CAN RIGHT HEATING SOLUTION DECREASE THE RISK OF AIRBORNE INFECTIONS?

The global pandemic of Covid-19 has made us more aware of the microorganisms around us, forcing us to stay alert – always calculating the risk of infection. 

There is a lot of anxiety, which, according to Zakaria Abouleish, comes from the knowledge that infection with COVID-19 can occur as a result of being exposed to contaminated air. This anxiety is severe enough to cause some homeowners to stop opening windows and doors to allow fresh air in as this may be a source of COVID-19. This behavior results in poor home ventilation and deterioration in indoor air quality.

People want to be in control of the risk as much as possible, and that is why sometimes they take irrational actions. You cannot hermetically isolate yourself indoors to avoid infection. However, if you are worried about your indoor air quality due to the pandemic, there are some things you can consider, starting with your heating system. 

So, let’s use science to educate ourselves about the factors that influence the indoor air quality and risks of airborne virus transmissions. 

The main factors influencing your indoor air quality are the type of your heating system, air circulation, and humidity.

 

The type of heating and ventilation system

 

It has been documented that small particles containing tuberculosis, Q-fever, and measles viruses may be transported through ventilation systems (Li et al. 2007). Therefore, when outbreaks occur in the workplace, transmission through HVAC systems must be considered. 

We can decrease disease transmission by direct contact through more efficient prevention strategies. We should consider how we can reduce airborne transmission as well.

Newer data suggest that influenza transmission in some cases may occur through the airborne route and that HVAC systems may contribute far more both to the transmission of disease and, potentially, to the reduction of transmission risk.

So, if we want to decrease the risk of airborne infection, we should explore alternatives to closed HVAC systems and rely on different technologies like radiators or infra-red panels. But which is better?

 

Air Circulation

 

Some people are more vulnerable to infections and complications than others, usually due to some chronic conditions. Unfortunately, most of the chronic conditions worsen in the environment with low air quality.  Problems like headaches, respiratory disease, irritation of the mucous membranes and throat, joint problems, gastrointestinal problems, eczema, and laxity can all be caused by prolonged exposure to mold. How can we prevent mold? Moist cold walls are often the reason for spreading mold, so make sure to keep your walls warm and dry. Radiators usually won’t do the trick, because they warm up the air, leaving the objects in the room cold. That is why all the heat is gone as soon as you open the window. Because of the specific technology, Infrared panels warm up the walls and objects in the room. Objects in the room retain heat, keeping them dry. Mould can’t grow in dry places, so these infrared heaters also double as dehumidifiers by keeping walls and the ceiling warm.

Convection heaters constantly stir up air, dust, and airborne particles, which can easily lead to irritation or infection. For people that are allergic to dust and dust mites as well as people with eczema or atopic dermatitis, this may cause severe discomfort.

Infrared heating doesn’t stir up the air, which means that there is no circulation of dust, dust mites, and airborne viruses and bacteria. This can reduce allergies, and it also has a very positive effect on the respiratory tract, especially for those who have asthma.

Humidity

Healthy indoor humidity is between 50-60% at a temperature of 18-22°C. For optimum living hygiene, relative humidity should be around 50%. Humidity below 40% is too dry, 65% is too moist. Proper humidity levels benefit not only humans but also animals, plants, furniture, flooring, and musical instruments.

But can an optimal humidity decrease the risk of infections? Science says YES.

  • According to Schaffer et al. (1976), viral transmission at low (<40%) and high (>80%) relative humidity was much higher than at medium relative humidity (about 50%).
  • Lowen et al. (2007) and Shaman and Kohn (2009) conclude that low humidity and low temperature strongly increase influenza transmission between guinea pigs. 
  • Lowen suggests that humidifying indoor air (particularly in places like nursing homes and emergency rooms, where transmission to those at high risk for complications is likely) may help decrease the spread and the toll of influenza during the influenza season.
  • Noti et al. (2013) found that at low relative humidity (23%), influenza retains maximal infectivity (71% to 77%) and that inactivation (infectivity 16% to 22%) of the virus at higher relative humidity (43%) occurs rapidly (60 min) after coughing. 

Since infrared heating panels don’t heat the air, the humidity remains in the room. 

Infrared heating keeps your walls warm and dry while maintaining the optimal air humidity, therefore eliminating the harmful effects of dry air. 

Dry air in the winter can dry out the mucous membranes, making us more susceptible to viruses and bacteria. Fewer infections survive in rooms with optimal humidity.  Dry, hot air can also cause headaches and make you feel drowsy and tired. 

If you wear contact lenses, you will feel more comfortable using infrared heating panels as the retina of the eye is not being dried out.

 

Conclusion

Taking control of indoor air quality can help you to reduce the risks of airborne infections. The indoor air quality depends significantly on the heating solution. Closed HVAC systems may contribute to airborne transmissions. Even though the risk related to HVAC systems can be decreased by using dilution, filtration, UVGI, and different ventilation strategies; those solutions are complicated and costly.

Radiators and conventional heaters cannot prevent mold, and they constantly stir up the air allowing dust, dust mites, and other particles to circulate through the room. Even though they are slightly better than HVAC in terms of risk, they still cannot eliminate adverse effects on your health caused by dust, mold, and dry air.

Infrared Heating Panels are the best, the healthiest heating option that is also energy-efficient and maintenance-free.

If you are interested in using Infrared heating in your home or workplace, don’t hesitate to contact us.

REFERENCE

 

Li, Y., G.M. Leung, J.W. Tang, X. Yang, C.Y.H. Chao, J.Z. Lin, J.W. Lu, P.V. Nielsen, J. Niu, H. Qian, A.C. Sleigh, H-J. J. Su, J. Sundell, T.W. Wong, and P.L. Yuen. 2007. Role of ventilation in airborne transmission of infectious agents in the built environment—A multidisciplinary systematic review. Indoor Air 17(1):2–18.

Schaffer, F.L., M.E. Soergel, and D.C. Straube. 1976. Survival of airborne influenza virus: Effects of propagating host, relative humidity, and composition of spray fluids. Archives of Virology 51:263–73.

Shaman, J., and M. Kohn. 2009. Absolute humidity modulates influenza survival, transmission, and seasonality. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106(0):3243–48.

Lowen, A.C., S. Mubareka, J. Steel, and P. Palese. 2007. Influenza virus transmission is dependent on relative humidity and temperature. PLOS Pathogens 3:1470–6.

Noti J.D., F.M. Blachere, C.M. McMillen, W.G. Lindsley, M.L. Kashon, D.R. Slaughter, and D.H. Beezhold. 2013. High humidity leads to loss of infectious influenza virus from simulated coughs. PLOS ONE 8(2):e57485.

Zakaria Abouleish MY, Indoor Air Quality and Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19), Public Health, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.puhe.2020.04.047.