Winter is a particularly challenging time to maintain high air quality in buildings because people spend more time indoors and this inevitably places a greater burden on the ventilation system.
Ventilation systems have always been important for the health and welfare and comfort of building occupants, but they are more vital now than ever before. The situation is exacerbated this year by the COVID-19 pandemic which has placed greater pressure on ventilation to clear the air to protect building occupants
After all, good ventilation is one of the best ways to fight COVID-19 in the workplace (see https://bit.ly/39WwqpC).
(Remember, however, that the provision of good ventilation doesn’t mean that other COVID-19 controls such as physical distancing, face coverings, testing, contact tracing, vaccination and a focus on hygiene should be ignored.)
Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM)
So, what can FMs/building owners do to protect a ventilation system? Planned preventative maintenance (PPM) is the best way to ensure that your system runs smoothly at any time, but particularly during the winter months.
PPM demands that maintenance and servicing tasks are scheduled ahead of time and occur on a regular basis – even while an asset is still functioning normally.
Beyond this, there are obvious ‘housekeeping’ items that require attention. For example, it is important to keep the inside of the building as clean and as free as possible from dust.
The same, of course, applies to the outside of the building. So, clean the air handling units. Sweep off leaves, twigs, and other debris on and surrounding the air conditioning. Then use a hose to wash off dirt, dust, and bird droppings. Then allow the unit to dry. Cleaning the air conditioner prevents it from getting clogged and breaking down when you use it during the spring and summer.
It also pays to prevent the build-up of further detritus. Consider fitting air intake screens (sometimes referred to as air intake protection screens).
ECEX Air Intake Screens are long-lasting, weather resistant filters designed specifically for high velocity airflow applications such as chillers, dry air coolers, air handling units, cooling towers and air conditioning units.
They stop airborne debris before it can enter HVAC systems, blocking coils and internal filters and, in the process, reduce maintenance time by up to 70%, extend service life of equipment, extend internal air filter life by up to 60% and maximise airflow and save energy.
But there are also other important measures besides cleaning that you can take to maximise the effectiveness of your ventilation system, strengthen its resilience to breakdown, and ensure it is running at its most energy efficient.
Inspect the entire ventilation system, including AHUs. Look for cracks and rust in casings as well as leaks and other irregularities; if you find them, fix them immediately. Make sure the seals are tight and remain uncracked.
If the ventilation system is particularly old or in bad condition, consider refurbishing it. For example, many AHU components can be maintained and/or replaced including fans, filters, heaters and cooling coils, dampers, and burners.
Other measures likely to lessen the chances of a ventilation system breakdown include:
- Check that frost protection measures are working.
- Add extra insulation to the HVAC system to prevent freezing and pipe cracking.
- Assess the condition of air filters and ensure they have no obstructions.
- Disinfect the system. There are various options for achieving this, but we would strongly recommend UV (ultra-violet) airflow disinfection. UV light can prevent bacteria, viruses, and organic growth from taking hold throughout a ventilation system, killing up to 99% of airborne pathogens.
- Set AHUs to maximise outdoor air over recirculated air.
Whatever your ventilation maintenance needs, however, it pays to consider them in association with a reliable, knowledgeable partner with an established track record.
ECEX offers a range of AHU and ventilation services that are designed to ensure air handling units and associated HVAC equipment is efficient, reliable, and safe.
From AHU refurbishment and repair to extend usable life and enhanced operational efficiency, to UV-C disinfection, which removes bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens from internal components, ECEX can provide a total solution to keep HVAC equipment working to its optimum, while contributing to improved indoor air quality.
For more information about our ventilation services, click here.