By now everyone knows the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommendations that we should wear a mask and practice social distancing. And while there are numerous other recommendations, can you name the third most common? Well, if you are tired of being stuck at home, then you already know it even if you couldn’t answer the question. Stay home! That is where we are told is the safest place to be. And if that is true, then we should all consider their recent publication which addresses improving ventilation for homes.
Their article suggests improving ventilation in homes can help prevent virus particles from accumulating in the air. And therefore, taking these steps can help prevent getting and spreading COVID-19.
A Word About HVAC and Ventilation in Homes
You see you don’t want your HVAC system to continually be taking in warm air in the summer that it has to constantly work hard to cool. And the same is true in the winter. You don’t want your system to have to work harder to warm up the air from the outside. It is much easier to recycle the air that is already warmed up inside you home.
There are add-ons to systems that can improve air quality or even change your system to intake fresh air from outside. But these are an added expense and beyond the scope of this article. For now, we will focus on recommendations from the CDC.
Improving Ventilation for Homes Top 3
The CDC recommendations for improving house ventilation can be summarized into three categories. 1. Adding fresh air. 2. Filter the air. 3. Circulate the air. Below we will share their information as well as helpful tips and things to consider.
Adding Fresh Air
The first recommendation is to open doors and windows allowing fresh air to enter your home. The fresh air that comes in will improve house ventilation. And in fact, if you open a door or window on one side of the house as well as the opposite side you may create an air current that will sweep right through your entire house. If you get a strong current it could be like a wind tunnel effect. This effect can also be increased with the assistance of fans. Just be sure to point the fans in the direction of the natural airflow!
Just a little side note: when you have an awful smell in your house you want to get rid of quickly (like you burnt someone’s dinner really bad and the smoke alarms are blaring) creating this natural air flow through the house will remedy the problem quickly.
Now there are things to consider with this approach. The most obvious being that if it’s extremely cold outside you don’t want to let all the cold air in and lose all your heat. Even if you did that for a short time periodically, think how hard your furnace would be working to reheat your house. And then think of the power bills that will be coming!
Another consideration is safety. If you have small children and/or pets, opening doors and windows could potentially be dangerous. You don’t want house ventilation because of COVID-19 fears to become more important that the safety of your loved ones.
And the CDC brings to light another interesting consideration. If you live in an area with high levels of air pollution, then you might want to keep your doors and windows closed. How do you know? Fortunately, there is an easy-to-use website that will help you determine the general safety of your outdoor air. Simply visit AirNow website and enter your zip code.
Filter the Air
There are many different kinds of filtration systems designed for homes, but the simplest thing to do is focus on the heat and air system you already have. These systems often will have easy access to the air filters in place.
The first thing to remember is to change your filter regularly. While the CDC recommends every three months, our experience is that is not often enough. Filters tend to get dirty much faster than that depending on many different factors of course. And all you really need to do is visually inspect your filters and as they are accumulating dirt then you will know it’s time to replace them.
Can you wait longer to replace them? Well, yes, but what is more important? Your health and the health of your loved ones? Or a few more dollars per year? The amount of additional money you might save by using the filters longer you will probably lose in one co-pay visit to your doctor because you got sick.
What quality of filter should you use? The CDC recommends “pleated filters” as they are more efficient. And while we agree with that, we don’t think it goes far enough. You want a filter that is created to trap more particles in the air especially virus particles. You do this by selecting a filter with a higher MERV rating and we recommend the MERV 13. If you are wondering what does MERV stand for then visit our article to learn more.
Another CDC suggestion which is not a bad idea is to set your thermostat to the fan “on” position instead of “auto.” They suggest doing this when you have visitors. What it does is causes the air system to keep circulating the air and therefore filter it without shutting off. This will increase the ventilation for homes without much additional expense. This suggestion also fits well in the next category.
Circulate the Air
If you have exhaust fans which are common in bathrooms and some kitchens, you can use those also. They are vented to the outside and therefore could be used in conjunction with an open door or window. This would create a smaller version of the wind tunnel effect mentioned earlier. The CDC suggests leaving on these exhaust fans for an hour after your guests have left to help remove virus particles that may be in the air.
Regular household fans can also be used to improve air flow and house ventilation. The suggestion again is to keep them close to an open window, point outside to help remove virus particles from the home. But if you don’t have the option to open windows and doors just be sure not to point the fan at people. It would not be a good idea to point a fan directly at someone only to have it blow a bunch of virus particles into their face and nostrils.
And finally, even ceiling fans can help improve air flow even if the windows are closed. When used in conjunction with the heating and air system and MERV 13 filters you will surely be improving the air quality. Improving ventilation in homes using even just some of these techniques will make your home safer and healthy for you, your family, and your guests!
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