Local News

Blackhawk Hills Regional Council doing free ventilation testing

Program funded by the CARES Act

Free ventilation tests are available to all northwest Illinois businesses, nonprofits, and government agencies through Blackhawk Hills Regional Council (BHRC), the area’s regional planning organization based out of Rock Falls.

Results are not shared with anyone except the business owner, and there is no charge for any of the services. The program is funded by the CARES Act.

Although there are no ventilation requirements for operating businesses, it can be helpful to know what a safe occupancy capacity is, and the report each business receives after testing can be used to seek funding for upgrades to HVAC systems.

BHRC’s Indoor Air Quality Specialist, Tim Benedict said the project stemmed from COVID-19 safety concerns.

“Fresh air is good in so many ways, well beyond COVID-19 and giving local businesses free tests,” Benedict said. “The report I generate is totally confidential and offers suggestions. They can use it to get funding. I’ve done every area library. One test is dropping off a carbon dioxide monitor. If they want, I can do a more involved air exchange rate test.”

Benedict said most reports come back and say the air is safe, and the tests provide more of a sense of security.

The tests show the safe amounts of patrons to be allowed inside based on air filtration.

“It’s a reality we have to get back to business to some degree,” Benedict said. “There are very effective and efficient ways to increase ventilation. Most infections are spread through air droplets. If we can improve ventilation, it could save lives. And fresh air makes it more productive. We’re not doing houses, and we don’t offer follow-up services.”

To get more information or to sign up for a free ventilation study, call Benedict, at (815) 440-8300.

Benedict has worked to create do-it-yourself air filtration systems by taping together four MERV-13 furnace filters into a cube with a box fan on top. The fan pulls air through the filters and blows clean air up and out.

Although not available to buy as a unit, the parts are all at local hardware stores and the total cost is around $100.

“To get the same quality and quantity of air purification from a commercial system, it would likely cost thousands,” Benedict said.

Known as the Corsi Box or Comparetto Cube, the homemade air purifiers will filter between 500-900 cubic feet per minute, depending on the filters and fan speed. When constructed with filters rated MERV-13 or higher, they will trap 98% of airborne particles as small as .3 microns, including viruses, bacteria, smoke, dust, pollen, mold, mites and pet dander.

Benedict has offered to help constructing the cubes and businesses can contact him with questions.