CleanAir Solutions Blog
How Ultraviolet Light Air Purification Can Protect You From Coronavirus
The days when learning about cutting-edge air purification techniques was reserved for research scientists, healthcare workers and infectious disease specialists are long gone.
Today, we all need to know as much as we possibly can about how to make sure our air is clean and safe to breathe.
Contrary to popular belief, this is not just because of the coronavirus, although that is certainly the most urgent reason.
Today, our indoor air is up to five times more toxic than our outdoor air. This keeps our immune systems overburdened nearly 24/7, which means when a serious health emergency occurs, we often don’t have access to the full might of our body’s protective response to help us stay healthy.
In this post, we go into detail about the former so that you can understand exactly why and how it works to keep you safer.
P.S. Be sure to read to the end of this post for a special offer to help you add UV air purification to your home or workplace!
What Is Ultraviolet Light Air Purification?
When you first saw the title of this post, you may have had the thought, “Ultraviolet light? But isn’t that supposed to be harmful? Doesn’t it cause skin cancer?”
The answer is “yes,” if you stand in front of it for multiple hours each day.
This is why we are strongly advised to cover up during the hottest parts of the day and to wear sunscreen and protective clothing and eyewear that blocks UV rays when we go outside.
Ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, or UVGI, which is the technical name for ultraviolet purification, doesn’t require you to bask in UV light though. Instead, the UV light is concentrated on the air.
Our sun produces three bands of ultraviolet light: A, B and C. Of these three, UV-C is by far the most powerful.
When we go outside, it is actually only UV-A and UV-B that we are protecting ourselves from. UV-C is blocked from reaching us by the ozone layer that surrounds earth (which is also why it is so important to pay attention to ozone alert days and to stay indoors on these days).
Short-wave UV-C, or short band UV-C, is the type of ultraviolet light used for UVGI.
How Does Ultraviolet Light Air Purification Work?
UVGI harnesses the power of UV-C light for concentrated disinfection. UVGI units focus the UV-C directly on one of two places:
1. The air stream itself.
2. The HVAC system coils.
For applications where the air stream itself is to be irradiated, the space is typically unoccupied or divided into upper room and lower room, where only the upper room airstream is irradiated to keep the lower room airstream safe for occupants.
For most residential or commercial spaces, the UV-C light is concentrated on the HVAC system coils instead. As the air passes over the coils, it gets exposed to the UV-C light.
This exposure is what destroys any dangerous liquid or gaseous bio-organic toxins, viruses, bacteria, fungi, microbes and/or micro-organisms that may cause health problems for people.
Why Does Ultraviolet Light Air Purification Work?
When harmful bio-organic matter is exposed to concentrated UV-C light, the light causes irreversible damage.
While this is a drastic over-simplification of how this process works, you can kind of think of it like taking a tiny toxic microbe and tossing it into a skillet. Even if it was dangerous going in, it sure won’t be coming out!
Ultraviolet light’s “skillet effect” is caused because the light band damages the organic nature of the toxin and disrupts its normal function.
So, for example, take a COVID-19 airborne droplet:
The droplet is composed of a thin protective outer membrane made of organic matter. Inside that membrane is the droplet’s RNA, the virus sequence that is set to replicate and cause COVID-19 in its host (AKA you).
When the UV-C light band hits that droplet, it destroys the outer protective organic membrane, exposing and damaging the RNA inside so it cannot replicate. This is how UV-C works to protect you from getting sick with COVID-19 even if there are infectious droplets in your air.
Of course, here, the trick is making sure that the air gets exposed to the UV-C light before you get exposed to the air!
How to Use Ultraviolet Light Purification to Protect Yourself
There are two main ways you can use ultraviolet light to protect yourself, your family and your workers from catching the new novel coronavirus.
1. Install a central (ducted) UV air purifier.
If you have a ducted HVAC system, you can add a UV air purifier that will irradiate your coils and neutralize any incoming toxic particles.
You will also need to seal and weatherstrip your home to block any air leaks or cracks.
2. Add a portable UV air purifier to your space.
For non-ducted spaces, you can still get the protective benefit of UV air purification by adding a portable UV unit to your space. Portable UV purifiers pull the air in, irradiate it and then push it back out again.
You may need more than one portable unit if you have a multi-room space.
Get $50 Off A Whole-Home U.V. Filtration System
Right now, get $50 off your purchase of a whole-home UV system.
If you want to combine this with an indoor air duct cleaning (highly recommended to remove bio-organic toxins trapped in your air ducts that the UV system won’t be able to reach), you can also get 10 percent off this service now.
Contact Clean Air Solutions
We are open to serve you safely with contact-less options during this difficult time.
