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Like your lungs, homes and office buildings need to breathe to expel dirty air and take in fresh clean air. This exchange minimizes the amount of smoke, dander, bacteria, viruses, volatile organic compounds and other contaminants. Once these pollutants are removed, everyone in the building can breathe easier.
While proper ventilation has been a topic of interest for many years, the pandemic has brought it to the forefront of many peoples’ minds. Since researchers discovered that the coronavirus can remain in the air for up to three hours, homeowners and office managers alike have been working to improve indoor air quality to protect those living and working inside.
If you’re looking to do the same, the following improvements will help boost ventilation.
1. Open Windows and Doors
Both offices and homes have windows and doors that you can open to increase ventilation naturally. As long as the air outside isn’t laced with pollution or allergens and the weather is fair, you should be able to open multiple windows and doors to improve airflow. For double-hung windows, open the top sash of one and the bottom sash of another to further promote good ventilation.
You might also open windows and doors at opposite ends of the home or office to cross-ventilate. This process sucks air through one opening and pushes it out the other to create a steady flow that cleanses the interior of contaminants. Opening the highest and lowest windows in a home at the same time can also encourage cross-ventilation and bring fresh air into each level of the building.
3. Install a Window Air Conditioner
Most homes and offices have an HVAC system to maximize ventilation and improve air quality. However, installing a window air conditioner can further increase airflow during the warmer months. Choose a system that has an outdoor air intake or vent and leave it open to introduce fresh air to the building’s interior and siphon hot air out. This method won’t be as effective at removing viruses. However, it will help filter out other indoor air pollutants.
4. Open the Outside Air Intake
In some rare instances, your HVAC unit will have an outside air intake. This component allows cool fresh air to make its way back to your system and into your home. While the outside air intake won’t necessarily remove contaminants, it will increase the amount of clean air inside your home or office building. Therefore, it’s wise to open the outside air intake whenever you have the chance or whenever the weather allows.
5. Use Exhaust Fans
At home, you most likely have an exhaust fan in the bathroom and over the stove. However, you can add them to almost any room to push smoke, moisture and pollutants outside. Keeping these fans running during the day and for a few hours after everyone leaves the office will allow for continuous airflow and effectively expel contaminants so the inside air is clean the following day.
6. Place Fans Throughout the Building
Of course, you can also place fans throughout your home or office building to improve ventilation as well. Place electric fans as close as possible to open windows and point them toward the outside to push indoor air out. You might also place fans pointing inside on the opposite side of the building to further increase circulation. However, you should be careful not to point fans directly at people as this could cause contaminated air to flow directly at them.
7. Upgrade Your HVAC Filter
At its most basic function, air filters remove impurities from a building to improve indoor air quality and protect the HVAC system from damage. However, you must change the filter often to ensure it works properly. Better yet, upgrade your filter to an electrostatic or high-efficiency particulate air filter to remove smaller particles and create a cleaner indoor environment. Look for filters with a higher CADR or MERV rating to better protect the buildings’ occupants.
8. Use an HRV or ERV
If your HVAC system has an energy-efficient air-to-heat exchanger, heat recovery ventilator or energy-recovery ventilator, you can use it to further improve ventilation. These systems simultaneously supply fresh air to airtight buildings and remove contaminants. Although these systems require the continual use of a fan, the energy recovered from the inside air is more than enough to power the fan many times over. Subsequently, the system actually saves energy in the long run.
Do More, Breathe Easier
Of course, excellent ventilation isn’t always an option, especially when the weather or outside temperatures don’t cooperate. Therefore, it’s important to reduce indoor air contaminants as much as possible. Wear a mask to minimize the spread of the coronavirus and cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. Occupants might also refrain from using harsh chemicals or aerosols indoors as these can contain toxic compounds that can have negative health effects.
The more you can do as a family or team, the cleaner the air will be — both inside and out — and the easier you’ll be able to breathe.