lungs signifying breathing air

Most building owners rely on heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to provide fresh, clean indoor air. Unfortunately, that’s not always sufficient.

“A lot of people think if their system is up to spec, then they’re providing the right amount of fresh air,” Booth says. “They may be achieving air movement, but they aren’t necessarily monitoring the quality of that air movement.”

Installing an air exchange system to an HVAC unit can improve IAQ by circulating the air from inside and outside. They use fans and vents to push stale, dirty indoor air outside and draw in fresh, clean air.

“If you have a big building and you’re exchanging 72 degree air with -10 degree air, it can really affect your heating costs,” Simpson says. The exchanger itself is also pricey.

As an alternative, many facility managers are turning to air purification or ionization devices, which work alongside the existing HVAC system.

In general, an air purifier pulls air into a filter that traps contaminants to remove them from the breathing environment. It then pushes clean air into the room. An ionizer emits electrically charged ions, which bond with airborne impurities and then either fall onto the floor or are attracted to a collection plate.

These types of machines have been around for decades, but are seeing renewed interest thanks to advances in technology. For example, air purification systems have always removed odors and particulate, but now many devices targeted for commercial use have powerful filters that can actually sanitize (rendering inactive 99.9 percent of bacteria, viruses and fungi in the air).

By using the most powerful filters available (both HEPA and charcoal) along with ultraviolet (UV) light, it’s even possible to use this technology as an air disinfectant offering a kill claim of 99.9995 percent.

“Cleaning products have all been focused on surface disinfection,” says Sam Waites, vice president of sales at Geerpres, in Muskegon, Michigan. “Pathogens travel through the air. Maybe it’s common sense, but how have we attacked it to this point? Air disinfection is a new frontier.”

Other advances include special equipment that can remediate ozone (a byproduct of ionization) to keep it out of the environment, whole-building systems that sit in the duct work rather than room-specific devices, and sensors that monitor and regulate air-quality in real time.

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