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Commercial HVAC, COVID and Indoor Air Quality

10 Ways to Improve Air Flow in Your Stuffy Office

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Last Updated on September 24, 2020


improve air flow

Improve air flow to improve comfort & indoor air quality

Do you sometimes look for an excuse to escape from your office or workplace just because you feel like you can’t breathe in there? You may have noticed others doing the same thing: going outside for a cigarette even if they don’t smoke, volunteering to make a Starbucks run, taking long lunches and skipping out early.

It doesn’t take long for stuffy air in your workplace to sabotage your business by seriously reducing productivity.

Also, experts say that properly designed air flow and ventilation can help to prevent transmission of airborne contaminants such as coronavirus.

Indoor air quality problems often result from air flow problems with your air conditioning system. Read on for some simple tips that will improve air flow, air quality, and comfort in your space, and get people back to business.

Improve air flow: it’s essential for air quality and comfort

Proper air flow is one of the most critical things your air conditioner needs to do its job properly. Even if the system is properly removing heat from the air that flows through the unit, it doesn’t help your comfort if the conditioned air doesn’t make it to the space that needs cooling.

Also, when conditioned air is blown into a room, and equal amount needs to be removed and returned back to the air conditioner to preserve air balance. When that doesn’t happen, you get odor problems, weird noises and doors slamming by themselves as well as stuffy, stagnant air.

Here’s the bottom line: improve air flow to improve comfort levels and your office productivity.

10 Ways to Improve Air Flow Problems in Your Air Conditioning System

Even before you call in an air conditioning professional, here are a few simple steps you can take yourself to improve air flow in your office:

1. Check for ventilation blockages

Especially if your office has hot and cold spots and inconsistent temperatures, employees are likely dealing with their discomfort by closing or blocking air conditioning registers and vents. These actions change the way air flows through the system and actually compounds the problem. As a first step to improve air flow, make sure all vents and registers are open and not blocked by furniture.

2. Remove debris around outdoor unit

Your air conditioner’s condensing unit, which is probably located either outside or in a ventilated equipment room, needs unobstructed air flow to release heat and prevent overheating. If your unit it outside, improve air flow by making sure to remove any leaves or debris that may have accumulated around the unit.

3. Change filters regularly

Your air conditioner has filters that removes dust and debris from the air and prevents it from entering the air conditioner and damaging its parts. When a filter gets clogged, it keeps air from entering the system as well. Not only does that cause air flow problems and stuffy air, but it makes the system work harder to cool your space and can lead to more frequent breakdowns.

To improve air flow, make sure you change your filters as per your equipment manufacturer’s instructions, which can be as often as once a month depending on your system usage.

4. Check condition of ducts

If your air conditioning ducts are accessible, you can have a maintenance person check to see if they are clogged with dust or have holes or cracks where conditioned air is escaping. If they are located inside walls or crawl spaces, you may have to call in an HVAC professional to inspect them and then clean or make repairs where needed.

If none of these issues prove to be the culprit, your system probably has maintenance issues and requires the expertise of an HVAC professional to improve air flow. This is very likely if you have been neglecting preventative maintenance. In a regularly scheduled service visit, all of the items listed below would be checked and any issues corrected, so the air flow problem would not happen in the first place.

Refrigeration Preventative Maintenance Contracts

5. Have coils cleaned

Your unit’s condenser coil, part of the outdoor unit, gets rid of the heat removed from the air by expelling it outside the building. The condenser coil won’t work well when it gets covered with a layer of dirt and grime. This is a very common problem in NYC with all the soot and pollution in the air.

When it happens, heat transfer is impeded, and your unit has to work harder to do its job, leading to air flow issues, increased wear on the parts and even system failure.

Learn more about coil cleaning from our helpful reference Guide to Air Conditioner Coil Cleaning: Why, How, and How Often.

6. Check for fan problems

Your air conditioner has blower motors and fans that help to move conditioned air through the ducts and into the rooms that need cooling. If the fan motor is sluggish or the fan itself is covered with grime and turning slower than needed, the system can’t move air effectively. It’s a simple matter to clean the fan and improve air flow.

7. Check refrigerant levels

If your office air is too warm as well as stagnant, your system might have a slow refrigerant leak, which means it loses cooling capacity over time. Your HVAC technician can check the levels and repair any leaks that are found.

8. Check for control issues

You may have faulty thermostats (or batteries that need changing) or building management system may need tweaking to improve air flow.

9. Check sizing of unit

If you inherited your air conditioning unit from a previous tenant, or it was selected and installed by a less-than-qualified contractor, you may have a unit that’s oversized for your space.

It’s a more common problem than you think, left over from the days when “bigger is better” was the rule of thumb for HVAC sizing. It turns out that oversized units are inefficient and don’t provide consistent comfort. An oversized unit may cycle on and off continuously, never running long enough to remove humidity from the air and making it feel stuffy and uncomfortable.

Related article: New York HVAC Systems: 8 Reasons Bigger Is Not Always Better.

10. Improve HVAC design to improve air flow

Have you renovated or changed the layout or usage of your space without updating your HVAC system? Your ductwork is probably no longer properly designed to move conditioned air to where it’s needed. Some simple ductwork changes may improve air flow and solve your stagnant office air problems.

Related article: Why You Need HVAC Design for Your Air Conditioning Install.

Want to learn more about how to improve air flow and solve air conditioning problems? See the following related articles:

Crippling Air Conditioning Problems Caused by Poor Air Flow

HVAC Troubleshooting: Surprising Symptoms of HVAC Problems

SFGATE’s How to Improve Air Flow Volume