COVID-19: Creating a Safer Workplace with an HVAC Solution

How Does COVID-19 Spread?

It is extremely important to understand how the COVID-19 virus is spread.  What we know is that this is an extremely small virus.  It is about 0.12 microns which is tiny (a human hair is 50-70 microns).  Being this small, the virus doesn’t travel well by itself. There are three ways that people get infected.

Droplets  When an infected person coughs, sneezes, or talks, droplets with the virus fly into the air from their nose or mouth.   Anyone who is within 6 feet of that person can breathe those droplets into their lungs. These droplets do not stay in the air. They fall to surfaces.

Aerosolized transmission  Research shows that the virus can live in the air for up to 3 hours.  At 0.12 microns, the virus just floats around in the air.  The smaller the size, the longer it stays airborne.  When you breathe air that has the virus floating in it, the virus can travel deep into your lungs.

Surface transmission   You can also catch COVID-19 by touching surfaces such as counter tops or doorknobs which have been coughed or sneezed on by someone who has the virus and then touching your nose, mouth, or eyes. The virus can live on surfaces like plastic and stainless steel for 2 to 3 days. To stop surface transmission, surfaces must be cleaned thoroughly.

How can HVAC systems reduce the spread of COVID-19?

An HVAC Solution: Needlepoint BiPolar Ionization (NBPI)

A reasonable solution to this problem would be to add something to the supply air delivered to the space which would inactivate aerosolized and surface virus.  This additive needs to be safe for humans and added at a reasonable system cost. That would be a great solution.

Bipolar Ionization of Air

As crazy as it sounds, this solution is already available.  Ionization of air has been around since 1879.  Actually, it’s been around since the beginning of time.  Ionization of air occurs naturally in our world and is strongest around crashing ocean waves, waterfalls, mountains and electrical storms (the freshest air available).  There are manufacturers that provide products that that can cost effectively add ions (both negative and positive) to supply air.  These products have been tested, proven and made available in the HVAC market for over 20 years. They have not gained wide acceptance because building owners have not been motivated to use them. They provide fresh, clean air which has not been a priority for most buildings.   Until now, buildings were designed for comfort, cooling and heating and not necessarily for indoor air quality or to protect the occupants in the building.  This has now changed. Today, that is what we need.

How does Bipolar Ionization work?

Bipolar Ionization starts at the air handling unit where millions of ions per second (positive and negative) are produced and then travel through the duct work and into all building spaces.  In the space, these ions provide two key functions; particle reduction and pathogen reduction.

Particle Reduction

Let’s say a person sneezes in a space.  At that point, millions upon millions of virus particles are launched into the air where they will remain for a long time.  Because COVID-19 is so small, the virus particles will not be swept along in normal air currents.  They will stay suspended in the space environment for up to 3 hours.  The positive and negative ions that are generated with Bipolar Ionization technology travel with the supply air into the space.  In the space, the positive and negative charged ions release their charge to particles (like dust, dander, pollen, bacteria and virus).  Those particles in turn seek out oppositely charged particles and stick together (agglomeration).   Through particle agglomeration, they start sticking together and growing larger.  As they gain more and more surface area, the particles become large enough to be moved by the airflow back to the filter.  They are captured and retained in the filter at the air handling unit.  Since both polarities of ions are created, particles are not attracted to objects in the space and the overall net static charge is neutral.

Pathogen Reduction

Bipolar ionization injected into the air attacks and inactivates viruses and kills mold spores and bacteria. With living organisms like mold spores and bacteria, the ions steal away hydrogen from the pathogens, leaving them to die.  If it is a virus like COVID-19, it is not a living organism and it is not going to have hydrogen in it.  In this case, the ions produce a chemical reaction on the cell membrane surface that inactivates the virus destroying its ability to reproduce.  Bipolar ionization can reduce 99.9% of microbes in a matter of minutes.  This pathogen fight takes place in both air and on surfaces, within the space (not just in the air handling unit).  Another huge advantage is that bipolar ionization purifies the space on a continuous basis, not just during application (like chemical disinfectants or even portable UVC systems).

Is it safe?

Bipolar ionization has been around for decades. This technology will not generate anything that is not already prevalent in the atmosphere.  Ions are healthy and they are abundant in normal, outdoor environments.  The older style of ion generators used perishable glass/composite tubes and would also create potentially harmful ozone during the process.  A newer technology uses Needlepoint modules to develop bipolar ionization.  They were developed in the mid-2000’s and do not create harmful levels of ozone.  Needlepoint technology has been tested in accordance with UL 2998, which limits ozone to 0.005 parts per million (5PPB) by volume.  These systems are safe for indoor environments.

Is it cost effective to Install?

Needlepoint bipolar ionization (NBPI) can be installed in existing or new HVAC equipment. This type of technology is a simple addition to most any HVAC system. You can also have it done when you’re in need of air filtration repair. It does not involve increasing system pressure, adding fans, up sizing filters, or making large changes to air handlers or duct work.  In most cases, NBPI can be simply attached on the entering side of a cooling coil. NBPI products require little maintenance and most require no replacement parts. NBPI products are typically designed to last the life of the associated air handling system.

Please contact us to discuss designing your system using Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization (NBPI).

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Global Plasma Solutions

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