How HVAC helps indoor companies reopen
One of the scariest things about COVID-19 is that it spreads through the air we breathe. People infected with the virus breathe it out, which means people around them have a good chance of inhaling it and infecting themselves.
Robust heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems may be required to reduce this risk indoors. With restaurants and other businesses allowed in many parts of the country to let customers return, their owners have put a lot of money and effort into upgrading their HVAC systems.
About a month ago, Jennifer Vitagliano’s Michelin-starred Manhattan restaurant, The Musket Room, made an announcement stating that it was open for indoor dining for the first time in months.
The announcement mentioned the menu’s new half-fried chicken in salsa verde on sourdough stir-fry, an endive salad with pecorino, pistachio and currents, and an improved HVAC system with highly efficient filters.
“More than the style of the kitchen or what’s on the menu right now, people want to know, ‘What precautions are restaurants taking to ensure my safety?'” Vitagliano said.
Vitagliano said she spent a few thousand dollars upgrading her existing HVAC equipment with a new addition: a needle-tipped bipolar ionization system.
“It basically creates positively and negatively charged ions in your air,” said Matt Justus, senior sales engineer at Norman S. Wright Mechanical Equipment in San Francisco. “As these particles carrying the coronavirus pass through the air, the negative ions attach to the coronavirus spike proteins and transmit that particular virus [particle] ineffective.”
According to Justus, needle-tipped bipolar ionization systems costing around $ 2,000 per dining room have blown off the shelves. Do you also have other technology, like a ceiling fan that emits ultraviolet light to neutralize the virus.
“Our industry really got a boost from this emphasis on building clean, safe and healthy interiors,” said Justus.
Restaurant, nail salon, and other business owners considering such devices are hardly HVAC experts. Because of this, they may turn to someone like Kate Turner, a facility management consultant in New York, who helps restaurant owners figure out how to upgrade their systems – even if their existing equipment can upgrade at all.
“Unless you have someone skilled to negotiate with vendors on your behalf, it can be very easy to accidentally switch in a direction that will cost you a lot more money,” said Turner.
The return of limited indoor eating in New York City has been a boon for Arista Air Conditioning Corp., a New York HVAC service provider. Owner Scott Berger said that currently about a third of the company’s work is in virus-affected companies, including restaurants, gyms and movie theaters.
However, that increase did not offset the general downturn this year. With people working from home, many office buildings have been left empty – and don’t need HVAC service.
“Our business is definitely going badly,” said Berger. “We are down 23% year over year.”
As a result, Berger said he wanted to expand his customer base beyond New York City.
This story was edited to clarify the role negative ions play in neutralizing individual virus particles.
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