The company is using both an iWave air purifier and a passive filter with the MERV 13 rating in their HVAC system. Filters will be changed quarterly.

By Matthew Benusa

Photo courtesy of Threadbare Cider House

The fall season in Pittsburgh is starting up in earnest, and with the season’s dreary, chilly days, some restaurants are working to figure out solutions to keep patrons coming in while preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Since the start of the pandemic, restaurants, bars, distilleries, and indoor dining and drinking establishments have limited their indoor seating space and increased outdoor space to prevent the spread of the virus and make patrons feel more comfortable dining out. But as the weather gets colder and outdoor seating is eliminated, one place is taking a stab at creative solutions to help prevent the spread of the virus. 

The owners of Wigle Whiskey and Threadbare Cider House have implemented a series of air filters designed to limit the airborne circulation of COVID-19 in their Northside location and locations across Pittsburgh. The two filters they are using in their HVAC system are an iWave air purifier and a passive filter with the MERV 13 rating, which has garnered much attention during the pandemic. 

Co-owner of Wigle Whiskey and Threadbare Cider, Alex Grelli, said that the safety of customers and employees is first and foremost. They haven’t used the filters for very long yet, but Grelli said, “in the short run, it seems like a reasonable expense.” Before the pandemic, filters were changed quarterly; they will continue to do that, following the manufacturer’s recommendation on how to properly use the filters.

MERV 13 filters are designed for use in most HVAC systems, ranging from commercial use to residential use. They are designed to filter particulates in the air that are larger than 0.3 microns. While the filter has not been tested against COVID-19, the filter will remove almost all of the particulates that the virus has hitched a ride on.

The iWave air purifier is the second layer of filtration and purification that is installed in the HVAC system at Wigle Whiskey and Threadbare Cider. There are models for both residential and commercial use, and iWave has used an independent lab to perform a test on their iWave-C filter for its ability to remove COVID-19 from the air. Grelli mentioned that their iWave filter was shown to work in a laboratory setting, and the iWave website confirmed that.

Other restaurants across the country have looked to air purifiers to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and schools and universities have looked to them as a way to help protect students. Some air purifiers use UV light, but Grelli said they chose the ionizing purifier since it had worked in a laboratory. Plus, some UV purifiers that are installed in a room, not in the HVAC unit, can create other issues. Ionizing purifiers use an electric charge to ionize molecules in the air with a negative charge which will end up stuck to a positively charged metal plate in the purifier. Ionizing filters have been shown to work against the flu, but no scientific experiments have been performed for COVID-19. 

Still, the most effective way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 is to properly wear a face covering, wash your hands frequently, and limit exposure to others by podding with family or friends and social distancing from those outside of your pod. Grelli said that people have worn masks consistently, and Wigle Whiskey and Threadbare Cider are offering carry out everywhere and a drive-through option at their Strip District location. 

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