Tips to prevent common air pollutants from taking a toll on your HVAC system

December 6, 2023
Tips to prevent common air pollutants from taking a toll on your HVAC system

In the past, HVAC solutions focused primarily on providing comfort through heating and cooling. However, innovation is currently trending toward acknowledging the importance of ventilation, hygienic technology, and filtration solutions for health and hygiene.

When it comes to reducing the risk of infection - since pathogens can move freely by airflow, having an adequate amount of ventilation and purification enabled by our HVAC systems is extremely important. Significant efforts have been made to create vigilant systems that incorporate functions into our systems whereby the transmission of pathogens is reduced.

1. Combat indoor air pollution with air purification technology: UVC lights

No doubt, you’ve heard of UVA and UVB — the types of solar ultraviolet (UV) radiation from which people protect themselves using sunscreen and other methods. UVC is the most damaging type of solar radiation, but it is completely filtered out by the atmosphere and does not reach the Earth’s surface.UVC-emitting lights are useful for destroying contaminants on surfaces. This technology can kill many microbes. You can have UVC lights installed within your HVAC system to keep the equipment free of pathogens, and reduce the risk of spreading them throughout a building.

2. Prevent indoor air pollution with good ventilation design

A properly designed ventilation system reduces indoor air pollution by providing fresh air, controlling odors, and removing contaminants that can cause physical symptoms and illness. For instance, exhaust fans can help to remove fumes from manufacturing activities and the use of chemicals or other materials. They can also reduce the concentration of virus particles that may be present in the air.Other times, ventilation can be improved by relocating intakes, moving ductwork, or adding some other HVAC technology. A great example is make up air units for restaurant kitchens.

3. Use VRF for humidity (and temperature) control

High relative humidity levels can increase the concentration of some indoor air pollutants. For example, high humidity makes the air and surfaces moist, increasing the chance for mold to grow. Low humidity is a problem, too, because viruses, including the virus that causes COVID, thrives in low humidity conditions. In fall and winter when the heat is running, humidity levels often plummet indoors.

4. Consider increasing filtration

While standard air conditioner and furnace filters do not remove pathogens like UVC does, these everyday filters still play an important role. They protect your HVAC equipment from dust and debris, to keep it performing efficiently.HEPA filters are recognized by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) and the EPA for their ability to remove airborne particles. In fact, some UV air purification systems use a heavy-duty HEPA filter to trap the largest particles, such as dust, and UV fields to capture microscopic particles, such as viruses.However, because HEPA filters restrict airflow (which can hurt performance and strain the system), many HVAC systems require some retrofitting to accommodate HEPA.Another option is to consider MERV 13 filters, which offer additional filtration with less airflow restriction and less strain on the system.

5. Clean the ductwork to reduce indoor air pollution

Whatever fine debris is circulating in your building’s air can end up accumulating in the ductwork — and that can significantly impact IAQ. Whatever is in your ductwork can end up back in the air you breathe.A simple inspection can tell you if dust, mold spores, pollen, pet dander, or other airborne materials are building up. Those contaminants can contribute to health issues, especially for people who have asthma, allergies, or other breathing problems.Having trained and certified specialists clean clogged ducts not only improves air quality, but also helps to improve HVAC system efficiency and prevent breakdowns.

6. Bring in a professional for mold remediation

By the time you learn you have mold in your air ducts, the problem could already be widespread.Unchecked, mold is more than an IAQ issue. It is a health issue, causing symptoms such as headaches, nausea, irritated nose and throat, itchy eyes, and asthma.If your ductwork has been invaded by mold, it is crucial to call an HVAC professional for remediation ASAP. Professionals have the proper chemicals to thoroughly remove the mold, as well as the equipment required to protect themselves, your HVAC system, and your building from the mold and the cleaning process.

7. Stay on top of air quality with routine HVAC maintenance

Since the air that you breathe indoors is circulated by your HVAC system, regular professional system inspections and tune-ups are essential to good IAQ.Investing in routine HVAC maintenance, coupled with the occasional duct inspection and cleaning, not only helps you detect, prevent, and eliminate sources of indoor air pollution — it also helps to ensure that your HVAC system is performing properly, for consistent comfort, cost-effectiveness, and reliability.

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