36,000 Public Schools Nationwide Need to Update or Replace HVAC Systems

  • Expert Tips

Researchers continue to say improving ventilation indoors needs to be included on the list of measures that schools, businesses, hospitals, manufacturing facilities, and senior living centers must do to keep their tenants safe and healthy amidst COVID-19.

The Wall Street Journal reports that scientists are saying “public spaces like a standard classrooms should aim to have air replaced with clean air between four to six times an hour to dilute COVID-19 particles that might accumulate.” Introducing outdoor air and improving filtration to meet certain standards outlined by ASHRAE and the CDC can be done, but the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that 41% of U.S. public-school districts need to update or replace their HVAC systems in at least half their schools.

With 36,000 schools nationwide needing HVAC updates, the cost to public schools is immense. It will be essential for facilities managers, building owners, and superintendents to work closely with HVAC experts to develop an affordable way to update their HVAC systems.

Tips for Keeping Classroom Air Clean:

  • Start Earlier. Keep HVAC systems, such as unit ventilators, running frequently, and start earlier than usual to allow more time for airflow and filtering before school-day begins
  • Increase Outdoor Air. Increase the HVAC system’s supply of outdoor air, to as much as the system can handle, in order to reduce reliance on recirculated air. Aim to have typical spaces replaced with clean air four to six times an hour, though recommendations can vary by room size and occupancy.
  • Upgrade Air-Conditioning Filters. Choose HVAC filters that can remove a large portion of airborne particles, suc as a MERV 13. If such a fiter is incompatible, choose the most efficient filter.
  • Add Air Purifier. Consider several purifiers for larger rooms. Change HEPA filters regularly while wearing a mask, gloves, and goggles.

Sources: WSJ research, Joseph Allen, Healthy Buildings program at Harvard University; The American Society of Heating Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers Epidemic Task Force

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