Is Your Forced-Air Heating and Cooling System Spreading COVID-19

As most people have read, or heard by now, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has said that the virus that causes COVID-19 to spread is mainly from person to person through respiratory droplets.  These droplets are produced when someone infected with the virus coughs, sneezes, talks, sings, etc.  Should these droplets land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or inhaled into the lungs causes one to become infected.

In theory, infected droplets could be dispersed through a forced-air HVAC system and spread to other occupants, but this appears to be pretty unlikely.  Nonetheless, there are some companies that are using this heighten awareness and time of concern to sell additional indoor air quality equipment such as UV lights, whole house furnace mount humidifiers, and higher rated, more restrictive air filters.  Plus, some consumers are taking it upon themselves to add these items to their forced-air systems.

Here are just a couple of things to keep in mind as you decide whether to add a UV light or higher MERV filter. The nice thing about UV lights is that when properly installed, they are not likely to affect the air circulation, or the ability of your system to heat or cool. However, you will want to make sure the UV light that is selected does not produce ozone, and know that the bulbs must be replaced to be effective.

Changing to a higher MERV rated filter, which is more restrictive, on the other hand, can affect the operation of you heating and cooling as this will affect air circulation.  Restricting airflow, “starving” the furnace for air, can cause the furnace to overheat and cycle off due to tripping a limit switch.  As you run your A/C, a very restrictive filter can cause the evaporator coil to begin to form ice.

On the other hand, adding a whole house furnace mount humidifier is an affordable option without the concerns of UV lights and higher MERV filters, and not only makes your indoor living environment feel more comfortable, it also can help reduce the chance of being infected by airborne particle/droplet transmission by maintaining the proper level of humidity.   This is the conclusion drawn by researchers from the Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS) in Leipzig and the CSIR National Physical Laboratory in New Delhi from the analysis of 10 most relevant international studies on the subject. The airborne transmission of the coronavirus through absorption of the nasal mucous membrane is greatly reduced when indoor areas have a relative humidity of 40 to 60 percent. Hamilton does offer whole house humidifiers which are designed for installation by DIY consumers. We are happy to discuss this in more detail if you give us a call at 800-879-0123.

As a reminder, we generally recommend that air filters are changed a minimum of 2 times per year.  If, however, you have a lot of pets, or occupants, or if you run the blower fan on your furnace or air handler continuously, inspect the filter monthly and replace as needed. Remember, changing your air filter is one of the easiest things that homeowners can do to ensure proper and efficient operation of the equipment, and to avoid part and equipment failures.

In closing, remember to wash your hands often, use good common sense, stay home and quarantine yourself if you are sick or exposed, and do your best to stay healthy without losing your mind.

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About the Author : Gary Pawlowski