CO² meters and ventilation: important weapons in the fight against corona

22 June 2022

By now you are certainly familiar with the CO2 meter. Last year, in addition to in-depth disinfection (NL or FR), it gained enormous prominence: it became mandatory in hairdressing salons in Belgium on February 13, 2021. And less than six months later, an obligation followed in cafés, restaurants, event and sports infrastructure and care institutions. But what is the point of these meters now? How can they help us in the fight against corona? And what exactly is CO² again?

The difference between the CO and the CO²

It’s just a little number, but CO and CO² are totally different. Carbon monoxide or CO is created when fuels are not burned completely. It is a toxic gas that prevents oxygen transport in your body. Excessive levels of CO in the air are therefore deadly.

The main protagonist today, however, is carbon dioxide or CO², a gas that always has a limited presence in the air but is less harmful than CO. Excessive levels of CO2 in the air, however, can cause headaches, concentration problems and drowsiness. What do CO and CO2 have in common? That you can measure them both.

The CO² meter: the less PPM, the beter!

You may already have seen a CO2 meter in sports clubs or at the hairdressers. That’s because they are mandatory here and must be visible to customers. This meter should ideally read a CO² content of the air that does not exceed 900 ppm. That means that the air contains less than 0.9 percent CO2 by volume.

Is there an upper limit that should be used? Yes, the standard of 1200 ppm should not be exceeded. Of course, it is not the case that a CO² concentration that is too high necessarily means that there is a risk of contamination. For that, a corona-infected person must be present in the room. But it is a warning that the conditions for virus transmission are ideal.

Now yes: how do you keep that CO2 level below 900 ppm? Simple: by ventilation.

How does the ventilation help against corona?

By breathing, talking, laughing, or coughing, you emit droplets. Some of them (aerosols) are so small that they float in the air. Those who inhale too many aerosols containing the coronavirus run the risk of becoming infected.

Therefore, it is important to properly ventilate interior spaces and let in fresh outside air. This can be done by opening the windows and doors or through a mechanical ventilation system that only supplies fresh air. You can see the effect of opening a window in an unventilated space directly on the CO2 meter.

Ventilation, what are the rules and recommandations ?

Higher up, you already read that in some places a CO² meter is mandatory. But also, companies or businesses where this is not the case, benefit from such a meter. After all, staying below 900 ppm reduces the risk of infection, whether in a school, office building or store. So, there is a document (FR or NL) with clear recommendations from the Taskforce Ventilation of the Corona Commission. In it you will also find a handy checklist that can serve as an aid in evaluating your situation.

Choosing the safest option

While no device can guarantee 100% virus-free air, it is a good and safe idea to install a CO² meter in your organization. Which device exactly? For this we refer to the document “Selection and use of CO2 sensors in the context of COVID-19” (FR or NL), also prepared by the Task Force on Ventilation of the Corona Commission

Of course, it’s not just because of the current corona crisis that you should be betting on better ventilation. Air quality in offices, schools and healthcare facilities has been a concern with public health in our country for years. The importance of HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) for well-being at work (FR or NL) should not be underestimated, as poorly ventilated or heated rooms can cause a whole range of health problems. In short: with good ventilation, everyone can work safer and healthier. And the employers? They avoid possible sanctions for poor ventilation or too polluted air.

Curious about how you can create even more well-being at work? Download now our e-book (FR or NL) on the combination of thorough cleaning and preventive maintenance of your HVAC