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Digital

 

By Blake Bobosky
From the April 2024 Issue

 

Improving Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in commercial and industrial settings is increasingly vital in today’s landscape of evolving public perception and regulatory standards. From residential complexes to healthcare facilities, educational institutions, and various commercial spaces nationwide, there’s a growing emphasis on IAQ enhancements to boost energy efficiency and mitigate airborne pollutants, ultimately benefiting public health.

Core to addressing IAQ concerns lies at the heart of your HVAC system, with filters serving as its first line of defense. These filters represent the most practical and cost-effective means of tackling IAQ issues.

Understanding HVAC Filters

Clean and healthy air is fundamental to creating a safe and productive indoor environment. While addressing odors is important, it’s crucial to recognize that masking scents doesn’t tackle the root cause of indoor air pollution and may lead to unintended consequences. Factors such as off-gassing from cleaning agents, furniture, paint, and other chemicals, coupled with the presence of dust, mold, virus carriers, bacteria, and pollen, persistently affect indoor air quality, especially with fluctuations in environmental factors like humidity.

Effective air filtration stands as the primary defense against indoor pollutants, significantly impacting IAQ, HVAC system performance, and energy costs in commercial buildings.

Improving IAQ
(Photo: adobestock / Ilja)

The Role Of Filters

HVAC filters play a crucial role in removing contaminants from indoor air. They trap particles such as dust, pollen, mold spores, and pet dander, prohibiting them from circulating through the HVAC system and recirculating into the air. Filters also help protect HVAC equipment from damage by preventing debris buildup on coils and other components.

Assessing Your Filter

Identifying signs of decreased airflow, diminished air quality, and heightened energy consumption indicates the need to reassess filtration systems in commercial buildings. Regular maintenance and timely filter replacements are crucial for sustaining IAQ, but upgrading filters to enhance efficiency often becomes necessary.

Three critical factors to consider when selecting air filters for your facility include system size, air quality requirements, and budget feasibility.

System size: Proper sizing of filters is essential to ensure they fit the HVAC system and effectively remove contaminants from the air without impeding airflow.

Air quality requirements: Different environments may have varying levels of pollutants, allergens, or other contaminants that need to be addressed. Select filters capable of meeting air quality standards and effectively removing targeted contaminants.

Budget feasibility: Evaluate budget constraints and the feasibility of different filter options. Balance the upfront cost of filters with their long-term performance and maintenance requirements to ensure a cost-effective solution that meets the facility’s needs.

Ideal Filter Selection

The right HVAC filter can address various challenges, from allergen control to particulate matter removal, without unduly burdening the HVAC system. Factors such as filtration efficiency, pressure drop, and Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) ratings are pivotal in determining optimal filter performance.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, recommendations from authorities like ASHRAE and the CDC underscore the importance of adopting higher MERV-rated filters in commercial settings.

MERV ratings gauge a filter’s ability to capture airborne particles, with higher ratings typically correlating with better filtration. However, it’s crucial to consider filters that maintain low-pressure drops to prevent strain on HVAC systems.

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, recommendations from authorities like the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) underscore the importance of adopting higher MERV-rated filters in commercial settings. Higher MERV-rated filters can effectively capture airborne particles, including virus carriers and bacteria, providing an added layer of protection.

Moreover, advancements in filtration technologies have led to the development of electrostatic air filters and nanofiber filters, which offer improved IAQ outcomes while promoting sustainability and energy efficiency.

Enhanced Filtration Technologies

Traditional HVAC filters are effective to a degree, but emerging technologies are pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. Electrostatic filters, for instance, utilize temporary static charges to boost performance efficiency. These filters can lose their charge in humid environments, but they can effectively capture ultra-fine particles at higher efficiencies, providing an added layer of protection.

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Nanofiber filters represent another breakthrough in filtration technology. These filters use ultrafine fibers, up to 400 times thinner than a human hair, to capture microscopic particles with remarkable efficiency. Despite their finer weave, nanofiber filters maintain low-pressure drops, allowing HVAC systems to operate more efficiently while delivering superior IAQ.

Focusing On IAQ Solutions

As IAQ standards become more stringent and filtration technologies advance, collaboration among facility managers, HVAC technicians, and filter suppliers is vital for ongoing improvement. Establishing comprehensive filter maintenance plans, training staff on proper handling and replacement procedures, and leveraging technology for remote monitoring contribute to maintaining a healthy indoor environment.

Prioritizing the selection of appropriate filters not only translates to savings on energy and maintenance costs but also ensures cleaner indoor air, ultimately promoting occupant well-being and comfort. By investing in advanced filtration technologies and adopting best practices in filter maintenance and management, commercial and industrial buildings can create environments that are not only safe and healthy but also conducive to productivity and well-being. 

Improving IAQBobosky is an executive leader with over 30 years in the Hardware and Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) sectors. Currently serving as Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Greentech, Bobosky is instrumental in establishing commercial distribution channels for their HVAC filter. With a dedicated focus on IAQ, he has been a driving force in the industry for the past 15 years.

Do you have a comment? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below, or send an e-mail to the Editor at jen@groupc.com.

Check out all the recent HVAC Factor columns from Facility Executive magazine.

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