Air Handler Adjustments Supporting Healthier Workouts
Air filters are measured in their effectiveness for removing airborne contaminants on what is called the MERV (Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value) scale, ranging from 1 to 16. Before COVID-19 we were using a MERV 7 filter in our air handlers. We are now using MERV 13 filters. Filters with this MERV rating have been proven helpful in the removal of airborne virus. You cannot simply go to the highest MERV rating because the increase in filtration also means an increase in what is known as “pressure drop” from one side of the filter to the other.
This increased pressure drop decreases overall air exchanges and can have harmful effects on the air handling system. The increased cost of these filters (about three times that of the MERV 7 filters or an increased annual expense of $9,000) along with the increase in changing intervals is a significant financial commitment to our facilities maintenance budget.
Along with the increased filtration, we have increased the amount of outside air that our air handlers take in. We have doubled the outside air intake for our air handlers except on the hottest, most humid days because the increase of that hot, humid air is felt throughout the facility making people very uncomfortable, especially when working out, not to mention condensation issues. This increase in outside air also affects our maintenance budget, as hot incoming air needs to be cooled and/or cold incoming air needs to be heated.
We have also disabled all of our air circulation fans in the workout spaces as recommended by the CDC to help reduce the circulation of any virus that might be present in the air of a given space.