Safeguard Schools Against COVID-19 Efficiently via Energy Recovery Ventilation

Achieving healthy and safe schools is more critical than ever in the new pandemic normal.

Increased Building Ventilation Counters COVID-19 in Schools

Even before the novel coronavirus pandemic, indoor air quality (IAQ) was considered to be important for supporting occupant health. In fact, the EPA found that indoor air is typically two to five times (and occasionally as much as 100 times) more polluted than outdoor air. Consequently, the EPA ranks indoor air pollution as a top-five environmental risk to public health.

ERVs recovery system 

Source: RenewAire.

Figure 1: ERVs recovery otherwise-expended total energy (heat and humidity) to condition incoming outdoor air in the ventilation process This safeguards schools against COVID-19 and optimizes energy efifficiency.

Now, in the COVID-19 era, high-level IAQ is even more imperative. That’s because experts agree that one of the principal transmission routes of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) is through the air. The real problem arises in the small, virus-laden aerosols that can stay airborne for hours and travel considerable distances indoors. Increased building ventilation is vital for reducing the threat of COVID-19.

In fact, the more ventilation the better, because it removes harmful indoor air contaminants such as SARS-CoV-2. Further, the higher the percentage of outdoor air coming indoors, the lower the spread. K-12 and higher-education institutions are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 because they house many people. Thus, increased building ventilation is even more crucial in institutions of learning in the COVID-19 era.

However, more ventilation (notably with higher percentages of outdoor air) means extra HVAC energy consumed. It also necessitates additional HVAC equipment. All of this adds up to expanded costs. This conundrum creates the challenge all buildings face: How can schools combat the virus while minimizing energy consumption and costs?

Boost Ventilation Rates Efficiently With Energy Recovery Ventilation

The answer is utilizing energy recovery ventilation, which achieves the needed ventilation while using minimal energy. The systems that employ this technology are called Energy Recovery Ventilators (ERVs), and here’s how they work:

  • ERVs use balanced airflows to replace equal parts of stale indoor air with fresh and filtered outdoor air.
  • They recover otherwise-expended total energy comprising heat (sensible) and humidity (latent). This waste energy is reused to condition the outdoor air coming inside.
  • Subsequently, less energy is needed for conditioning and ventilation, which means HVAC equipment can be downsized.
  • Indoor air contaminants like SARS-CoV-2 are exhausted out. Also, energy efficiency is optimized and costs are decreased.

ERVs can be used in every type of structure in both retrofits and new construction to tackle COVID-19. The systems excel in K-12 schools, higher-education institutions and buildings and homes of every size and geography. Further, ERVs can be easily installed into existing HVAC infrastructure due to tremendous flexibility.

The Results for Schools: Mitigate COVID-19 and Maximize Energy Savings

ERVs provide effective and energy-efficient ventilation, thus making them indispensable in stopping the spread of COVID-19. This is especially true for K-12 and higher-education institutions due their high occupancy and greater risk of virus transmission. Installing ERVs in schools leads to the following results:

  • Mitigate COVID-19 and enhance IAQ energy-efficiently: ERVs are the only solution to marry increased ventilation rates with lower energy costs. This enhances IAQ, exhausts airborne virus particles and cuts energy use and costs.
  • Safeguard schools against COVID-19: By employing increased building ventilation effectively and efficiently, schools will be healthier and safer for students, teachers and staff alike.
  • Reduce ventilation energy costs up to 65%: Reusing otherwise-expended total energy significantly lessens energy costs.
  • Achieve higher building codes and standards: To ensure the health of indoor occupants, higher building codes and standards are required. ERVs are mandated by the most stringent ones to improve IAQ and energy savings.

For more information on why increased building ventilation is key for countering COVID-19 in schools, visit: www.renewaire.com/schools.

This article originally appeared in the Spring 2021 issue of Spaces4Learning.

About the Author

Nick Agopian is Vice President, Sales and Marketing at RenewAire, a pioneer in enhancing IAQ via energy recovery ventilation.