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Does Air Conditioning Spread Coronavirus? A Guide to Safe Ventilation

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The connection between air conditioning and coronavirus spread has been a hot topic as of late.

While some of the steps companies need to take to keep employees and customers safe throughout the pandemic have been relatively obvious (social distancing, hand sanitising etc), this is one you could be forgiven for overlooking.

With that said, coronavirus and air conditioning can be a potentially deadly combination, as air ducts and vents can be a safe space for the virus, even when the rest of the building is cleaned comprehensively. Laws existed before the pandemic on how organisations need to provide adequate air flow for working environments, and this is even more important than ever when it comes to workplace ventilation and coronavirus.

Is Air Conditioning Bad for Coronavirus?

There is evidence that viruses, including the novel coronavirus named COVID-19, spread more easily in enclosed spaces with limited air flow. As a result, increased air flow and effective ventilation can reduce the impact of spreading the virus.

This doesn’t relate to spreading the virus through contact between people, nor does it prevent droplet transmission. This means that mask wearing and social distancing will still be required as well as the regular cleaning of any surfaces that staff or customers touch regularly.

It does however, dramatically reduce the risk of aerosol transmission of the virus.

This is done in two main ways:

  • Natural ventilation relies on passive air flow through the opening of windows, air vents and ducts.
  • Mechanical ventilation involves using powered devices such as fans or air conditioning systems to draw fresh air from outside and/or to keep air moving freely throughout the building

Whether your building is safe with natural ventilation only, or whether mechanical ventilation is required generally depends on how enclosed your working spaces are as well as the presence of other factors such as pollution.

We are able to audit this for you and give recommendations for a safer working environment as well as ensure you are compliant with all regulations, so do contact us if you’d be interested in learning more.

Ventilation Beyond Coronavirus

Even in a post coronavirus world, ventilation in the workplace is extremely important. Enclosed spaces can cause severe issues, especially in workplaces that already create pollution. This can lead to staff absences, fines, or even deaths.

Even ignoring the immediate health threats, a lack of fresh air can lead to less productive and energetic staff. Temperature and humidity can be just as important as falling outside of the comfortable range can make employees lose focus, or customers move on more quickly.

Can Ventilation Be Measured?

It can be difficult to measure ventilation accurately depending on the space in question, but CO2 meters can be used to estimate how effective any ventilation is at removing carbon dioxide from the building. Everybody exhales CO2 so a high concentration can be a warning that it isn’t being removed quick enough - a sign of bad ventilation, too many people in too small a space, or both.

It has been suggested that a CO2 concentration of 1000ppm is the point where negative effects on human cognitive function begin to occur, but that most numbers below this figure are acceptable. It is also thought that when a room reaches 1500ppm that it becomes a higher risk for the spread of coronavirus.

What Can phs Do?

Here at phs, we are the UK’s leading supplier of air care management services, ventilation audits, and coronavirus cleaning services. We have operations centres across the UK and have been trusted with covid related cleaning and safety in schools, hospitals, offices and government buildings across the UK.

From hand sanitiser stations to new ventilation systems and from social distancing mats to entire building deep cleans, we can do it all. Get in touch to learn more!

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