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Reducing Your HVAC Carbon Footprint: How The Sector Can Become More Sustainable In The Journey To Net Zero
Reducing Your HVAC Carbon Footprint: How The Sector Can Become More Sustainable In The Journey To Net Zero

With ongoing efforts from governments across the globe to reduce carbon emissions and with an ever greater focus on sustainability, it is vital that the HVAC sector does its part in becoming more environmentally conscious. And, while there have been steps to become more sustainable, there is a huge amount that still needs to be done to make sure that many of the targets that have been set are attainable. In buildings, both large and small, industrial heating accounts for roughly two thirds of industrial energy demand and around a fifth of global energy consumption. Figures like this show the need to have efficient and environmentally-friendly HVAC equipment in place to make the crucial steps towards reducing the contributions these systems make to our carbon footprint. High energy consumption in construction sector A 2019 report by The International Environment Agency (IEA) showed that the buildings and construction sectors combined were responsible for over 30% of global energy consumption and nearly 40% of carbon emissions. This is indicative of the steps the sector needs to take to play its role in a more eco-friendly society, some of which are already underway. However, much more needs to be done if the UK is to reach its goal of reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050. As we envisage what a post-COVID world might look like, businesses and governments are continuing to put sustainability and lower carbon emissions at the forefront of their planning and the HVAC sector is certainly no exception. But with change in the sector a daunting prospect, decision-makers often don’t know where to start. Smart Technology use in HVAC systems Smart HVAC uses sensors that integrate with a building’s automation system With the constant growth and greater deployment of smart technologies within the HVAC sector, this is certainly a way that systems can become more efficient. Smart HVAC uses sensors that integrate with a building’s automation system. These sensors then collect information about conditions throughout the building. Heat waves are now a far more common occurrence in the United Kingdom. The Met Office estimates they are up to 30 times more likely and will be a bi-annual occurrence by 2050. It is important that any uptake in HVAC usage doesn’t lead to a drastic increase in emission generation. This is one of the areas where smart systems will become crucial. Many scientists have been unequivocal in their sentiment that heat waves are a cause of greater emissions and expect temperature records in the UK and Europe to be broken more regularly, so sites will need to be equipped to handle these conditions. Regulating temperature with hand-held devices With wireless systems now much more commonplace, temperatures can be controlled easily from hand-held devices. With these new technologies, those managing the systems can also benefit from remote monitoring and maintenance, reducing the need to travel to the site for yet another environmental incentive. To accompany the smart systems, equipment including smart thermostats can be installed to maximize HVAC efficiency. Other smart systems available to businesses include smart furnaces and air conditioning units that are far easier to operate than their traditional counterparts. Reducing unnecessary ventilation While global temperatures continue to rise, air conditioning usage has increased and has contributed to greater levels of energy usage. A huge amount of needless emissions are generated by unnecessary ventilation, contributing heavily to heat loss and overall energy wastage. Recirculation of air is a traditionally lower energy cost method of retaining heat and keeping emissions low, however, we must be mindful of the risks associated with recirculating air. The risk of circulating diseases is negated somewhat with heat recovery ventilation, which both removes the risk of disease spreading and improves energy consumption. Efficiency performance of new AC units Air conditioning units in particular contribute significantly to a building’s energy consumption Air conditioning units in particular contribute significantly to a building’s energy consumption, equating to 10% of the UK’s electricity consumption and as such it is important that we bear in mind ways to counteract the emissions this creates. Global energy demand for air conditioning units is expected to triple by 2050, as temperatures continue to rise year on year. The efficiency performance of new air conditioning units will be the key, when it comes to ensuring that escalating demand does not equate to greater emissions. Another issue for suppliers and manufacturers to address is differing rates of consumption for AC units in different countries, with units sold in Japan and the EU typically more efficient than those found in China and the US. Modularization Modular HVACs have also become increasingly popular in recent years. Modular HVACs are responsible for heating, cooling and distributing air through an entire building, with their increase in popularity largely down to their greater levels of energy efficiency, cost effectiveness, flexibility and substantial ease of installation and maintenance. Modular HVACs can be tailored specifically for workspaces and they often allow work to be done on the systems without disturbing the workforce, achieved primarily through rooftop placement. Commercial workspaces are larger and often require differing needs to residential properties and can cater to a wide range of the specific requirements of work and commercial spaces. As we strive for lower carbon emissions, it seems that this trend will continue and will become a key area in reducing emissions that HVACs have traditionally generated. System maintenance and training To meet government and industry requirements, many new buildings will require HVAC systems that can be maintained simply in order to perform in a more energy efficient way. Many companies are looking at ways to become climate neutral and significantly reduce their footprint Many companies are looking at ways to become climate neutral and significantly reduce their footprint. Companies are following the likes of German-based company, Wilo Group, who have announced they are committing to sustainable manufacturing by developing a new carbon neutral plant and HQ in the next few years. Lowering carbon footprint As we continue to move towards an ever more environmentally conscious society, it will be of paramount importance for companies, governments and the public to think about ways in which we can lower carbon emissions. Smart technologies will certainly be at the forefront of this, negating many needless journeys and making it easier for industries to adjust settings and tackle issues remotely. Greater levels of training will help equip us with the tools to make sure we are best placed to reduce emissions and be more sustainable as a result. While the steps outlined above do show some progress and measures we can take, there is far more that we can do as a sector to significantly reduce HVAC’s carbon footprint and once we have moved beyond the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, this will surely be at the front of industry leader minds.

