Indoor air quality (IAQ) is a continued topic amongst government leaders and the average parent alike. The concern for clean air is not limited to anyone. Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, local and national news outlets have been covering the importance of IAQ extensively. Whether it’s a defense against the spread of COVID-19 or a barrier for seasonal allergens, IAQ has stayed at the forefront of conversation nationwide.
For educational facilities, the need to maintain proper IAQ holds an even higher level of importance. In-person learning has returned to normal for most with students filling the hallways and classrooms. With an increased level of traffic and a higher chance of pathogen transmission, school administrators and facility managers need to make IAQ a priority. Whether it’s a newly built facility or one in need of renovations, a mechanical HVAC unit possesses the best features for enhancing IAQ.
Mechanical HVAC units have the ability to decrease airborne pathogens and create better air through three main functions: ventilation, filtration and dehumidification.
When it comes to clean air, a common saying is that the air outside is cleaner than indoor air. For facility managers, that means they need to get the proper amount of outside air into interior spaces. This can be done with HVAC units through controlled ventilation. With controlled ventilation, facility managers can determine how much outside air makes it indoors. In the process, contaminated air is being pushed outdoors, which helps create cleaner and fresher air to breathe. Be aware that too much outside air could cause overventilation and lead to increased problems with efficiency and humidity control. So, finding the ventilation sweet spot is key.
Filtering out airborne pathogens is just as important as incorporating fresh airflow. With viruses, along with other pathogens, entering the airways, sicknesses can be easily passed from student to student. Upgrading filters can help minimize particulates and pathogens inside a facility. If your HVAC is compatible, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) recommends the use of MERV 8 to MERV 13 filters.
The Importance of Dehumidification
Humidity plays a major role in maintaining proper IAQ. Too much moisture in the air can make the air feel sticky. In addition, increased moisture can also be a breeding ground for mold, mildew and organic growth, which can be hazardous if inhaled. Excess moisture can also destroy important electronics and damage carpet, furniture and other materials if mold spreads.
Mechanical HVAC systems can give facility managers or school administrators control over the humidity levels inside the building. It is important to keep relative humidity between 40% and 60% to create a comfortable and safe atmosphere.
Maintaining Proper IAQ
When it comes to enhancing IAQ, mechanical HVAC systems provide the best overall solution. While opening a window, doors or turning on ceiling fans can provide temporary relief from contaminated air, HVAC units consistently minimize airborne pathogens from circulating in the air. To maintain IAQ inside a school facility, proper ventilation, filtration and dehumidification methods need to be prioritized. Keeping the air clean and comfortable maximizes the learning atmosphere while making the experience more enjoyable for occupants. This atmosphere can consistently be provided with the help of mechanical HVAC systems.
Matt Zblewski is the regional sales manager at Modine Manufacturing Company. Having been with the company for over 11 years, he once served as its application engineer. Modine specializes in thermal management systems and components, bringing highly engineered heating and cooling components, original equipment products, and systems to diversified global markets through its four complimentary segments: CIS; BHVAC; HDE; and Automotive. For more information, visit www.modinehvac.com.