Humidity And Viruses In Retail, Eateries, And Offices This Winter

Humidity And Viruses In Retail, Eateries, And Offices This Winter

As we all navigate business reopenings and indoor air quality this fall, it’s important to consider where humidity fits into all of this. It may not seem like the hottest of topics. But, it should be part of your “cleanest indoor air on the block” plan because the amount of moisture in the air affects virus transmission.

If you haven’t considered this aspect of the situation yet, that’s fine. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know for your Havertown, PA business.

And, you’ll get a few recommendations on products and strategies to help you improve your air quality.

In this article, we’ll dive into:

  • How Humidity Affects Your Air And Comfort
  • Controlling Humidity In Commercial Spaces
  • Using Fresh Air to Prevent Viruses From Spreading

If you have any questions along the way, you can always call or email us at John Cipollone for heating and cooling products and HVAC service in and around Havertown, PA.

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How Humidity Affects Your Air And Comfort

Put simply: hot air is humid. Cold air is not. Extremes on both ends are problems.

Wasn’t that simple?

Okay, let’s dig a little deeper into the physics of it, and then connect it all to air quality and comfort.

Warm Weather

Warm air can naturally hold more water vapor than cold air. That’s why it’s more humid in the summer: it’s hot and muggy.

From there, the moisture makes you feel overheated and uncomfortable. Your sweat can’t evaporate, so your body can’t cool down. Then you get that icky feeling from sweat sticking to your skin and your clothes.

That’s why part of your air conditioner’s job involves dehumidifying the space. Just removing that excess water vapor makes you feel more comfortable even without a change in temperature.

Now, what that means as far as indoor air quality: Tiny particles and microorganisms — think viruses, pollen, dust, and the like — can stick to those water vapor particles in the air.

When that happens, they suspend instead of falling to the ground. That often puts these pathogens right in line for you to breathe them in — they’re very close to your nose and mouth.

The saving grace with viruses is that they often can’t survive for long in higher temperatures. It’s why you’re more likely to get seasonal allergies than a cold in the summer. But, the particles that do survive are certainly hanging around.
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Cold Weather

Flu Season In Havertown, PA

Cold weather brings very different circumstances. The colder air can’t hold nearly as much moisture. So, it’s always much less humid. Surely, you’ve noticed it feeling drier in the winter. It’s also the time of year where you’re more likely to get a static electricity shock.

But, we’re not thinking about electrical current right now. We’re considering the air we’re breathing — and if we’ll get sick. After all, flu season is in the winter.

So here’s what happens: particles are no longer hanging in the air. Instead, they’re dropping to the ground or other surfaces more often because they don’t have water molecules to latch onto.

However, anything you’re breathing out will travel much farther than before. And yes, that includes viruses. If you’re breathing — or coughing or sneezing — out particles, they can spread much, much further than in the summer before settling on the ground.

Of course, we’re not all sitting inside, shivering from the cold. The heat is on! So, doesn’t that solve the cold air problem?

No — actually, it makes it worse.

You’re starting with cold, dry air. Then, your HVAC system heats the air. But, it doesn’t add moisture!

So, now you’ve got warm air that feels unnaturally dry. That’s where people start getting other problems like dry, cracking skin. The heat dries out their skin, but there’s no water to maintain the proper moisture levels.

From there, it’s easier to contract a virus or catch a cold. Those particles can get in through broken capillaries in your nose, for instance.

Now that we’ve outlined the problems let’s see how to fix them.

Download The Aprilaire Virus Protection Guide
Controlling Humidity In Commercial Spaces

Just like you can use a humidifier or dehumidifier in your home to control the amount of moisture in the air, you can use the same tools in a daycare, diner, office space, or any other commercial building.

But, you’re not bothering with some small plug-in model that only takes care of one room. Instead, we’re talking about ones that attach to your heating and cooling system and work on their own to treat your entire building.

These are essential for keeping your space in the sweet spot between 40 and 60 percent relative humidity at all times. The more you can stay in this range, the better indoor air quality you’ll have.

Of course, this won’t solve all your problems. It won’t prevent virus particles and other contaminants from building up in your building, for instance. And, it won’t get rid of them, either.

Controlling Humidity In Commercial Spaces

Instead, controlling the humidity just helps to stop the spread — which is still nothing to sneeze at (no pun intended).

The next step would be an air purification system to eradicate viruses as they pass through the system. You can read more about those here, and also new strategies involving UV-C light here.

And, there’s one more option to consider.

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Using Fresh Air To Prevent Viruses From Spreading

It’s been safe to take walks in parks, meet with people outside, and dine al fresco because fresh outdoor air is almost always cleaner than the air indoors. When it comes to contaminants, the reason is simple: The outdoors is so vast that it dilutes any possible buildup of microorganisms or other pollutants.

Any particles that enter the air get whisked away quickly without building up. When you add masks and social distancing to the equation, your chances of catching anything drops significantly.

But, that’s not an option in many commercial spaces: Offices, schools, and auto repair shops have windows that don’t open. Any space will use a heating and cooling system most of the year to keep people comfortable.

Now, however, you can consider an ERV or energy recovery ventilator. These add-ons to your HVAC system bring in fresh air streams from outside while getting rid of stale air building up inside.

But, there’s an extra, important step: a heat transfer.

In the winter, the system will transfer the heat — but not the air — from the outgoing stream into the incoming stream. Then, it removes the heat from the air coming in and transfers it to the outgoing air in the summer.

This way, you preserve your climate control while changing out your air all the time.

HVAC Service And Indoor Air Quality In Havertown, PA

Now, we’re not suggesting you drop everything and find a way to work all this stuff into your budget. It’s all useful, but the costs can add up. Instead, call or email us here at John Cipollone for HVAC service first.

Starting with an in-person or video consultation, we’ll get more information about your building and your needs. Then, we’ll help you design a customized strategy to ensure you have the cleanest air possible for your business in or near Havertown, PA.

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