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How HVAC Maintenance can Affect the Spread of Infectious Diseases

Updated: Apr 8, 2020

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, experts are looking at how building design and maintenance can impact the spread of infectious diseases. Optimizing HVAC systems and improving ventilation may be able to slow the spread of common airborne illnesses.

Since bacteria and viruses can spread in several ways, including through the air we breathe, the spread of airborne infections can be accelerated or controlled by heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning systems. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that facilities increase air circulation and filtration whenever possible. Since small particles can remain airborne for a period of time, ventilation systems can inadvertently increase the spread of the infection. Through innovative design and operation, HVAC systems can affect disease transmission in several ways. This includes, supplying clean air to susceptible occupants, containing contaminated air or exhausting it outdoors, and diluting a room with clean air.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), suggests that facility managers and building engineers ensure that their facilities meet the current standards for ventilation and thermal conditions. They also recommend keeping HVAC systems commissioned and maintained. If necessary, ASHRAE suggests adding supplemental filtration or air cleaning technologies. At a minimum, high efficiency filters are generally low cost and easy to implement.

While healthcare facilities have criteria in place designed to mitigate the transmission of airborne diseases, most infections are transmitted in ordinary spaces such as the home or workplace. ASHRAE does not provide specific requirements for infectious disease control in schools and other public facilities at the moment.

It should be noted that all HVAC strategies are intended to be performed on a well-designed, commissioned, and maintained HVAC system. Preventative maintenance such as an annual tune-up, can extend the life of your unit and have your system running at peak performance all year long. A tune-up can also help you avoid future repairs and may even lower your energy bill. Your HVAC will be working overtime as we shift into the summer months making spring a great time to schedule your HVAC tune-up.

For questions regarding HVAC or ventilation strategies, contact us at 213-265-3971 or


ASHRAE Position Document on Airborne Infectious Diseases. (2020, February 5). Retrieved April 3, 2020, from library/about/position documents/airborne-infectious-diseases.pdf


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