Learn How to Safely Change Your Air Filter During COVID-19
After many decades of being an industry niche topic, air filtration has suddenly become headline news, and we know exactly what we have to thank for this dramatic spike in interest.
Even while some areas within Canada are seeing a reduced incidence of new COVID-19 cases, other areas are still struggling to get to this game-changing point.
On a bigger-picture level, predictions indicate the coronavirus could come back around again as the cool season returns and cold and flu season along with it.
On the subject of cold and flu season, there is also breaking news of a new prospective threat coming out of China - a new novel flu strain for which no vaccine currently exists.
With concerns about indoor air quality and exposure risk at an all time high, it can seem like we have a lot more questions than answers on the topic of indoor air quality and air filtration.
Here at Clean Air Solutions Hamilton, you have been calling to ask how to safely change a dirty air filter. This is a great question - read on to learn what to do!
What Toronto Engineers Say About Air Filter Risks
Right here in Toronto, a team of world-class engineers has received nearly half a million dollars to study the problem of airborne SARS-CoV-2 transmission.
You may recall that as recently as a few weeks ago, leading health organizations were emphatic that the new novel coronavirus could not be transmitted via lightweight airborne droplets.
Our own engineers have since turned that theory upside down.
While lead engineer Dr. Jeffrey Siegel states that airborne transmission still is not considered the new novel coronavirus's primary mode of transmission, it is definitely a risk factor.
This places a priority on learning how to safely handle HVAC system maintenance and repair needs, including the need for routine air filter changes.
Dr. Siegel emphasizes that air filters are possible transmission points. For this reason, always assume that any air filter has the capacity to transfer active micro-biological contaminants to humans.
Because COVID-19 can be transferred from an asymptomatic (seemingly healthy) person to other people, it is currently not possible to assume no one in your home or workplace has been exposed.
Instead, you should simply take all of the following precautions when handling air filter changes for any HVAC system or air filtration unit inside your space.
Why Are Regular Air Filter Changes Important During COVID-19?
As we mentioned in the introduction here earlier, we have begun to receive a number of calls from concerned customers who wonder if it is safer to just leave their air filter alone for now.
We do not recommend this for a number of reasons, chief among which is that the dirtier your air filter gets, the more likely it is to become a fire risk.
A dirty air filter that is left in place will also begin discharging small amounts of clogged particulates back into your indoor air, with the effect of reducing indoor air quality and exposing you to other potential pathogens, including mildew, pollen, mould, bacteria and viruses.
This is the last thing your immune system needs right now!
How to Safely Handle and Change Your Air Filter
Dr. Siegel and the University of Toronto team have released official guidance regarding the safest way to handle and change your air filter.
This guidance applies equally to your central or portable/ductless HVAC units and to any standalone air filtration device you may be using, including HEPA air filtration systems. It also applies to cabin air filters for vehicles and RVs!
As with any system, be sure to consult your manufacturer's manual for further instructions on air filter changes to make sure you don't accidentally void your warranty.
Steps To Safely Change Any Air Filter In Your Space
1. Move any immune-compromised individuals to an isolating space.
You want to do this first, since it is impossible to completely avoid dislodging trapped particles during an air filter change.
2. Power off your HVAC system and any fans or other filtration devices as applicable.
You want to make sure there is minimal air circulation during the filter change.
3. Open windows where applicable.
If there are windows in the area where the air filter change is to take place, open them. This will allow for faster release and diffusion of any harmful airborne particles.
4. Place a mask and gloves on and wear any additional PPE you have available.
Personal protective equipment such as safety goggles or glasses (even swim goggles will do in a pinch), facial screen, mask, gloves and non-permeable clothing are all assets when handling any potentially hazardous bio-material.
5. Remove the air filter and place it in a sealable non-permeable bag.
You want to be sure to immediately place the dirty air filter into a bag that can be sealed up right away for safe disposal.
6. Install the new clean air filter and close up the unit.
Once you have removed and bagged up the dirty air filter, quickly move on to install a new clean air filter in its place.
7. Dispose of the sealed bag with the dirty air filter safely outside.
Finally, it is time to head outside and safely dispose of the sealed bag with the dirty air filter.
8. Remove and dispose of single-use PPE and take a shower.
Safely dispose of any single-use PPE and take a warm water shower if you can.
Contact Clean Air Solutions
We are open to serve you safely with contact-less options during this difficult time.
If you do not feel comfortable handling these routine air filter changes on your own, our highly trained service technicians have all the necessary safety equipment and PPE to safely change your air filters.
How Does Infected Air Travel? How Can We Stop It?
As the weeks and months slowly pass, scientists and researchers are steadily learning more about all the possible ways that the new novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2, may be able to spread.
It nearly goes without saying that not everyone in the scientific and public health education communities is in agreement about these new findings; however, there is sufficient consensus to begin channeling research funding towards improving building HVAC systems and indoor air quality.
