Some schools plan to use air purifiers in place of forced ventilation

Air purifier.
Air purifier. Source: ERR

A third of Estonian schools still lack forced ventilation and are having trouble ensuring good air quality. While the government recommends complementing study buildings with forced ventilation systems, some local counterparts see the need for cheaper air purifiers that can be adopted more quickly.

The Tartu Karlova School took delivery of air purifiers sporting HEPA filters as the school lacks forced ventilation. Even though the air purifiers cannot reduce the amount of carbon dioxide in the schoolhouse, the city of Tartu believes their adoption is the likeliest scenario for the start of the school year.

It takes less time and is cheaper to install air purifiers when compared to room ventilation or full forced ventilation systems that often require the entire building to be renovated.

"Classroom-based solutions are expensive. It costs at least ten times as much as installing an air purifier in the room, while it would likely also take time to manufacture the systems. Air purifiers constitute a standard solution that has been around for years and can address the problem the fastest," Tartu Deputy Mayor Priit Humal said.

While installing ventilations systems would be more effective, University of Tarty studies have shown that using air purifiers in study buildings does make it harder for viruses to spread.

"It is hardly an ideal solution, while it could be one in schools with poor ventilation during an epidemic. The best purifiers use HEPA filters, while there are others that also filter out odors. How often these filters need replacing is one question, while they are safe in terms of not introducing any new chemicals into the air," said Heikki Junninen, professor of environmental physics for the university.

Even though cleaning the filters is cumbersome, the Karlova School said that air purifiers have proven effective. Their use has not translated into notable new costs either.

"The school currently has 65 air purifiers and as far as I have kept an eye on our energy bills since February, costs have not grown out of hand, notably at least," the school's financial manager Svetlana Jasnova said.

It would cost Tartu around €3 million to install air purifiers in its schools and kindergartens by fall. The city hopes to determine which type of air purifiers it can get and how much it would have to pay in the first half of summer. The government is not planning on allocating extra funds for air purifiers.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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