During these uncertain times where a worldwide pandemic is in play, many people wonder what they can do to keep the air in their homes safe and healthy. It’s been found that, while fresh air can help rid airborne coronavirus droplets, there are numerous measures available should pollen season make it close to impossible to open windows and air out one’s home, especially here in the south!
Ideally, people need to be in open and private places outdoors are places. Also, they need to be able to open windows to dissipate any germ clouds or viral droplets inside. Outside, air circulation easily disperses airborne viruses. Indoor spaces need to be aired frequently to reduce the concentration of viruses. Since the mild spring and summer breezes in the southern USA coat it in yellow dust, how can airing out a home be effectively and cleanly done without bringing pollen indoors?
To combat the three major types of indoor contaminants- germs and other microorganisms (airborne viruses), particles and allergens, and odors/chemical gases (such as cooking, cigarette smoke, household chemicals)- you may need more than open windows and fresh air.
Technologies in Air Purifiers
One immediately helpful and long-term solution is to install an air purification system. These machines are streamline, efficient, and reflect the best in technology and innovation.
For example, the Aprilaire Model 5000 Air Purifier, which uses a combination of electrostatic charge and a traditional air filter, has been shown to provide the best cleaning over time. It also requires less maintenance compared to the three leading competitors.
This air purifier significantly reduces small particles in the air like tobacco smoke, smog, and mold spores. The Model 5000 can even capture viral particles as small as 0.01 microns, like the airborne COVID-19 virus.
After running for six months, it still removed 98% of bacteria from the air, and 99% of pollen while the competitions’ models only removed as little as 60% of bacteria, and 46% of pollen under the same conditions. Additionally, the Aprilaire Model 5000 catches dust and pet dander, both known asthma and allergy triggers.
Another product, the Reme Halo in-duct air purifier uses ionized hydrogen peroxide molecules to clean the air in your home. The Reme Halo is installed in ductwork and works with the existing Home Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system to reduce bacteria, mold spores, viruses, contaminants, and odors. The ionized molecules pass their charge on to pollen, dander, and dust in the air. This ionization causes those types of particles to stick together in large clumps making it easier for a return filter to catch.
Another noteworthy product is PristineAir’s Polarized-Media Electronic Air Cleaner (EAC) which uses a low current of electricity to create a safely polarized electric field. As particles pass through this field, they pick up a charge which causes them to stick to the filter. The Polarized-Media EAC captures a wide range of very small particles which are linked to asthma and allergies. Among particles captured are skin flakes and hairs, dust mite feces, pet dander, smoke and dust.
Another technology designed to disinfect your coils, keeping them free of mold, mildew, bacteria, and viruses, is the BLU QR UV Stick Light. This device was created by the company that leads the way in ultraviolet systems for industries and hospitals. RGF Environmental Group designed the “Blue Stick,” which is installed inside of the HVAC unit. The ultraviolet light works constantly so when air circulates through the HVAC system, harmful microorganisms are not picked up and distributed from your coils. This method of air purification keeps indoor air better smelling and cleaner. It helps relieve allergy symptoms that are caused by mold spores in your HVAC system.
SEE ALSO: Air Purifier Options
A study found that under the right conditions, liquid droplets from sneezes, coughs, and simply exhaling can travel more than twenty-six feet and will linger and travel in the air for several minutes up to hours.
Let that sink in.
Droplets fall due to size and particles around them in the air, with the most visible falling in a six-foot range. These droplets can be as small and invisible as one micron, when the thickness of a typical human hair is around fifty-five to 120 microns. Keep in mind, there are still particulates and droplets moving in the air after the six foot “social distance” range. This finding was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a peer-reviewed medical journal.
The study focused on moving air and the cloud created by a sneeze, cough, or exhale. Various-sized liquid drops fall onto surfaces, while other droplets can be trapped in a cloud that can travel through a room with pathogen-bearing drops. How far the cloud and its droplets travel depend on several factors such as the environment, the humidity, temperature, and a person’s physiology. Coughs typically fall in the nineteen feet and under range.
In a 2009 World Health Organization report, it was stated that when someone coughs, they typically spray up to 3,000 droplets, but a sneeze packs a larger blow at up to 40,000 droplets. A sneeze can travel at 100 feet per second!
It isn’t known how many virus-laden particles people with COVID-19 virus might give off in droplets, including the micron-size droplets that stay in the air. These drops are referred to as aerosols and, along with very small particles, hang around in the air for several hours in air currents.
Those floating aerosol sized droplets stay suspended long enough for someone to pass through them and inhale a virus. Think of when an aerosol hairspray or deodorant is sprayed. The cloud lingers, and some we can see falling, and then later we may see a fine mist of dried droplets or even smell these in an area away from where the spray originated. Viral particle spread follows the same principle.
Improving Air Safety at Home
While these findings ramp up the concerns and dangers for those caring for COVID-19 patients, there are plenty of things to do to improve safety at home. Without enough air circulation to disperse a cloud of germs, a concentrated environment of air borne droplets can linger in homes. Virus drops are trapped in air for some time and can remain locally concentrated without fresh, outdoor air circulating in one’s home.
Droplets expelled from the nose, mouth or other body areas that contain viruses do reach air circulation systems inside buildings. A sampling taken from air vents showed positive results of airborne viruses. In a research letter to JAMA, scientists found that viruses also live in exhaust outlets. Finding the virus in air vents helped researchers conclude that the airborne COVID-19 virus is easily moved through ventilation systems. This is a contributing factor for the urgency of closing public facilities and taking strident measures to clean these facilities.
Freshly Circulating Air Can Help Get Rid of Virus Droplets
Outside, with air circulation or wind, the germ cloud and its viral payload is dispersed and diluted. Another step is to make sure that indoor spaces are aired frequently.
In Alabama an open window commonly brings in pollen, fine particulate dusty, red dirt, and smoke from wood fires burning. So open windows to circulate fresh air, or use an indoor air purifier and cleaner, to reduce airborne viruses, dust and odors. Perhaps the best solution is to do both. Air your home after a pollen cleansing rain and use a whole house air purification system when unable to circulate fresh air through open windows.
Resources and References
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)
“Turbulent Gas Clouds and Respiratory Pathogen Emissions- Potential Implications for Reducing Transmission of COVID-19,” Lydia Bourouiba, PhD, Author, JAMA. Published online March 26, 2020. du10.1001/jama.2020.4756
USA TODAY Article: Coronavirus might spread much farther than 6 feet in the air. CDC says wear a mask in public., Ramon Padilla, and Javier Zarracina, USA TODAY Updated 6:27 a.m. CDT Apr. 5, 2020