In fact, researchers right here in Canada just received $444,000 in research funding to identify specific HVAC system improvements in order to reduce airborne virus transmission.
This is both scary and promising!
Indoor air quality experts at the University of Toronto have also identified four key ways that aerosol SARS-CoV-2 particles could travel through the air from an infected person and infect someone else.
In this post, we bring you up to date on these new airflow patterns and share four ways you can take action to protect yourself and your family.
Four Ways Infected Air Can Use Ventilation Systems to Travel
CTV News recently shared the findings of a University of Toronto indoor air quality expert and researcher named Jeffrey Siegel, PhD.
As Dr. Siegel explained, if infectious aerosol droplets were to become airborne, they could potentially use four different airflow pathways to infect new people.
Four Airflow Pathways For COVID-19 Particles
1. Ventilation flowing into public or shared spaces.
When ventilation sends air into public areas such as hallways, corridors, elevators, lobbies, restrooms, laundry rooms, workout rooms and other similar multi-use spaces, this air can then flow out and continue its journey, carrying infectious aerosol airborne particles with it.
2. Ventilation between two open adjacent windows.
This can be especially relevant in more dense urban areas where dwellings or work spaces can be so close together that opening one window may cause airflow to travel between two different dwellings or buildings.
3. Ventilation from plumbing pipes, registers/vents and exhausts.
More than one case of COVID-19 transmission has occurred in China due to airborne aerosol transmission involving sewage, plumbing pipes and exhaust fans.
Because the new novel coronavirus can also remain bioactive in human waste, it can be transmitted if there is any leaking or seepage from toilets or plumbing pipes. Use of contactless air dryers and exhaust vents can blow the droplets into the air, where you may unknowingly come into contact with them.
4. Ventilation from a shared HVAC system.
Any space that uses a shared ventilation system, such as a central (ducted) HVAC system, may act as a conduit for infectious aerosol droplets containing COVID-19 to travel from an infected person to reach new people.
While these four pathways are especially concerning in multi-unit spaces such as office buildings, condominiums and apartment complexes, they can be relevant in single family dwellings also, especially if one family member is immune-compromised or recovering from COVID-19.
Four Steps You Can Take to Protect Yourself from Infectious Air
While many public agencies worldwide are still hesitant to come right out and state that COVID-19 can be transmitted by aerosol airborne microparticles, most research scientists are more outspoken.
In one recent Nature journal article, an Australian researcher came right out and stated that the scientific community looks at the question of COVID-19 spreading through the air as a “no brainer.”
That being said, we feel it makes sense to share information right away about practical ways to protect yourself, your workers and your family from ventilation-related COVID-19 risks.
More caution rather than less seems to be the order of the day right now, and it just seems smart for each of us to do whatever we can do to stay healthy and safe.
So here are four steps you can take now to protect yourself from the possibility of contracting COVID-19 through airborne transmission in ventilation systems.
How To Protect Yourself From Infectious Air
1. Increase indoor air ventilation using fresh air sources.
Indoor air quality researchers continue to emphasize the importance of increased indoor ventilation, or more fresh air flowing through your indoor space.
Now, researchers are emphasizing fresh air and not recirculated air. If your HVAC has the option, make sure it is set to “fresh air”.
A heat recovery ventilator or HRV is the gold standard in providing continuous fresh air circulation inside any space. The HRV works with any central (ducted) HVAC system to pull in fresh air that can dilute airborne infectious particles and push them out with the stale indoor air.
2. Use portable or central HEPA filtration to remove airborne microparticles.
Researchers have posted several ways that coronavirus particles might become airborne in order to travel longer distances using airflow (ventilation) systems. One way is by attaching to airborne solid microparticles. If a small aerosol droplet can attach to a microparticle solid, it can go wherever that solid particle goes - including into your lungs.
HEPA filtration is still the gold standard for high-density air filtration today.
3. Add ultraviolet purification near any air source.
Short-wave ultraviolet band-C light can potentially neutralize even very small coronavirus particles – if it can reach them.
Central UV purifiers can irradiate your HVAC coils as air passes over them, while portable purifiers can purify the circulating air in smaller or non-ducted spaces.
4. Keep wearing your mask, washing your hands and social distancing.
One of the deadliest aspects of COVID-19 is how it can jump from an asymptomatic infected person to someone new.
Because there are so many people walking around who don’t even know they have COVID-19, this is not the time to reduce your regular personal protective routines.
Get in Touch
Clean Air Solutions in Hamilton is dedicated to ensuring the cleanliness of your indoor air. We are open and serving you safely with contactless options.
For our customers who want to schedule an indoor air duct cleaning, we are currently offering a 10 percent discount across the board for any of our three packages!