Why Should Schools And Universities Invest In Indoor Air Quality?
Why Should Schools And Universities Invest In Indoor Air Quality?

The education field was faced with multiple challenges this past year. Not only did the COVID-19 pandemic bring the necessity of online learning, but it has also brought up necessary changes to physical schools and universities, when reopening time arrives. The health and safety of students, staff, and faculty has become a priority for directors of school operations, who have been working to properly adapt school facilities to this new reality we are facing. Ensuring health and safety of students Besides safety measures like the addition of hand sanitizers, reinforcing the use of masks and social distancing, these professionals were faced with an even bigger and more important issue: ventilation and airflow indoors. School facilities have many unique features that increase the concerns regarding indoor air quality. Occupants are usually very close together, considering that school buildings have four times as many occupants as office buildings for the same amount of floor space (EPA). Variety of pollutant sources According to the WHO, the virus can also spread in poorly ventilated and/or crowded indoor settings Other issues include tight budgets, the presence of a variety of pollutant sources (including specialty classrooms, like art, gyms, and labs), concentrated diesel exhaust exposure due to school buses in the property, and a large amount of heating and ventilation systems that may cause an added strain on maintenance staff. On top of that, schools usually have to worry about child safety issues, concerned parents, and wellbeing of faculty and staff. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the virus can also spread in poorly ventilated and/or crowded indoor settings, where people tend to spend longer periods of time and aerosols particles tend to be suspended in the air, which leads to the importance of indoor air quality in classrooms. Importance of natural ventilation and HVAC systems Natural ventilation and HVAC systems are the basic methods to bring clean air indoors, however, schools that rely only on these methods of ventilation need to be aware of their potential limitations. HVAC systems, for example, should have regular maintenance checks and filter changes, in cases where the system is less sophisticated, schools need to add new forms of air purification to effectively mitigate airborne pathogens. Studies showing quality of air in US schools Studies have shown that low-standards HVAC ventilation systems may contribute to airborne diseases transmission due to low air exchanges rates, poor maintenance and lack of high-efficiency filters. For this reason, portable air cleaners are becoming more and more popular to create a healthy learning environment. EnviroKlenz, an indoor air quality company, conducted real-life setting studies to show the quality of the air in schools in different areas of the United States. The study measured the amount of particulate matter in classrooms, with and without the use of additional portable filtration systems, which allowed for comparison and analysis of the benefits a portable air cleaner can provide. National EPA standards for indoor particulate matter The study also compared the current data to the national EPA standards for indoor particulate matter (PM), in order to evaluate the performance of the EnviroKlenz Air System Plus. The IAQ meters focused on PM1, which is about 1 micrometer in size (70 times smaller than the diameter of human hair!). The systems ran in operational educational environments, with daily schedules being carried out as usual and results can be seen below. School directors of operations also must pay attention to the different technologies available in portable air cleaners. With the growth of the industry, new emerging technologies have come up, and there’s still lack of third-party testing to prove their efficacy. Other technologies, like carbon filters, do not work against airborne pathogens and may release harmful byproducts back into the environment. EnviroKlenz Air System Plus EnviroKlenz Air System Plus, which utilizes a patented earth mineral technology to capture pathogens, is at 99.9% efficiency The EnviroKlenz Air System Plus, which utilizes a patented earth mineral technology to capture virus, bacteria and other harmful pathogens, is at 99.9% efficiency and is complemented by a medical-grade HEPA filter and UV-C lights, was also tested against a carbon-based air cleaner in a classroom. As shown below, the carbon system struggled to keep consistency, with peaks and valleys throughout the day. Meanwhile, when the EnviroKlenz Air System Plus was turned on, the PM1 levels were steadily low for over 4 consecutive days. Deploying portable air cleaners in classrooms Adding a portable air cleaner to classrooms and common areas will increase air exchange rate and mitigation efforts, but the long-term benefits go beyond the pandemic. Studies have shown that good indoor air and ventilation rates are directly linked with students’ academic achievements and can increase performance. High CO2 levels in a school environment are also associated with lower average annual attendance and worse individual test performance. Other long-term benefits include reducing symptoms of those who suffer from respiratory diseases and creating a favorable environment not only for students, but also for teachers and staff; while bringing a sense of comfort and well-being to parents and the community. Combined benefits of air filtration, ventilation, and purification “When we’re operating more normally, maybe we’ll be able to cut down on some of the traditional flu-peaks that schools have, or cold peaks, that kids just bring into school, by managing the airborne virus and bacteria quality,” said Peter Twadell, Head of School at Birches School in the US, and an EnviroKlenz Customer. School officials need to consider the combined benefits offered by filtration, ventilation, and purification methods to create the healthiest environment possible. Thinking in a pandemic-conscious mindset, air quality has gained the recognition it deserves in creating a proper and healthy learning environment.

