ASHRAE issues statements on relationship between COVID-19 and HVAC in buildings

Published: 14 April 2020

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) has published two statements regarding COVID-19 and the operation and maintenance of heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems in buildings.

“In light of the current global pandemic, it’s critically important that ASHRAE responds with guidance on mitigating the transmission of the virus, as well as ventilation and filtration recommendations,” said ASHRAE President, Darryl K. Boyce, P.Eng. 

The statements highlight the role that HVAC systems play in ensuring safe and healthy building environments and offer expert strategies needed at this time.

ASHRAE developed the statements in response to widening false statements surrounding HVAC systems, opposing advice not to run residential or commercial HVAC systems and asserts that keeping air conditioners on during this time can help control the spread of the virus. 

Read the official statements below.

Statement on airborne transmission of SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19

Transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through the air is sufficiently likely that airborne exposure to the virus should be controlled. Changes to building operations, including the operation of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems, can reduce airborne exposures.

Statement on operation of HVAC systems to reduce SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 transmission

Ventilation and filtration provided by heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems can reduce the airborne concentration of SARS-CoV-2 and thus the risk of transmission through the air. Unconditioned spaces can cause thermal stress to people that may be directly life threatening and that may also lower resistance to infection. In general, disabling of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems is not a recommended measure to reduce the transmission of the virus.

HVAC filters, along with other strategies, help to reduce virus transmission while removing other air contaminants that may have health effects.

ASHRAE’s Environmental Health Committee has also developed an Emerging Issues Brief to support the two above statements:

There is great concern about the real possibility of transmission through the air of various pathogens, especially SARS-CoV-2, among staff and administration in healthcare facilities, office workers, retail workers and patrons, manufacturing workers, and residents in private and public facilities and the general public in outdoor settings and in public transportation.

Further Information from ASHRAE

  • Epidemic Task Force
  • Emerging Issues Brief
  • Position Document on Infectious Aerosols.
  • COVID-19 Resources 

About ASHRAE

Founded in 1894, ASHRAE is a global professional society committed to serve humanity by advancing the arts and sciences of heating ventilation, air conditioning, refrigeration and their allied fields.

As an industry leader in research, standards writing, publishing, certification and continuing education, ASHRAE and its members are dedicated to promoting a healthy and sustainable built environment for all, through strategic partnerships with organizations in the HVAC&R community and across related industries.

ASHRAE is celebrating 125 years of shaping the built environment.