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With the roadmap laid out for the government to guide us out of lockdown, the end of the pandemic seems as though it could be in sight. However, HVAC units remain outdated in hotels, hospitals, schools, and offices and there is a worry that COVID-19 can still spread quickly and easily through air vents, mitigating the effects of lockdowns and vaccinations. Dr. Rhys Thomas, Chief Scientific Officer at infection mitigation specialist PP-L and a frontline NHS doctor, says that the government’s neglect of using HVAC solutions to reduce transmission is a major oversight. Airborne transmission indoors By failing to follow the lead of other nations that are now recognizing the importance of ventilation in relation to the airborne nature of the virus, the UK’s approach hasn’t been as comprehensive or as forceful as it could be, with quietly introduced, piecemeal changes to regulations being too little, too late. At the moment, some governments don’t want to come out and admit that COVID-19 is an airborne hazard and that their failure to recognize it as such has led to higher infection and mortality rates and suffered even greater impacts from new variants. Research shows that 80% of the spread of the virus is through airborne transmission indoors– the inhalation of infected droplets that are moving around in the room’s air currents or ventilation systems– which a two-meter distance or the opening of the window is unlikely to combat. New quarantine hotels The UK was geared up for an influenza-like pandemic rather than an airborne one The airborne nature of COVID-19 is what has caught governments off guard and meant we are still playing catch-up while new variants are starting to appear, which was also always to be expected. In terms of preparedness, the UK was geared up for an influenza-like pandemic rather than an airborne one, such as the challenge posed by a SARS coronavirus. As with all airborne illnesses, the greatest risk of transmission is indoors and in confined spaces such as public transport, office buildings, factories, and even potentially the new quarantine hotels which are being introduced to prevent the spread of the virus. The governments ‘hands, face, space’ messaging cover the opening of windows to help with airflow, but the reality is much more complex. Latest SARS Coronavirus The risk of infection indoors is vastly higher than outside, and current advice simply isn’t enough. There’s a perception – even in hospitals – that fresh air is clean air. I’ve been shocked to see hospitals that I’ve visited assuming that simply opening a window is enough. That is simply not the case – the air needs to be disinfected by ultraviolet light for it to be clean enough to prevent the spread of coronaviruses. I saw this in practice in the first SARS pandemic in 2003, where UV was used and proved incredibly effective in South East Asian hospitals once again against the latest SARS Coronavirus that causes COVID-19. The spread of the virus around the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which hit global headlines in January 2020 when more than 700 passengers and crew tested positive for COVID-19, has become a case-in-point for the theory behind the airborne transmission. Killing airborne contaminants Part F of the Building Regulations on ventilation has been updated and is out to consultation Researchers from Harvard and the Illinois Institute of Technology developed a computer model of the cruise ship outbreak, which found that the virus spread most readily in microscopic droplets light enough to linger in the air. The research added to the pressure already being placed on the World Health Organization to recognize the airborne dangers of the virus, including an open letter signed by more than 200 experts. The key point here is that there has been some level of recognition from various government departments that the virus is airborne, and they have mitigated accordingly. Part F of the Building Regulations on ventilation has been updated and is out to consultation, and the Health and Safety Executive’s COVID-Secure Guidance for the Workplace on Ventilation has also been quietly updated in recent weeks to recommend the use of ultraviolet air filtration systems, which are proven to kill airborne contaminants. Key communication issue These UK regulations are now, at last, starting to get more aligned to other global institutions’ recommendations such at the renowned Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) who support the importance of ventilation and UV devices to significantly reduce infection risk. This is a positive step, but the key communication issue is that if the government don’t fully endorse and be more vocal about the airborne threat of COVID-19, and regulatory changes being made, then neither will the wider public. This is a huge issue because the government is already preparing for this virus to be around in some form for many years to come. With 40 million doses of vaccine set to arrive in 2022 and an overall supply line that is set to last until 2025, it’s clear that there is an acknowledgment that this will be a long fight. The SAGE scientists like Professor Chris Whitty and Sir Patrick Vallance are also referring to this virus as endemic now. Long-Term readiness The government is already building long-term readiness and diluting the risks by using different suppliers With 407 million doses of vaccine on order, the government is already building long-term readiness and diluting the risks by using different suppliers, but without the acknowledgment of the airborne risks, this can only do so much – it needs to be a joined-up, blended approach. Prevention is better than the alternative because in this case, there is unlikely to be a cure for a virus that spreads and mutates at the rate this one does. Trying to keep ahead of this virus is a dangerous game. It is incredibly adaptable and there is an awful lot of guesswork about predicting the spread and virulence of new and more easily spread strains. Ongoing lockdowns are simply not an option and are increasingly ineffective as people struggle with the monotony and isolation they bring. We need to get on the front foot and not only rely purely on medicine to help solve this crisis. Air filtration systems Engineered solutions like UV-C (also known as UVGI) and air filtration systems are needed wherever possible to help cut this virus at the knees and stop transmission in the first instance. These solutions are now being brought in by several industries and many countries around the world are specifically recommending them because they are recognizing that the guidelines in their current form aren’t doing enough. Those industries such as food manufacturing and production that rely on having people on the ground and in their factories are having to look beyond what they are advised and finding solutions that actually do work. Hospitals, schools, and hotels are the next places that need to be looking at this kind of response, especially with the government’s travel regulations meaning that potentially infected travelers are being kept in potentially inadequately ventilated spaces that could actually accelerate contagion spread to other travelers or staff. Action needs to be taken now, or we risk the further unnecessary spread of this dangerous pathogen.
