The role of HVAC in a pandemic

What role will your companies HAVC system play if Coronavirus particles can become airborne and travel distances greater than the stipulated social distance and dispense into the air? This, coupled with the debate that HVAC systems are snowballing the infection rates needs to be settled with facts.


Clean air is king

New research published in the journal Science of the Total Environment has found that long-term exposure to dirty masks may be “one of the most important contributors to fatality caused by the COVID-19 virus” around the world.

Evidently, ensuring that the air we breathe is clean is an important factor in staying healthy. A properly designed ventilation system reduces indoor air pollution by providing fresh air and removing contaminants. This is a good time to consider improving air-quality in buildings by upgrading HVAC systems to suit the present situation.

One step that technicians could take involves configuring ducted HVAC systems to increase the rate of exchange with fresh air from outside the building to reduce recirculation of possibly contaminated air.


HVAC Systems playing their part

Air conditioning and ventilation systems may have a role to play in reducing the transmission of the virus in closed spaces by ensuring careful and comprehensive maintenance of the air handling units. This would include cleaning of the filters and the cooling evaporator coils or replacement of filters that are old and no longer efficient. The increase of the fresh air introduced into the system and reducing the return air should be an option to be considered. The addition of an air exhaust may also be an essential upgrade.


How we operate our indoor space is one of the required change, HVAC systems which met our previous needs might not be sufficient for our present needs.

Upgrading filters is also crucial to ensure your HVAC system does more good than bad, HEPA filters are capable of filtering droplets at > 5 μm and aerosols at < 5 μm. In most central systems 80% nominal efficient filters used which will handle the filtering the > 5 μm droplets. This means even if outside air may be infectious, the filters ensure only clean healthy air enters the room.

Coronavirus has pushed us to introduce changes to our everyday life, we have had to adapt to new work and social patterns. How we operate our indoor space is one of the required change, HVAC systems which met our previous needs might not be sufficient for our present needs. We are cornered to adapt to a new environment.



SARACCA is an association of contractors who have individually and jointly agreed to a set of governing standards whilst operating in free competition against each other.

The common aim is to continually strive to improve the image and standards of the industry and the association provides a forum for this purpose. In July 2009 the Department of Labour published the “Pressure Equipment Regulations” as part of the Occupational Health and Safety Act Number 85 of 1993. The South African Qualification and Certification Committee for Gas (SAQCC Gas) has been accredited by the Department of Labour to register “Authorised Persons”. SARACCA, as a member of that committee, is tasked with registering refrigeration and air conditioning practitioners.