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How HVAC Upgrades Fight COVID-19 and Climate Change

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Photo by Adrien Olichon on Unsplash

  • Energy-efficient upgrades to HVAC systems at schools and other critical buildings can prevent the spread of COVID-19. 
  • Federal funding and tax incentives to make these building upgrades could catalyze a market already projected for growth. 
  • The EU has already embraced building upgrades as part of the European Green Deal framework in its recovery package.

What do climate change, COVID-19, and your air conditioner have in common? As it turns out, a lot.


With any virus, the “aerosol effect” — how long contagious droplets of the virus stay in the air or on a surface after an infected person talks, sneezes or coughs — is a risk. Scientists have been studying the aerosol effect of COVID-19 since the pandemic began, and while there are still unanswered questions, the research completed to date indicates that the coronavirus is more likely to survive and be transmitted in poorly-ventilated spaces — which include 41% of public schools in the U.S.


That’s where the unexpected but critical connection to climate change comes in.


“We’re often talking about HVAC [heating, ventilation, and air conditioning] in a way that’s mostly focused on energy efficiency — that’s a big energy user in a building, and a big place to save energy as well — but the HVAC system also controls ventilation,” said Liz Beardsley, senior policy counsel at the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), in an interview with Karma. “People are now making that connection between indoor air quality and how we’re going to function in the post-pandemic world.”