Are there indoor air quality solutions that can promote improved health, fewer employee absences and reduced insurance costs? By looking more closely at your indoor air quality and HVAC systems, you can offer your customers and employees an improved environment that will reap benefits for your business.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, more business owners and managers are looking at the relationship between indoor air quality, HVAC systems, and employees’ health. OSHA (Occupational Safety & Health Administration) lists inadequate HVAC maintenance as a major cause of poor indoor air quality. OSHA claims poor indoor air quality can cause headaches, fatigue, concentration problems, skin rashes, and eye, nose, throat and lung irritation.
Additionally, chronic health problems such as asthma are linked to indoor air quality and HVAC systems. Prolonged exposure to certain contaminants has even been connected to life-threatening medical conditions including heart and lung disease and cancer.
And of course, with the uncertainty around mitigating transmission of the COVID-19 virus, employers want to do everything they can to remove any potential virus contamination in the air to keep people safe in their spaces.
So with so much at stake, isn’t it time to look at indoor air quality solutions?
Dangers of poor IAQ & the true cost of overlooking indoor air quality solutions
Many of us attribute our sneezing and runny noses to allergies caused by outdoor seasonal triggers, yet the EPA (federal Environmental Protection Agency) has determined that the air inside can be at minimum 2 to 5 times more polluted than outside.
Even though the EPA has ranked indoor air pollutants among the top 5 environmental risks to public health, it’s not exactly a topic that comes up over a sandwich in the break room. Here’s why indoor air quality should not be ignored:
- 50% of all illnesses are caused or aggravated by poor indoor air quality – The American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology.
- Poor indoor air quality costs businesses up to $168 billion annually – The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Medical care and absenteeism contribute significantly to those costs.
- Employers can increase workforce performance by roughly 10 % by implementing indoor air quality solutions – DOE.
- A study cited by Kimberly-Clark Corporation found that for every 10 workers, poor indoor air quality caused an additional 6 sick days per year.
- By controlling contaminants such as dust mites, asthma cases can be reduced by 55 to 60% – The American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.
- Although COVID-19 has not been proven to be transmitted via HVAC systems, there is increasing concern about virus particles remaining airborne long enough to infect people nearby under some conditions. If that’s true, then presumably particles could enter an air distribution system. The good news is that there are mitigation tactics that can reduce that risk.
Now that indoor air quality directly correlates with your employees’ health and productivity, wouldn’t it make sense to consider indoor air quality solutions?
Seeking indoor air quality solutions? How your HVAC system impacts air quality
Most of us spend 90-percent of our time indoors and for many the majority of that time is spent at work. Many tend to think of HVAC as a means to cool a room when it’s hot or heat a room when it’s cold. But a well-designed system does more than pump cold and hot air into our space. It maintains a consistent temperature to promote healthy indoor air quality.
The air you inhale at work is filtered through an HVAC system, which brings in air from the outside. So your HVAC system is bringing outdoor pollutants inside and those unwanted contaminants can stay inside, if your HVAC system isn’t functioning properly or serviced regularly. There are indoor air quality solutions that will prevent untreated outdoor air from invading your indoor space and protect you from contaminants.
Related article: AC Maintenance: The Cure for Springtime Allergies?
When you forego routine HVAC maintenance, pollutants can get trapped inside your equipment and ductwork. Your indoor air quality problems can be compounded if neglected HVAC maintenance results in moisture problems. Moisture can lead to the growth of dangerous mold and mildew and can spark the spread of bacteria and allow viruses (like coronavirus) to remain viable for longer periods of time.
If you are located in the NYC metro area, Arista can help with a maintenance plan that’s customized for your specific needs. Get started now by requesting a maintenance agreement.
You can breathe a sigh of relief because indoor air quality solutions can provide you with clean, healthy air.
System design: a key to indoor air quality solutions
Most of us put a high priority on breathing in clean air. So what are the components of an HVAC system that will provide you, your employees and customers with the air quality necessary to foster a healthy atmosphere?
A properly designed ventilation system is critical because ventilation provides the right balance of gases and ensures that the air you breathe doesn’t contain too much carbon dioxide. Adding ventilation also helps prevent COVID transmission because it dilutes any virus particles that may be present in the air.
Ventilation also controls odors and removes contaminants from occupied spaces. Sometimes correcting ventilation problems is just a matter of relocating intakes, adding makeup air or moving ductwork.
