For facility owners and managers at medical facilities, healthcare HVAC is a critical component to the health and welfare of your patients. That’s always been true, but the COVID crisis has raised the stakes.
Let’s take a look at the symptoms of a poorly functioning healthcare HVAC system. Then we’ll discuss what you can do to prevent and fix healthcare HVAC systems at hospitals, nursing homes, clinics, physical therapy and wellness centers.
The risks of poor healthcare HVAC
Healthcare HVAC breakdowns and poor performance are very serious problems. That’s because patients’ lives can be at risk if temperatures and humidity deviate from safe levels. Also, pathogens that may be transmitted through a ducted HVAC system are an additional risk.
High humidity: a huge healthcare HVAC problem
High heat and humidity are unpleasant for healthy people. Yet these conditions are especially harmful to those with respiratory problems. They also are dangerous to those recuperating after surgery at a rehabilitation center or nursing home.
High humidity promotes the spread of bacteria and viruses. Humidity levels that are too low also pose a risk, because the COVID virus thrives under these conditions. This is a concern at any location, but it’s even more troublesome at healthcare facilities where people often have compromised immune systems. When your immune system is down, it is harder to fight infections. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in 25 patients will acquire a hospital-associated infection.
If your facility’s HVAC system isn’t controlling humidity well, that’s a serious health risk.
Temperature fluctuations endanger patients
Temperature variances can be annoying in our homes, but downright dangerous at hospitals and other medical centers. Healthcare facilities must maintain the correct temperature for each specialized environment. That makes designing & maintaining HVAC for medical facilities a critical consideration.
Warmer temperatures may be needed for cardiac patients with poor circulation. Those with high fevers and brain injuries often need a cooler environment. Burn victims require warmer temperatures with higher humidity.
Federal and state authorities require health care administrators to report temperature variances exceeding a certain range. Violations can result in sanctions and loss of licenses necessary for operation.
Healthcare HVAC equipment failures can shut you down
Air conditioning and heating breakdowns inconvenience most of us. But HVAC breakdowns can have disastrous results at medical buildings.
Healthcare HVAC equipment failure can force you to close your building or transfer patients to other facilities. Neither option is good for your reputation or bottom line.
Poor working conditions impact patient care
Besides bringing comfort to your patients, an optimal healthcare HVAC system is vital for your employee’s health and delivery of services to patients. You don’t need large numbers of staff members calling in sick or on the job unable to fully attend to their responsibilities.
Taking care of your HVAC at medical facilities
When you proactively maintain your HVAC at a medical facility, you are taking care of your patients.
Here are some maintenance tasks that keep your healthcare HVAC equipment working reliably. Is your HVAC maintenance service provider doing all this?
Upgrade air filters. Ordinary HVAC filters can’t remove bacteria and viruses from the air. HEPA filters can effectively trap harmful particles (including COVID) and can be helpful in preventing disease transmission. However, be aware that there are downsides to using HEPA or other higher efficiency filters. They cost significantly more than standard filters and must be changed more often to do their job. They also reduce air flow which can cause reduced performance and other problems with your system. You’ll need to consult with an HVAC expert to determine if your system can accommodate higher efficiency filters.
Consider technology to improve Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). Products such as ionization-based air purifiers and UV light devices can kill pathogens (including the COVID virus) within your HVAC system. Some can even kill airborne particles within your space.
Clean evaporator and condenser coils. Dirty coils interfere with the transfer of heat. Condenser coils caked in grime trap heat instead of releasing it. Dirty evaporator coils won’t effectively absorb the heat. These coil problems result in less efficient cooling cycles. Equipment will struggle to reach desired temperatures and won’t be able to remove moisture from the air.
Check refrigerant levels. If your refrigerant level is low, it likely means there is a leak.
Check ducts for leaks. You’d be surprised how much air can leak out of even small holes. Escaped air trapped behind walls will not do you any good where you need it – in the rooms where people are convalescing and working.
Check electrical connections. Loose wires and connections can cause your AC to lose power.
Check belts and OTHER MOVING parts for signs of wear. By addressing these small issues, you can prevent equipment failures that hurt patient care.
Calibrate thermostats and humidistats. Malfunctioning thermostats can cycle air conditioning and heat on and off too frequently.
Clean drain lines and drip pans. Overflowing pans can mean you have a clogged condensed drain, which must be addressed quickly to avoid system failure and damage to your building and its contents.
Bring in the best healthcare HVAC professionals
With so much at stake, you don’t want to call just anyone in to assess your healthcare HVAC system. So, why not invite the experts from Arista Air into your facility to inspect your system and make recommendations? Arista Air has the knowledge to provide you with the best healthcare HVAC advice. We can help you minimize system risks, maintain patient and employee comfort and safety, and save you money through system operational efficiencies.
To learn more about how a preventative maintenance contract can help you, see: HVAC Preventive Maintenance Contracts: How to Find The Right One For Your HVAC Infrastructure.