Businesses find creative ways to improve indoor ventilation |

Businesses find creative ways to improve indoor ventilation

The Uptown on Main in Frisco is pictured on March 17, 2020. The restaurant has fitted their HVAC system with ultraviolet lights meant to kill viruses.
Photo by Liz Copan / Studio Copan

A requirement of the 5 Star State Certification Program is that businesses improve ventilation throughout their facilities using air filters, opening windows and doors to maximize airflow, and more. Though some businesses have taken ventilation improvements a step further.

The Uptown on Main in Frisco and Body Essentials Pilates in Dillon have both installed new technology into their heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems meant to kill pathogens.

The businesses’ new HVAC systems use ultraviolet lights to kill pathogens in the air as they pass through. Ultraviolet lights are often used to disinfect surfaces and air by inactivating bacteria and viruses, but they can typically only be used when a room is clear of people to prevent burns and other injuries associated with direct exposure. Putting UV lights inside the systems means they can work while people are in the building.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, using ultraviolet-c radiation inside air ducts to disinfect air is “the safest way to employ UVC radiation because direct UVC exposure to human skin or eyes may cause injuries, and installation of UVC within an air duct is less likely to cause exposure to skin and eyes.”

Matt Spaulding, general manager of The Uptown on Main, explained that the restaurant bought several UV lights that were installed in their HVAC system before the winter holiday season in an attempt to stay ahead of ever-changing COVID-19 restrictions.

“Some people are scared to go out, so in order to alleviate some of those people’s worries … we say, ‘The air that’s being passed through the restaurant, especially in the winter when the doors are closed and there’s not airflow, … is then recirculated and is being passed through this light,’” Spaulding said. “That’s all we can do is really tell people what we’re doing to be safe inside.”

Spaulding said that while he knows the air-filtration technology will not alleviate everyone’s fears to go out in public during the pandemic, it will make a difference for some people. He explained that after the summer there were a lot of questions about how restaurants could operate in the winter. Spaulding came across the idea to put UV lights in the restaurant’s HVAC system while reading articles about what other restaurants were doing amid COVID-19.

“Throughout this whole thing, we’ve never really known what the next rules were going to be, so it was always about trying to stay ahead of the game,” Spaulding said.

After The Uptown on Main installed the filtration technology, the town of Frisco came out with the Frisco Business Innovation Grant Program, which reimbursed shops and restaurants up to $5,000 for purchases they made to better adapt to operations during the pandemic. Spaulding said the system cost just over $5,000, so the restaurant was mostly reimbursed by the town for the investment.

Bridget Crowe, owner of Body Essentials Pilates, installed UV lights in her business’ HVAC system during a remodel of the space. Crowe said that she had been looking for a new space for her business for years, and she found one in Dillon in December of 2019. The pandemic hit shortly after she bought the space.

“I spent most of the time during the pandemic, all my weekends, (doing) a nice remodel,” Crowe said. “During that time it was very clear that we had to change what was going on with the HVAC so that it would be as safe as possible.”

Crowe explained that her boyfriend, who is an engineer, was able to install the UV lights along with a system that brings in outdoor air based on the carbon dioxide level in a room. Crowe was excited that while the air filtration upgrades create a safer environment for clients amid the pandemic, they aren’t visible in a space she’s worked to make aesthetically pleasing.

“It’s not something that you would ever see,” Crowe said. “It’s so easy. It’s just happening while you’re there.”

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