Fighting The Coronavirus With HVAC Units
Fighting The Coronavirus With HVAC Units

Do HVAC systems help with the spread of COVID-19? No one is entirely sure, but it seems very likely. Especially in the case of enclosed indoor spaces. As soon as the COVID-19 pandemic began, fingers pointed to air-conditioning systems as culprits, and scientists now believe a super-spreader event traced back to a restaurant in Guangzhou, in China, which could have started with an asymptomatic person who just happened to cough close to an HVAC fan. Scientists also believe something similar happened on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which made headlines over the world, in February 2020. Especially because cruise ships have elaborate inter-connected HVAC systems, which could have aided the coronavirus as it ripped through the cruise population. HVAC systems Role in COVID-19 spread And because air-conditioning units typically function indoors, and because the coronavirus (COVID-19 virus) can float about for a little while on respiratory droplets in the air, it should be no surprise at all that HVAC units have come under scrutiny. In response to this, over the last year, the REHVA (European Federation of Heating and Ventilation Engineers) group actually set out guidelines on what to do, in order to make HVAC units safer. Actually, they went further than that, because on the contrary, properly configured air-conditioning units can actually help to fight the coronavirus, rather than aid its spread. How AC units can limit viral transmission By making sure there is a fast and constant exchange of air, AC units can actually wash away virus particles Despite the apparent doom that HVAC units can kick start super-spreader events, the answer is not to do away with air-conditioning systems. In fact, REHVA recommends the opposite. Instead, what we actually need to do is to reconfigure our AC units so that they can stop coronavirus particles from loitering about in the air, and then settling down. When virus particles ‘settle’ on a surface, they can be infectious for a time. The technical term for this is a ‘fomite’ and an area that is infectious to touch. By adjusting the settings on AC units to increase the amount of outside air they pull in, and the rate to which this fresh air is distributed indoors, we can make indoor environments much safer. By making sure there is a fast and constant exchange of air, AC units can actually wash away virus particles and prevent fomites from occurring. What about just opening the windows? Before modern HVAC units, there was, of course, the humble open window. And sure, open windows is a great way to make sure that air from the inside is quickly and constantly being exchanged with the air from outside. But as we all know, opening the windows is seldom the ideal choice. For example, it isn’t desirable in cold or in air-polluted or noise-polluted spaces. Open windows can even be a hazard if there is a risk of injury or falling. If you can work in an environment with open windows in a way that’s feasible and manageable, that’s great. They will likely offer similar protection against lingering coronavirus particles. But even if you can, the evidence suggests that a properly configured HVAC system is still safer (not to mention more comfortable, given their ability to regulate temperature) than the age-old open window option. AC units with high-efficiency particulate air filters Arguably the most proficient AC units today are those equipped with high-efficiency particulate air (or HEPA) filters. Although, you will struggle to find any outside of surgical theatres and airplanes, where getting the right amount of air exchange is primarily a health and safety issue and not just an issue of comfort. But as the pandemic has revealed to us, having better optimized HVAC units in public indoor spaces is a health and safety issue. With that being said, could HEPA filters become the norm throughout major public indoor spaces? HEPA filters HEPA filters are so reliable because they are made up of thousands of layers that trap all types of particles HEPA filters are so reliable because they are made up of thousands of layers that trap all types of particles, from dust to viruses. And they operate with an astonishing speed, being able to completely turn over a room’s air up to 30 times per hour. It would almost certainly make sense for HEPA filters to at least be considered for widespread use, but there are some technical issues to work out before their deployment becomes feasible. Cost aside, these filters can cause ‘dragging’ when attached to traditional AC units, among other issues. But if we are serious about tackling all forms of viruses, including influenza which hospitalizes and kills thousands every year, perhaps the widespread deployment of HEPA filters should be at least thought about in our approach to the ‘new normal’. Protecting people with proper air conditioning Whatever the fate of the HEPA filters, we do not have to sit around and wait for a revolution in the HVAC units to keep the general public safe. We can do that right now by equipping and configuring our current systems to properly exchange the rate of air in indoor spaces — to blow away lingering particles and keep surfaces free from fomites. Fortunately for us, the COVID-19 virus finds it hard to spread outdoors. But that means almost all of the spreading must happen indoors. So, it is crucial that we do all we can from an HVAC perspective to limit the spread of the coronavirus, and indeed all the other infections (including flu), which collectively can infect and hospitalize thousands of people every year. New infectious diseases emerge, and old ones come and go all the time. With the guidelines that REHVA has put together and some vigilance, our actions could indirectly save many people from falling ill every year. In summary, it’s not rocket science. To make an indoor area safer from the coronavirus, turn your AC unit up. Blow away the germs and stop them from settling down with a frequent exchange of air at all times.

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