Hotel study suggests air purifiers help reduce exposure to airborne contaminants

Hotel guests

Computer modeling used to simulate air flow and movement of particulates in hotel common areas; demonstrates that filtration can potentially improve air quality and guests’ confidence in hotel stays

The hotel industry was among the hardest hit by the pandemic. As travel rates increase, hotels are turning to science and technology to create environments that make guests feel safer. Honeywell released findings of a computer modeling study that examined indoor air quality in hotel common areas, focusing specifically on filtration and purification methods used to help mitigate potential airborne contaminants. The study found that mobile HEPA air purifiers can help reduce airborne contaminants by capturing particles as small as 0.3 microns and even smaller. In addition, placing purifiers in high-traffic areas is an important factor in reducing contaminants.

Examining Air Flow and Particulates Inside a Lobby 

The model simulated airborne transmission inside a common area of a select-service hotel, conditioned by a traditional HVAC system, to see how far aerosols travel and how long they remain suspended in the air. Using computer models, the study measured airborne particulates of simulated talking, sneezing and coughing in a common area of a hotel property, such as the dining area, and the HVAC system’s filtration efficiency to capture contaminants throughout the space.

The simulation observed the flow of large and small particles, [i] taking into account factors such as the location of the HVAC supply and return air vents, air flow physics, and the social distancing of guests. In the model, some of the guests were wearing face coverings and some were not (i.e., to simulate eating in the dining area). The study specifically examined the impact of adding mobile air purifiers to help pull contaminated air away from guests. 

Key Study Findings: Air Flow and Impact of Air Purifiers

•             In the study, 97% of small particles were captured by air purifiers, which made a significant impact on the improvement of air quality.               

•             Talking created smaller and fewer droplets than a sneeze; yet, when the droplet attaches itself to a particle as an aerosol, dissemination continued as long as a person talked and travelled approximately 60 feet in the simulation due to HVAC air flow.

•             The closer a source of contaminants is to the air purifier, the higher the purifier’s effectiveness; mobile HEPA air purifiers captured particles as small as 0.3 microns (and smaller).

Key Study Findings: Effective Placement of Air Purifiers

•             Return air vents are often at the edges of a space and, as a result, can allow aerosols and other particles to travel farther. Typically, HVAC systems in hotels and other commercial buildings are not placed to control contaminants; they are designed for comfort and energy efficiency by controlling temperature and humidity.

•             Mobile HEPA air purifiers placed in strategic locations in a hotel lobby can be effective in managing the spread of contaminants, large and small.

•             Air purifiers that are less obstructed and set at tabletop level were more effective.

Background on Air Purifiers

Standalone, mobile HEPA air purifiers are known to capture particles as small as 0.3 microns and can help reduce the spread of pathogens, viruses and contaminated air. [ii] NASA research suggests portable air purifiers can be effective at removing submicron and nonparticulate size matter as well. [iii] Air purifiers work by pulling stale air into the unit where a carbon filter captures larger particles, VOCs and odours. The air then passes through the HEPA filter, made of tightly woven glass or synthetic fibres to capture smaller particles including smoke, dust, pollen, mould spores, viruses and bacteria. Honeywell HEPA air purifiers offer building owners a cost-effective, plug-and-play solution that does not require infrastructural changes.

Honeywell’s Healthy Buildings solutions are part of a comprehensive effort to innovate solutions that help critical sectors of the global economy recover, like hospitality, without the need to replace existing infrastructure.

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