HVAC Upgrades to address COVID-19
As we plan a larger return for public worship in the church, it seemed like an opportune moment to share with our congregation some of the details of the steps that we have taken over this past year to prevent the spread of airborne COVID illness in the church. These were previously reported in general terms in our B & G report at our Annual Meeting last month.
In late summer 2020, we learned that air replacement played a key role in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. Upon further investigation, it seemed that our relatively new HVAC system (approximately 8 years old) would be a good candidate to help improve air replacement frequency to a meaningful degree.
In early September we arranged for a consultation with engineers from Bloc Power, our partners through LI-CAN, to learn more about the HVAC role in COVID-19 mitigation. During our consultation, the engineer, Dom, identified two modifications to our HVAC system that were considered effective at reducing/eliminating the spread of infectious airborne droplets/particles associated with COVID-19. Dom suggested that we investigate upgrading the filters to the highest MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) rating, ideally MERV-13 or higher, and UVC light air filtration.
It was determined the Church’s HVAC system could handle MERV-13 Filters. On October 1, 2020, all our HVAC filters were upgraded to MERV-13
Bloc Power also discussed the use of UVC, ultraviolet germicidal irradiation, as having the potential to be a powerful tool in the fight against COVID-19. UVC air and surface disinfection has been in use in many different settings – residential, commercial, schools, and healthcare. The studies of the effectiveness of UVC filtration to mitigating the spread of COVID-19 was limited, it had been proven effective in tests on other airborne variants of coronavirus.
After our consultation, we decided to investigate if our HVAC system would be a good candidate for a UVC upgrade. It was determined that we were good candidates. We contracted our HVAC systems service provider, PETRO Home Services, to install UVC filtration on all 9 of the Church’s air handlers.
While our concerns around limiting the spread of COVID-19 in the church remain high, these simple system upgrades gave us greater confidence in returning to worship in-person safely. With these improvements and the constant use of masks and social distancing, we expect that our return to worship has been as safe as we can make it in these challenging times.