ORLANDO, Fla. – Your home may feel like the safest place to be to prevent a COVID infection, but what happens if someone in your household tests positive? Researchers have found one quick, inexpensive precaution can reduce the spread of infection within the home.
“We found it was actually relatively simple to create a homemade isolation space that achieves the same differential pressure target that you might find in a hospital-grade isolation space,” said Eric Martin, program director at FSEC Energy Research Center at the University of Central Florida.
They tested 17 different isolation room configurations to find the best way to reduce aerosol particles from spreading throughout the house. The best and most cost-effective configuration they found was using a bedroom with an attached bathroom. Seal off the heating and cooling ductwork going into the room. Keep the door to the bedroom closed. In the bathroom run the exhaust fan.
“If the flow in the exhaust fan is not adequate, then people can also use a portable window fan that could pull air from the isolation space to the outside,” said Tanvir Khan, a post-doctoral researcher at UCF.
How can you tell if a homemade isolation zone is working successfully?
“So, if you put that tissue down in front of that opening and you’re in the isolation zone, that tissue should be blowing in towards you.” Charles Withers, a senior research analyst at UCF, said.
And not blowing virus particles to other areas in the house.
“What we’ve got here is something that most people on their own can take measures to at least improve keeping others safe in the house,” Withers explained.
The portable exhaust fan the team used for their study was bought online for $30. The researchers said the isolation room is best used in a detached single-family home. In an apartment or multifamily building, the negative pressure that’s created to generate an effective isolation space could result in drawing in air from adjacent units.