The Role of HVAC in Care Homes and How it Keeps Seniors Safe
Good indoor air quality increases the quality of life for everyone. But, for seniors who live in long-term care, indoor air quality becomes particularly important.
Air quality in care homes is vital because exposure to airborne diseases, mould, particulate matter, smoke and allergens can compromise the weakened immune systems of the residents.
Some of our most vulnerable populations are cared for in congregated settings where indoor air pollutants can exacerbate existing health problems.
Read on to discover the importance of good air quality in care homes and how an efficient and well-maintained HVAC system can reduce hazardous airborne contaminants.
5 Reasons Why Indoor Air Quality is Important in Care Homes
Long-term exposure to airborne particles can impact everyone in a care home, including the healthy staff and visitors that spend time there. So, taking steps to improve air quality and reduce hazardous air pollutants is beneficial to all.
Here are 5 reasons why improving air quality is essential in group care settings:
1. Reduce negative health effects
Care homes may operate similarly to medical facilities, but indoor air quality is not usually regulated or monitored to the same high standards. As a result, poor indoor air quality poses significant health risks and may cause dizziness and headaches. It can also worsen conditions like asthma, lung disease, heart disease and lung cancer.
2. Minimize premature deaths
In Ontario, 40% of Covid-19 related deaths occurred in long-term care homes. Because vulnerable older adults are disproportionately affected by many viruses, reducing risk in group care settings is imperative. Long-term preventative measures, including improving air quality and reducing exposure to airborne pathogens, can reduce illness and premature death.
3. Reduce medical expenses
Poor air quality impacts on care homes residents can be profound and expensive. Increased acute care visits, medical costs, respiratory infections, and hospitalizations are all linked to substandard air quality.
4. Improve business reputation
Improving indoor air quality increases the standard of care at long-term facilities. These changes won’t go unnoticed by residents and their families. The best advertising is free, and families can elevate a care home’s reputation through positive word-of-mouth reviews.
5. Increase the quality of life
Taking proactive steps to improve indoor air quality for older adults in long-term care will boost their well-being and comfort while promoting a more outstanding quality of life. Hiring the right HVAC company to install and manage air quality standards is a big step in the right direction.
10 Recommendations to Improve Air Flow and Quality
Improving ventilation is one way to positively impact air quality and reduce the transmission of germs in an indoor setting. Ways to increase ventilation include:
- Increase outdoor airflow by opening windows (weather and outdoor air quality dependent).
- Use fans to move outdoor air inside.
- Ensure HVAC systems are robust enough to filter the air based on the occupancy level.
- Optimize HVAC to filter occupied spaces.
- Turn off controls that automatically reduce airflow to occupied spaces, e.g. temperature controls.
- Improve central air filtration.
- Ensure that restroom exhaust fans are functional and operating at total capacity.
- Operate kitchen exhaust fans even when care homes are unoccupied to increase overall building airflow.
- Use portable air cleaners with HEPA filtration systems in high-risk areas.
- Design your building’s directional air flow using a clean-to-less-clean system.
How an HVAC Can Help Improve Air Quality
An HVAC System (Heating, Ventilation and Cooling) treats indoor air by:
- Filtering and purifying indoor air
- Heating indoor air
- Cooling indoor air
- Moving air from the outside to the inside and vice versa
- Moving air from room to room
- Maintaining relative humidity
The airflow and filtering effects produced by an HVAC system can significantly impact air quality and reduce risks of illness due to airborne contaminants.
Is Your Current HVAC System Working Effectively to Filter Air?
An HVAC professional, like South Island Mechanical, can review your current system to determine if it adequately filters the air in your building. They will consider the following:
- The activity, occupancy, hours of occupation and setting, e.g. kitchen, bathroom, bedroom or treatment room
- Check if the system is operating optimally
- Can adjustments be made to increase air exchange rates?
- Is it using a filter with the highest Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) for that system?
When set to the correct requirements for your building, an HVAC should:
- Minimize Recirculation – adjust to the highest reasonable outdoor air supply exchange rate.
- Increase Filter Efficiency – The Government of Canada recommends using your HVAC’s highest efficiency filter, ideally MERV 13 or better.
- Increase Air Changes – Ideal air change rates are determined based on how the room is used, occupancy and size. Medical treatment rooms, for example, need more frequent air changes per hour than a public space.
- Improve Clean Air Delivery Rate (CADR) – CADR is calculated based on outdoor air ventilation, recirculating air through a filter and air that passes through a portable air cleaner with a HEPA filter. Knowing the CADR, an HVAC technician can gauge where to make ventilation improvements.
Regular Maintenance of Your HVAC is Key to Healthy Air
A well-maintained HVAC system will effectively remove and dilute airborne pathogens from indoor air.
Routine inspection and maintenance, such as air vent cleaning, replacing air conditioner filters and cleaning HVAC filters, are recommended.
Because HVAC systems are complex, it is always best to have them inspected, maintained and cleaned by an HVAC specialist. Adjustments made without specialist consultation could lead to unintended side effects such as poorly filtered air.
Well-maintained HVAC systems complement public health measures like wearing masks by filtering viruses, improving indoor air quality and lowering exposure to infectious diseases.
South Island Mechanical – For Your Commercial HVAC Systems
South Island Mechanical can answer all your questions about commercial HVAC and which system is suitable for your facility.
With over twenty years of HVAC experience, South Island Mechanical’s industry pros can improve indoor air quality. Our expert team can install, maintain, repair and replace your HVAC system with integrity, transparency and honesty.