commercial HVAC

Contributed by OmniCleanAir

As the nation stumbled its way through the pandemic in the past year, with public fears and government mandates abounding, most companies (95.6%) tried to do something to combat COVID-19 transmission in poorly ventilated, indoor spaces. Unfortunately, according to a new survey, they often made subpar investments, spending millions of dollars with limited success. 

The survey was commissioned by Omni CleanAir, a maker of commercial-grade air purification systems for more than 30 years.

“We polled more than 430 HR managers around the country on the importance of various COVID-19 precautions and defense measures, their knowledge of indoor air quality topics, and their budgets and spending forecasts. The survey’s results will help business leaders make better decisions to ensure the health and safety of their employees and other stakeholders,” said Paul de la Port, president of Omni CleanAir. “In the past year, almost every business surveyed took some action to improve indoor air quality, but while organizations invested hundreds of thousands (in some cases millions) of dollars, measurable results are lacking.” 

The most popular approach by businesses was to upgrade existing HVAC systems because these changes can be done quickly and easily — but HVAC upgrades are quite expensive, typically costing more than $500,000 and in some cases as much as $5 million depending on the number and size of the facilities. Additionally, for an upgraded HVAC system to improve air quality, it must operate continuously while the building is occupied, which is very expensive. In other cases, businesses felt compelled to try relatively new and unproven ionization technologies, which are increasingly under attack from academics and government agencies for being ineffective and possibly dangerous. 

“The noisy environment, lack of transparent and easily understood real-world efficacy data, and unscrupulous COVID-19 opportunists appear to have clouded the landscape so much that many businesses simply were unable to make informed investment decisions about indoor air quality solutions,” said de la Port.

When asked what kind of improvements were made within the last 12 months,

- Nearly three quarters of respondents upgraded HVAC systems that support improved filtration.

- Nearly two-thirds of respondents upgraded existing HVAC systems that support medical-grade filtration.

- Just over 60 percent installed new HVAC systems.

- Just over half deployed portable air purification systems.

- More than 40 percent deployed UVGI systems for germicidal irradiation.

- Just under 40 percent deployed ionization technologies.

Survey data also showed that HR managers and their COVID-19 task force colleagues are vastly underestimating the cost of HVAC upgrades. Among those who have not yet invested in solutions to improve indoor air quality, a majority anticipate they will upgrade their HVAC systems despite the growing evidence that these upgrades have minimal effect on improving indoor air quality or reducing transmission risk. 

“What many businesses don’t realize is that HVAC systems, even when they can eliminate the virus, require large amounts of electricity to operate, so the long-term cost will be very burdensome and the resulting air often won’t be adequately cleaned,” said de la Port.   

The results of the entire survey can be viewed here.