5 Office HVAC Solutions To Comply With State COVID-19 Guidelines

Solutions to Update Your Office HVAC System and Help Protect Your Employees

During a press conference last week, Governor Cuomo announced that indoor dining in NYC would not be included in this week’s phase 3, expressing concerns about air filtration and HVAC systems and recommending businesses and offices “explore the potential for their air conditioning air filtration system.” 

Harvard also looked at how the use of air conditioning may be contributing to spikes in Coronavirus cases in the Southern states. According to Harvard Professor Nardel, “As people go indoors in hot weather and the rebreathed air fraction goes up, the risk of infection is quite dramatic.” 

To help you navigate how reopening affects your HVAC decisions, we reached out to our energy-efficient engineer friends at Ryan Soames Engineering.  Principal Paul Soames, has agreed to offer a free consultation to tenants who are considering updating their HVAC systems. The first step would be locating your office’s HVAC drawings so they can accurately provide you with advice on how to improve HVAC systems to align with statewide guidelines (including Local Law 97 – NYC’s Carbon Emission Bill) and protect our office spaces and employees.

Read our post: It’s the Ventilation, Stupid!

Ryan Soames Engineering provided us with five HVAC office solutions: 

[1] Install Merv-13 Filters

Conventional air filters with an improved Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) between 13 and 15 (MERV ratings range from one to sixteen, with sixteen being the best and used in operating rooms) can reduce droplet nuclei levels but are not likely to be effective at stopping any unattached virus participles. Standard commercial office buildings are required to use filters with MERV six rating. Soames is suggesting upgrading to a 13,14 or 15 if the ductwork allows. These filters could assist in reducing the likelihood of droplet nuclei spreading and maybe within the fan capabilities of existing systems. MERV 13 filters have also proven effective at stopping viruses, including the common flu. 

In an interview with Propmodo, Paul Soames explains why they suggest MERV 13, “First, you have to look at what their system is equipped to handle in upgrading MERV filters to a higher level. If you go too high, you can end up compromising airflow based on the performance of the existing fans. We felt a MERV 13 was the best choice for optimizing their current system.”  

[2] Install Bi-polar Ionizer Filters

Technology that produces a natural bio-climate rich in positive and negative oxygen ions. The negative ions contain an extra electron while the positive ions miss an election resulting in an unstable condition. To restabilize, these bipolar ions seek out atoms and molecules in the air to trade electrons with, effectively neutralizing particulate matter, bacteria, and virus cells, odorous gases and aerosols, and VOCs. One advantage of this technology is the low energy use; the other is that this technology is the range of HVAC systems that they can install. Bipolar ionization will allow building operators to reduce the minimum outdoor air supplied to space, which provides substantial energy savings. 

Soames told Propmodo that a multifaceted approach that used MERV and Bi-polar Ionizer (BPI) filters is the most efficient and cost-effective way to ensure people’s safety, “BPI filters, which are relatively simple to install by just cutting a hole in the existing supply ductwork [ranges] between $900 and $3,000, [and] also runs on low voltage.” Also, BPI filters have a compelling track record protecting against the flu and other viruses. 

[3] Install a Humidifier

Humidity is essential, as scientists believe extreme heat can curtail the spread of COVID-19. According to Fast Company, a Harvard infection control consultant who studied the spread of viruses in hospitals and nursing homes discovered a link between infection rates and humidity in patient rooms. She is “petitioning alongside companies that make sensors and humidifiers to improve air quality, for the CDC and WHO to adopt guidelines around safe humidity levels – specifically that indoor humidity should be kept between 40% to 60%.” Additionally, a recent Yale study showed that our respiratory, immune systems work better in higher humidity.

[4] Implement a Fresh Air Purge System

COVID-19 seems to spread less in the open air. A Fresh Air Purge system is used for flushing your office space with fresh air overnight. Purges are effective at lowering viral transmission because they fill the entire building (or parts of the building) with fresh filtered air. This can also be achieved by opening up windows in your office instead of using the HVAC system. However, many office buildings do not allow for windows to be opened. The challenge with Fresh Air Purges is they can increase costs by consuming more energy. 

[5] UV lights

While these are extremely effective, many ducts do not have space to hold UV lights and this solution can become dangerous if not installed properly and are more expensive. You can check with Ryan Soames Engineering or your resource to see if yours do, and if so they can install properly.

We also did some research regarding portable air cleaners. As of right now there is no direct clinical evidence of the benefit of portable air cleaners for reducing infectious diseases. However, they can provide you and employees with some psychological comfort, which many of us can use! 


If you are looking for more information on filters please check out Ryan Soames Engineering White Paper: here. 

We’re here to help you think about your COVID-19 HVAC solutions and how to update your office and workspaces to ensure your employees feel safe while in the office. If you have any questions or would like to be connected to Ryan Soames Engineering please feel free to contact Bert Rosenblatt at brosenblatt@vicuspartners.com.

Continue reading:

COVID-19: It’s the Ventilation, Stupid. What schools can learn from the NYC Subway

COVID-19: 7 Simple COVID-19 Office Updates To Help Employees Feel Safe

COVID-19: How to Clean And Disinfect Your Office Space

COVID-19: 6 Office Design Trends In Post-Covid-19 World

COVID-19: 6 Office Tech Solutions For Reopening During COVID-19