As bars, restaurants, and retail spaces carefully reopen, indoor air quality is a massive concern for owners, staff, and customers.
The latest studies show that HVAC systems circulate viruses. This fact potentially negates the idea of social distancing when you’re indoors. Even if you stay six feet apart, a forced-air system or mini split will circulate the particles much further.
That’s a problem with both air conditioning and heating. The concern comes from the fact that your system circulates the same air instead of swapping in fresh air from outside.
Right now, one of the best solutions is an air purifier that hooks up to your HVAC system. These cover the whole space just as your heating and air conditioning does, but they also get rid of those airborne pathogens.
There are plenty of options out there, but you want one that takes both a passive and active, more aggressive approach to keeping the air clean.
There’s been a lot of talk about new technology — UV-C light, which we’ll get into, is the latest-and-greatest in the news. But what does it all mean? And, is it effective?
In this article, we break down the three most popular ways various HVAC air purification products eradicate viruses, bacteria, VOCs, and other airborne contaminants.
First, we’ll briefly explain how these models work, generally. Then, we’ll let you know which ones we’ve had the most success with here in Cape May and Atlantic counties.
How HVAC Air Purifiers Work
Your average room air purifier — or forced-air HVAC system — uses “only” the passive method: A filter catches all airborne contaminants as they pass through. They remain in the appliance, and the air that comes out is cleaner than when it went in.
It’s passive because the device isn’t seeking out any of the dust, allergens, VOCs, viruses, or other particles. It’s waiting for them to come to it.
Under normal (for pre-2020) circumstances, that was usually fine. The filters in purifiers are much stronger than the ones you find in your average HVAC system.
But, with the stakes higher, especially in a commercial setting, you need a system that proactively gets rid of contaminants. With staff and customers milling in and out, you don’t want them inhaling virus particles before they make it to the filter.
A model with an active approach uses light rays or chemical reactions to either eradicate or neutralize those particles. This way, they’re not building up on the filter, where they can shake loose again. Instead, the device destroys them.
Various air purifiers use one of three methods to neutralize and destroy viruses, bacteria and other harmful substances:
- Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI)
- Far UV or UV-C Light
- Bipolar Ionization (BPI) or Hydroperoxide Plasma
Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI)
You’ve likely heard that ultraviolet light, or UV light, can kill germs, viruses, and disease-causing bacteria. In fact, it’s so strong that it harms people. Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation is where this light gets used to clean the air, getting rid of contaminants like the ones we mentioned here.
UV light, which is also in sunlight, is strong enough to scramble the DNA and RNA of microorganisms. When that happens, the organism is dead – it can’t multiply and cause you any harm.
There isn’t enough concentration in sunlight to sterilize you or your surroundings. But, it’s still strong enough to penetrate your skin and affect your cells. That’s why you’ll tan — but you may also develop cancer or cataracts from overexposure.
Hospitals use UV light to sterilize a room — but you can’t have people in it while it’s working. Similarly, air purification systems use UV light deep inside the system, eradicating microorganisms as they reach the filter.
Far UV or UV-C Light
UV-C light “has the potential to be a ‘game-changer,’” according to Columbia University professor of radiation biophysics David Brenner. Like UV, this narrow-wavelength band of light inactivates bacteria and viruses.
But, unlike UV light, it’s not harmful to humans. So, as technology using it advances, you can use it in more widespread applications.
It’s still a new technology, but recent studies point to killing 100 percent of commonly-found bacteria within five seconds,
The difference here is that you can use UV-C light in your bar, dining room, sales floor wherever, virtually all the time. Since it’s not harmful to humans, it’s possible to prevent buildup between sanitization efforts.
With just UV light, you either need to clear the room to sterilize it. Or, wait till the pathogens reach your HVAC system. With the latter, there’s still a chance of breathing in virus particles before they’re filtered out.
But, UV-C light can’t penetrate the outer layer of your skin or even the tear layer in your eyes. So, humans are safe from its carcinogenic effects. But, viruses and bacteria are smaller, and so the light can get to them.
There’s a limitation to both kinds of ultraviolet light: It only kills what it can “see.” If light can’t shine on it — think under a table or the bottom of a doorknob — viruses and bacteria there aren’t affected.
Bipolar Ionization (BPI) or Hydroperoxide Plasma
Bipolar ionization is just as effective as UV light. It’s not harmful to humans, and it gets literally everywhere. It’s a process that works on a molecular level but spreads further than UV or UV-C light.
In this case, your air purifier sends out ionized molecules into the air. They interact with the makeup of the virus, corrupting it so it can’t reproduce.
There’s a similar process using hydro-peroxide plasma. This replicates the ozone and ionization that occurs naturally with lightning to bond with tiny particles, neutralize them, and make them fall harmlessly to the ground rather than float in the air.
The advantage here over UV light is that it touches more than a bulb can illuminate. The only drawback, really, of using light is that spots such as the undersides of doorknobs won’t get treated even with constant or near-constant UV-C exposure.
What Kind of Air Purifier is Best for a Bar or Restaurant in South Jersey?
We can’t give you a hard and fast answer on the best air purifier for your bar or restaurant. We’d still have to take into account your HVAC system, layout, and other factors. And, you can call or email us any time to schedule a consultation. We can come out in person or set up a video chat.
But, we will say that we’ve had the most success and best feedback for the Reme Halo. This model uses hydro-peroxide plasma, and one consistent comment we get is that the air instantly feels and smells cleaner. For a business, that peace of mind can mean a lot to staff and customers.
Indoor Air Quality in Cape May and Atlantic Counties
If you’re ready to make sure your building is as safe as possible to remain open in 2020, call or email us today at Broadley’s. We’ve served Cape May and Atlantic Counties for nearly a century, and we’re up-to-date on the latest reports, recommendations, and practices to keep you and your staff and customers healthy, safe, and comfortable.