CDC / ASHRAE Standards Related to Air Filtration

The world has learned many lessons from this ongoing pandemic, and we’re bound to learn many more by the time we’ve gotten past it. One of the biggest takeaways over the past year and a half would be the importance of indoor air quality (IAQ), which largely relies on efficient ventilation and air filtration. Cleaner indoor air results in healthier occupants across the board, reducing the presence of allergens like dust and pollen, preventing the growth of mold and other fungi, and mitigating the spread of airborne diseases (including COVID-19). As schools start to reopen and certain industries kick into high gear, air filtration must remain top of mind for building maintenance, especially with the new threat of the Delta variant and the likelihood of even more virulent strains to come.

Organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) have developed certain standards regarding air filtration for facilities to maintain optimal IAQ. Indeed, the CDC’s guidance on air filtration is partly based on information provided by ASHRAE, offering a collaborative approach to this topic. These standards have now been adapted to take air disinfection for coronavirus into account as well. In this article, we will outline what both the CDC and ASHRAE recommend regarding air filtration so you can invest in the right system for your facility.

CDC Recommendations on Ventilation and Air Filtration

According to the CDC, the simplest, most cost-effective ways to improve your building’s ventilation include tasks like opening windows and doors to increase outdoor airflow when the weather makes it possible and safe to do so. It’s also recommended to open outdoor air dampers past minimum settings to lower HVAC air recirculation. Fans can be placed in windows to increase circulation.

Beyond these more basic measures, the CDC also recommends that you regularly inspect all ventilation systems to ensure their proper function. If necessary, you’ll want to adjust HVAC systems to increase airflow to occupied rooms. Next, the CDC offers advice on improving central air filtration. Their first suggestion is to invest in a highly efficient air filtration system to enjoy optimal filtration without significantly increasing your facility’s energy output. It’s also crucial to ensure your air filters are the right size for your system and not past their expiration date for usefulness. The ventilation systems of certain rooms in your building, such as restrooms, kitchens, and cooking areas, require additional attention, especially when occupied. Of course, maintaining proper ventilation/filtration in these rooms matters even if no one is in the room itself, as doing so helps boost the building’s overall ventilation and IAQ.

The CDC also recommends the use of high-efficiency particulate (HEPA) filtration systems to clean the air in a given space -- this is especially important in rooms that pose a higher risk of SARS-CoV-2 transmission. Ultraviolet (UV) light can also be used to kill SARS-CoV-2 in certain settings when unoccupied (and inside ducts) via a process known as ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI). Lastly, the CDC says that in non-residential buildings, HVAC systems should be run at maximum outside airflow for about 2 hours before and after it’s occupied.

You can read a more detailed version of this information on the CDC’s website here.

ASHRAE Air Filtration Standards

There is much overlap between the air filtration recommendations made by the CDC and ASHRAE, but ASHRAE offers a more detailed account regarding mechanical air filtration and which factors to consider when optimizing IAQ in a given facility.

For starters, ASHRAE recommends that facilities find ways to combine air filtration and ventilation measures to achieve a high filter efficiency as determined by the Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV). MERV ratings range from 1 to 16 -- a higher number equates to higher efficiency. As we’ve pointed out in previous articles on the subject, a MERV rating of 13 or higher is ideal for capturing viruses in the air, including SARS-CoV-2. ASHRAE backs up this claim and also mentions that HEPA filters are more efficient than MERV 16 filters.

For maximum efficiency, your filtration system’s filters need to be completely sealed, and HVAC fans need to be running in order for the filters to properly clean the air. Ideally, you want your HVAC systems to easily accept filter upgrades with zero trade-offs to keep your facility up to date and adaptable. ASHRAE notes that the overall effectiveness of indoor particle concentration reduction relies on four major factors, including filter efficiency, rate of airflow through filters, particle size, and location of filters in HVAC systems.

ASHRAE has more detailed information and advice regarding mechanical air filtration as well as electronic air cleaning, UV disinfection, and more here.

What These Standards Suggest for Your Facility

Now that you have a primer on proper air filtration and ventilation standards put forth by the CDC and ASHRAE, you can make more informed decisions regarding IAQ in your facility. If you’re not sure where to start, invest in an indoor air quality monitoring system -- these systems deliver detailed data regarding the current state of your facility’s IAQ, letting you know about the amount of particulate matter in the air, allowing you to make quick adjustments to your HVAC systems, and more.

Of course, the best IAQ monitoring isn’t worth much if your building isn’t equipped with the optimal systems to maintain clean air. AIRBOX air filtration systems are designed to meet all clean air standards set by the CDC, ASHRAE, and other entities. With antimicrobial HEPA filtration, AIRBOX systems target breathing zones to dilute and remove pathogens so they can’t linger in the air. These systems surpass MERV-13 ratings by providing filtration at 99.99% or higher of all particles down to 0.01 microns in size. AIRBOX air filtration devices also come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and settings to suit different types of rooms and their specific needs. Read our previous blog, “The Best Air Filters/Purification Systems for your Building’s Rooms,” for an outline of each of these AIRBOX offerings and their specifications.

No matter which AIRBOX system is right for your facility, you’ll soon find that it’s one of the most useful COVID-19 supplies available. And COVID-19 aside, AIRBOX filtration will vastly improve your building’s overall IAQ for a long time to come.

The Budd Group is happy to provide more details regarding AIRBOX air filtration as well as our disinfection services, facility management offerings, and more. To learn more about our services and values, give us a call today at 800-221-8158! And for more detailed information on IAQ, COVID-19, and the Delta Variant, visit the CDC’s website here.

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