It’s safe to use air conditioning in malls and restaurants, say experts
As the lockdown orders are eased and malls, restaurants start to open, the question most people are likely to ask is whether air conditioning can restrict or help the spread of COVID-19 virus
As the lockdown orders are eased and malls, restaurants start to open, the question most people are likely to ask is whether air conditioning can restrict or help the spread of COVID-19 virus.
Keeping the aforementioned question in mind, the SCAI (Shopping Centers Association of India) recently hosted a panel discussion to help the Government as well as the Shopping Centre Industry better understand the fallacies surrounding the spread of COVID-19 via air conditioners. Based on this concern, experts from ISHRAE (Indian Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers) stated, that the most effective method of controlling spread of any microbial or other forms of particulate matter through air inside a space is by Ventilation, Filtration, Pressurization and ensuring the correct indoor temperature and humidity.
Vishal Kapur, Chair ISHRAE Technical Committe explained in detail that mechanical ventilation and filtration provided by a Central Air conditioning system, can perform this function most effectively, because they correctly ventilate the space and improve the indoor air quality with prescribed air filtration.
Moreover, it has been confirmed that the COVID-19 virus does not spread through the air hence it is safe to use air conditioning systems in malls. In fact, not operating the systems can have adverse effects as the ventilation, filtration would not be adequate, and it could also cause thermal stress to people. Which is the reason why ISHRAE recommends that malls and subsequently, the stand-alone restaurants as well must increase the intake of outdoor air and operate their exhausts for a few hours longer. Large shopping centers, in general, have good amount of outdoor air intake and thus ensure ventilation.
Vishal Kapur, Chair ISHRAE Technical Committe said that as per the COVID-19 Guidelines compiled by ISHRAE experts, the ideal temperature to maintain inside commercial spaces is between 24 and 30 degree centigrade and humidity between 40-70%. And SCAI has made sure to stress this point in their Standard Operating Procedure, which also contains other suggestions such as:
- Dedicated technical team to monitor and implement air-conditioning measures
- Replace or clean/disinfect HVAC Air-filters prior to re-opening
- Disinfection and cleaning of Filters, grilles, diffusers and internal surfaces
- Disinfection / treatment of condensate drain pan
- Coil cleaning and sanitation as per protocol
- AHU’s / CSU’s filter cleaning frequency will be increased
- Monitor and control the indoor Temperature & humidity
- Operate the outdoor air intake and exhaust fans for longer hours
Finally, the more important measure in such applications is to prevent short range transmission and hence protocols such as controlling number of people, screening, social distancing, masks, space and personal hygiene are much more important.
Published: 15 Jun 2020, 10:00 PM