By Tim De Stasio
It’s the year 2020 and COVID-19 has changed our world. We are re- thinking how we live, work, play and spend time with our loved ones. We are also spending more time in our homes. Children are learning from home. Many people are now working from their homes and many will probably continue to do so, even post pandemic.
|Healthy Air Initiative Price Guide*|
|Step One: Improve Air Filtration||From $350.00|
|Step Two: Test and Seal the House||Testing Starts at $350.00|
|Step Three: Add Fresh Outdoor Air||From $500.00|
|Step Four: Add Dehumidification||From $1700.00|
|Step Five: Add an Air Purifier||From $650.00|
As we are in our homes more now, we start to notice things about our home that we never knew were there. Customers are now calling us saying that they never realized that certain areas of their home were uncomfortable at 2 o’clock in the afternoon because they were never home at that time, until now. Other customers are complaining that they are having allergy and sinus problems while working from home. Some are even worried about air born pollutants, bacteria and viruses like the Coronavirus in their homes and businesses.
I want to be very clear about the intent of this article. I am not a doctor or a micro- biologist. But I do understand the science behind how air moves, how filtration and air purifiers work, and how to make the air you breathe in your home better.
I get a lot of calls from home- owners and business owners worried that the Coronavirus could be airborne and if there is a filter or purifier that can stop it. There is inconclusive evidence that the virus passes through an HVAC duct system and is redistributed in a building. If an infected person sneezes on a table, there isn’t an air filter or purifier on the market that’s guaranteed to kill the virus on that table. Nothing replaces good hygiene and sanitation. But there are so many other pollutants we should also be concerned with such as bacteria, mold spores, dust, pet dander, carbon dioxide and VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds).
Therefore, we have developed the Healthy Air Initiative for our customers. This is a multi-step process to improve indoor air quality. It can be customized to fit your budget and can be built on and improved as your budget allows.
There is inconclusive evidence that the virus passes through an HVAC duct system and is redistributed in a building. If an infected person sneezes on a table, there isn’t an air filter or purifier on the market that’s going to kill the virus on that table. Nothing replaces good hygiene and sanitation.
Step One: Improve air filtration. The typical HVAC filter is a MERV 6 or 8. It may be located in return grilles in the home or at the furnace. MERV is a rating system for the effectiveness of filters when they are clean. The higher the rating, the better the filter. But there’s a tradeoff. The better the filter, usually the more restrictive to air flow it might be.
To upgrade the air filtration, our new minimum standard will be MERV 11. This will probably require some minor modifications to your HVAC system. We will evaluate your HVAC system to see what the best solution is. In some cases, we may install a 4” media filter upgrade by your furnace. In other cases, we may upgrade your return filter grilles so they can handle a 2” filter upgrade. Starts at $350.00.
Step Two: Test and seal the house. Some pollutants are produced in the house by normal living, like carbon dioxide, pet dander and dust. Other pollutants enter unfiltered from areas like your crawlspace and attic. These leaks in your home bring in dirty, humid air that causes respiratory problems and wastes energy.
These leaks are hard to locate without specialized equipment like a blower door and thermal camera. Our energy team will test your home to see where these leaks are, then seal them. This removes pollutants at their source, rather than trying to deal with them once they are already in the home. Testing Starts at $350.00.
Step Three: Add fresh outdoor air. Since we are spending more time in our homes, we are generating more pollutants like carbon dioxide. Building components like paint, wood varnish and furniture fabric produce harmful VOC’s. Your typical HVAC filter is powerless against these. The best solution is to dilute these pollutants with fresh air from the outdoors. This is usually accomplished by installing a fresh air intake in a good location free from other pollutants, and a small duct into your furnace return. We will also ensure that this fresh air is filtered so we are not introducing other pollutants like pollen into your home. Controls are added to only bring in fresh air when your HVAC system is cooling or heating so this air can be conditioned before entering your home to maintain comfort. Starts at $500.00. However, during mild weather periods, which can be almost half the year here in NC, when your HVAC system does not need to run, your home will not be getting fresh air. So to fully benefit from fresh air ventilation, we need Step Four.
Building components like paint, wood varnish and furniture fabric produce harmful VOC’s. Your typical HVAC filter is powerless against these. The best solution is to dilute these pollutants with fresh air from the outdoors.
Step Four: Add dehumidification. We live in a humid climate. That humidity exists even in mild weather when your HVAC system is not heating or cooling. If we were to bring in outdoor when the HVAC is not heating or cooling, this could cause high indoor humidity which is a breeding ground for mold and other pollutants. A whole house dehumidifier is added that constantly monitors the indoor humidity and keeps it around 50% for ideal comfort and health. Humid outdoor air runs through the dehumidifier before it is ever introduced into the home. This means you can benefit from outdoor air practically year- round. Starts at $1700.00.
Step Five: Add an Air Purifier. Air purification technology has come a long way. There are some great air purification products on the market that render many forms of bacteria inert, neutralize odors, and cause other pollutants to clump together so they can be captured by your HVAC filter or even your vacuum cleaner.
Most HVAC companies like to push these products as the first step. But studies show that in some cases, air purifiers that are installed BEFORE filtration and building leakage are addressed can create dangerous by- products like formaldehyde and other cancer- causing agents. Therefore, we only recommend air purifiers AFTER these other measures are taken. Starts at $650.00.
Studies show that in some cases, air purifiers that are installed BEFORE filtration and building leakage are addressed can create formaldehyde and other cancer- causing agents.
Our “new normal” will involve us spending more time in our homes. These habits can potentially put us at risk for respiratory problems. Our Healthy Air Initiative will address the reasons for these problems at their source so you can breathe clean, healthy air in your home year- round.
By Tim De Stasio
Southern Comfort Consulting and Service is a licensed commercial and residential HVAC consulting contractor and service provider. Owner/ operator Tim De Stasio has over 20 years HVAC experience and holds numerous certifications in HVAC and Building Performance. To learn more, contact us or visit our website www.southerncomfortconsulting.com