Coronavirus has changed the world as we know it. People are being more cautious than ever to protect themselves, each other, and their loved ones. As more is becoming known about this virus, its implications, and how it spreads you may wonder if an HVAC system can increase your chances of catching this deadly disease. Before we get into if HVAC systems spread coronavirus, we first need to understand how coronavirus spreads.
Continued research has been done on how coronavirus spreads from person to person. And what researchers have found explains why this disease is so contagious.
The main way that it is spread is through airborne droplets. Whenever we talk, cough, or sneeze tiny droplets that may be contaminated with coronavirus are left in the air. These can remain airborne for several hours and spread to several people.
It’s also possible, however less common, to contract coronavirus from touching a contaminated surface. We then touch our faces and can contract the disease. This is why washing our hands is so important. It prevents the spread of germs from our hands into our respiratory system.
Even more concerning is the fact that coronavirus can be spread by people who have not or will not experience any symptoms. This means that people can be spreading the virus without even knowing they are sick. This is why CDC guidelines recommend wearing masks regardless if you’re symptomatic or not.
How do HVAC Systems Work?
Now that we understand how coronavirus is spread, we need to understand how HVAC systems work. How an HVAC system functions is a mystery to the majority of the population. Despite popular belief HVAC systems do not typically bring in outside air. They simply recirculate the air inside a building and move the heat from one place to another. How they do this is a little more complicated.
In order to cool your house your HVAC system will move the heat from inside your home to the outside. It does this through several steps.
- It begins by pulling the warm air from inside the home into the system.
- This air is pulled over a refrigerant line which absorbs heat from the air.
- This refrigerant then pulled to the outside unit and is heated further by compression.
- Air from outside is ran over the hot refrigerant lines and heat is released.
- The refrigerant is then run back into the home and cooled further by expansion.
- After heat has been removed from the inside air it is pushed back into the home.
Heating our homes can work in a few different ways. Typically, the above cycle is reversed so that the heat from outside is being transferred to the inside air. Other systems work by physically heating the refrigerant. No matter the heating system you are still recirculating the interior air.
So, all of this means that we are not bringing in fresh air. Could this recirculated air potentially contain coronavirus droplets?
Although they make our lives significantly more comfortable, are they actually endangering us?
The honest answer to this question is that we’re not entirely sure. The recirculated air means that there is the potential for contaminated air to be pumped back into the same area as uninfected people. However, HVAC systems do have filters in place and could potentially filter this out.
Unfortunately, due to the severity of this disease and limited resources, thorough studies on how or if HVAC systems play any role in the spread have been limited. The best thing to do is to follow all guidelines provided by the government. Wear a mask, socially distance, and stay away from individuals who are not doing the same.