean air, usually from outdoors, is intentionally supplied into a space while stale air is removed and focusing on indoor ventilation is crucial to providing fresh air and enhancing IAQ. With this, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has provided several tools to improve ventilation in buildings with varying occupancies, such as open outdoor air dampers beyond minimum settings, use of fans to increase the effectiveness of open windows, rebalance or adjust HVAC systems, improve central air filtration and inspect and maintain exhaust ventilation systems, all of which can be applied to reduce the spread of the virus and lower the risk of exposure.

There are a variety of ventilation systems, including air conditioning, air curtains, air recirculation, and air filtration, but they all serve the same purpose: to keep indoor spaces well-ventilated. They can also be used to control the temperature, humidity, and air motion in these spaces, while also protecting the health of the occupants inside.

Increasing ventilation is ideal for all buildings, but which upgrades or improvements are needed for the system depends on a building’s type, size, or features, along with the components of the system itself. While these systems are maintained by building or HVAC professionals in offices, commercial buildings, and numerous other settings, professionals should consult their government guidelines for their specific building and circumstances.

The Importance of Filters And What They Do

While reducing the number of occupants in a room is helpful, air filters are one of the main ways to enhance indoor air quality. High efficiency particulate air, or HEPA, is a type of air filter that can theoretically capture 99.97 per cent of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria and airborne particles with a size of 0.3 microns.

0.3 microns refers to the most penetrating particle size – or the worst case – and both larger and smaller particles can be trapped by a HEPA filter with even more effectiveness. According to Public Health Ontario, a portable air cleaner should be able to remove small airborne particles to be considered effective at removing viruses from indoor air, and this pleated mechanical filter can help in doing so.

MERVs, or minimum efficiency reporting values, demonstrate how effective an air filter is in catching particles of different sizes, specifically particles between 0.3 and 10 microns. This system uses a scale from 1 to 16, and the higher the MERV rating is, the higher the air filtration capabilities of a particular filter are. MERV 13 performance is known as the baseline for risk reduction in commercial buildings, as it means that 90 percent of particles larger than 1 micron and up to 75 percent of particles that are 0.3 to 1 micron in size can be removed.

Both HEPA and MERV 13 filters offer many benefits and play a key role in improving IAQ. Despite HEPA filters having a higher efficiency, there is a significant pressure drop associated with such filters and therefore HEPA filters cannot simply be added to all HVAC systems. MERV 13 filters may be less effective, but they are the most straightforward and cost-effective measure in many scenarios, according to one of the chief drafters of an industry-leading guidance for arresting airborne spread of pathogens and contaminants. Much like ventilation systems, selecting which air filter to use depends on the specific building and its requirements.

Surgically Clean Air

A leading Canadian manufacturer, Surgically Clean Air’s (SCA) portable air purifiers are built to enhance existing HVAC systems. Their JADE™2.0 air purifier can remove up to 99.9 per cent of airborne pathogens through multi-stage filtration technologies, which includes HEPA. While this one in particular is scaled to suit any sized space, such as general offices, retail centers, medical practices, residential buildings, and more, SCA offers several other air purifiers that are best suited for specific industries.

All SCA filters have a large airflow capacity, which is great for when cleaning air, but it is recommended to adjust the airflow based on the level of cleaning desired. With the expectation of good air quality at an all-time high, and human health and wellbeing on the line, improving IAQ is now more important than ever – how that gets done is up to the needs and circumstances of a building or facility.