An important part of healthy indoor air quality solutions is humidity control. When maintenance is overlooked, condensate lines and drain lines can become clogged with sentiment. The result is – the moisture that your HVAC system is removing from the air becomes trapped. All that accumulating water is a breeding ground for mold, mildew and bacteria, which collects inside your equipment and can even travel to your ducts.
Humidity control is also important for COVID mitigation, since the virus survives much longer at very low and very high humidity level, and tends to be weakened at moderate humidity levels.
Indoor air quality solutions for COVID-19 mitigation
In addition to adding ventilation and controlling humidity, experts are recommending tactics that can help to trap and deactivate any virus particles that may make their way into your HVAC air distribution system.
- High efficiency filters. You may have been hearing that HEPA filters (or other high efficiency filters) can protect you from COVID. It’s possible that higher efficiency filters may help to trap some virus particles. However, they are not foolproof since coronavirus particles are tiny and the filters may not trap all particles. Also, higher efficiency filters can impede airflow within your system, leading to decreased comfort conditions and higher energy bills. Plus, not every HVAC system can accommodate higher efficiency filters. It’s best to consult with HVAC experts before making the decision to install high efficiency filters.
- Air cleaning products that use UV light and ionization technology to deactivate viruses. These devices can be installed within your air distribution system to destroy virus particles within the system. Some products can also be installed in a room to destroy particles in the air. Again, these options are not foolproof (and not a substitute for wearing masks, washing hands, and social distancing) but some have been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of virus transmission.
Indoor air quality solutions: Change those filters, clean those coils & ducts
Homeowners aren’t the only ones prone to forget to change their air conditioning (AC) filters. For starters, filters should capture contaminants and prevent the vast majority of them from entering your air space. Filters ensure that dust and grime do not clog your system. If these filters are not changed according to system specifications, clogging occurs and grime ends up in your equipment, ducts and eventually in your indoor air. For allergy sufferers, there are special types of filters that remove more allergens. You should use HEPA filters, which are designed to improve air quality.
Related topic: 5 Facts You Need to Know About Air Filters for Allergies
Though, duct cleaning may not be part of routine maintenance, if your system has been neglected, you may want to have your ducts inspected because they could be dusty or moldy and impact your indoor air quality.
Your AC coils are crucial to the reliable operation of your system and cleaning those coils is an essential part of your indoor air quality solutions. An evaporator coil absorbs the heat and humidity from the air space. This coil is part of your indoor air handling unit.
A condenser coil discharges the heat to the outside. This coil is often found on your outdoor unit and frequently is the victim of dirt accumulation. When dirt collects on the coils, heat gets trapped in the condenser coil and is not released. Your system will work longer to cool your space because it is unable to effectively absorb and discharge heat. This will result in muggy air because your system is unable to remove the humidity. Before you know it, a repair will be in order.
Purify your air as part of your indoor air quality solutions
If you want to take an extra step to remove unhealthy microorganisms from the air, you may want to install an air purifier when weighing indoor air quality solutions. Central air purification systems remove dust, mold, bacteria and viruses from the air circulated throughout your HVAC system. They utilize a heavy-duty HEPA filter to trap largest particles like dust and electrostatic fields to capture microscopic particles like some viruses.
When considering indoor air quality solutions, a more advanced, contaminant-removing technology is available. Ultraviolet air purifiers, which are designed to substantially improve air quality and remove health-threatening microbial particles that may be in the air, are a popular choice. UV air purifiers kill dangerous particles within your air distribution system without any actual filtration, but instead use rays of ultraviolet light that incinerate them as they pass through it.
Maintenance is the mantra for good air quality
Investing in routine maintenance will help safeguard your air quality and can prevent any source of contaminants from circulating throughout your building through your HVAC system. If your HVAC system is not working properly, you will not experience consistently good air quality. If you are on a regular maintenance schedule, your filters will be changed and coils cleaned on a timely basis, which is an important part of the clean air equation.
Regular maintenance checks can also help prevent harmful refrigerant leaks or potentially deadly carbon monoxide leaks from happening. Many carbon monoxide leaks emanate from heating systems.
As you can see, a well maintained system will not only save on repair costs, but will result in good air quality that will boost employee health and productivity. It may be worth your while to have your HVAC system inspected and maintained by a qualified professional.
Related article: 10 Tips to Improve Air Quality & Make Indoor Air Safer to Breathe