With COVID-19 and social distancing now a common reality, and the winter and flu season unfolding quickly across the country, we are spending far more time indoors. In the midst of this pandemic, it is now more imperative than ever that we explore and apply ways to reduce the presence and transmission of microorganisms and pathogens in indoor air. In order to do so, improvements to the HVAC systems in our buildings are necessary. Here are five proven strategies for improving indoor air quality.
With more clean air coming in from outdoors and more indoor air properly exhausted, both potentially contaminated indoor air and microorganism buildup can be reduced. This daily air flush is recommended to achieve several rounds of air changes prior to occupants entering the building; the specific number of daily air flushes depends on the building’s requirements. Air should continue to be changed and the space kept well-ventilated throughout the day. As an add-on, ensuring the space’s ducts are clean would help to further eliminate the presence and spread of microorganisms.
Air filtration can also help mitigate risks and clean the air by capturing particles and microorganisms through a filter in the HVAC system. The most commonly used filters are mechanical. Filtration can also utilize bipolarization/ ionization technology, which employs specialized tubes to convert oxygen into charged atoms that surround microorganisms, break them down, and ultimately deactivate them. These charged atoms also latch onto particles and cause them to enlarge, which allows for them to be easily captured by filters. Some types of filtration even use active particle control to cause smaller particles to collide and stay together, making them larger and therefore easier to be collected by the filter. Because filters capture microorganisms but not kill them, safety measures must be taken when replacing the filters.
3. UVGI (ultraviolet germicidal irradiation)
Ultraviolet Germicidal Irradiation (UVGI) is another established way to reduce the spread of microorganisms, confirmed to be over 99% effective at eliminating pathogens (ASHRAE). For decades, it has been used for disinfection in a variety of spaces, from hospitals and medical facilities to commercial airplanes. It uses mercury vapour technology to deliver high-energy, UV-C spectrum light. When the right dosage is applied, this technology damages the DNA/RNA of microorganisms, including viruses, bacteria, and fungi, thus eliminating their ability to replicate and reproduce.
UVGI can be applied to a building in a number of different ways that can be combined for the best results. Upper air UVGI mounted on the wall and suspended from the ceiling leverages the space above the occupants (between the ceilings and top of people’s heads). With effective vertical air movement inside an indoor space, these UVGI fixtures can effectively disinfect the air. Alternatively, UVGI can be integrated into the HVAC system. The technology can be placed inside ducts to disinfect the air stream provided to spaces. It can also be placed inside air handling units to de-foul and disinfect the coil, pan, and other surfaces.
4. Intelligent predictive maintenance (IPM)
Using a data-driven BAS system, IPM leverages features like fault detection diagnostics (FDD) and preventative maintenance to detect failures. It addresses the root causes of potential problems before they even happen. This provides an opportunity to be proactive and better plan for maintenance. Ultimately, IPM will result in fewer and shorter downtimes of critical HVAC equipment, which minimizes potential risks to occupants.
Additionally, through continuous remote monitoring, a building’s indoor air quality (IAQ) can be optimized and improved. For example, ventilation can be monitored and controlled remotely so that it meets the needs and safety requirements of the building. Also, monitoring equipment can help ensure that they are replaced based on demand (i.e. mold buildup), rather than on a pre-determined schedule.
Are you ready for clean air? Modern Niagara can be your trusted partner for improving the quality of the indoor air in your buildings.
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