The modern technological world is filled with ‘extrusions’. They are all around us, in the form of small and not-so-small cross sections. The function of an extrusion is to form seals between components of complex machinery and keep them functional. And, depending on the ‘type’ used, they can make a big difference to how a machine operates. Some of the most desirable types of extrusion — and especially for use in HVAC systems — are those made from silicone. Silicone, which is a type of rubber, has a robust set of properties. For one, silicone can withstand extreme temperatures, both high and low. Semi-Exterior environments Ranging from -60°C to temperatures exceeding 200°C. (And there are even higher grades that can be manufactured to withstand temperatures well above 200°C.) Ideal for HVAC units that work round the clock to keep large numbers of people in large buildings comfortable in summer and winter conditions. In addition to this, silicone is also one of the more resistant properties to the constant vibrations of working machinery. It can be difficult to locate the source of the problem if a tiny extrusion has dislodged. Vibration-resistant properties make silicone extrusions less likely to disengage or fall out of place, therefore minimizing the need for costly repairs. Finally, silicone is also more durable than most other materials when it comes to exterior or semi-exterior environments, such as that of rain or ultraviolet light. Protecting electrical components Silicone is useful in HVAC systems because it offers enhanced sealing and compression protections As a result of this favorability, there is already a considerable number of different types of silicone extrusions that can be found in a lot of HVAC systems. These include HVAC sealing gaskets, hatch seals and vibration isolation pads. But also silicone sponges, which act as a protective layer of thermal insulation. As well as providing thermal insulation, silicone sponges can double-up as a form of acoustic insulation, with considerable noise reduction and anti-squeal properties. Silicone enclosure gaskets protect electrical components, and environmental seals — as the name suggests — help to keep everything protected from the sometimes harsh elements of the environment outside. Silicone is useful in HVAC systems because it offers enhanced sealing and compression protections over most other materials. Closed cell structure On a material level, silicone has a ‘closed cell structure’, which helps to keep out moisture ingress, along with water and dust. The combination of a closed cell structure, along with sealing and compression benefits, makes silicone ideal for exterior seals and gaskets in and around HVAC systems. The softer grades of Silicone have an excellent memory and low stress relaxation, which in turn helps to prevent common faults with HVAC systems — usually caused by gasket failures made from other materials that soften and compress inaccurately. The low stress relaxation properties require minimal force on behalf of the engineers sealing the enclosures, while the memory-properties of the silicone allow it to conform to awkward shapes and gaps of various widths. Manufacturing HVAC systems proactively with silicone in mind can allow more design flexibility on behalf of the engineers. Inevitable rapid movements General purpose solid silicone or silicone sponge is suitable for many HVAC applications And, as mentioned above, vibration isolation pads work as dampers to protect against the inevitable rapid movements of the systems as they power along. But also to help withstand the vibrations of HVAC units on transport systems, such as buses and trains, which naturally vibrate as they run over imperfections on rail and road tracks. As it happens, general purpose solid silicone or silicone sponge is suitable for many HVAC applications, not just those discussed above. The designs of the extrusions would be different, reflective of their function, but the material would be the same. In some instances, customers may also require a flame retardant silicone — certified to UL94 specifications — in order to meet safety standards in certain situations or environments. Great temperature ranges For all its material advantages, silicone is generally more expensive than the other types of material rubber that are used to manufacture extrusions, such as ethylene propylene diene monomer (EPDM). And while other materials do of course have stand-out benefits of their own — EPDM for example is more hard-wearing than silicone — silicone is still often the extrusion ‘type’ of choice because of its ability to withstand great temperature ranges. This is very important for heating and air conditioning systems. Because some of the most common factors that cause HVAC systems to break down are as a result of seal and gasket failure, which can come about as a result of an overheating unit. Very cold environment Chances of a unit overheating can be just as likely — in fact perhaps more so — where the system has to operate in a very cold environment. With the threat of climate change etched more than ever into the public discussion, we can predict that there will be a steady increase in the amount that this material is used to make up the HVAC seals. And not just because, as temperatures continue to increase and summers get hotter and more prolonged, there will be an increased demand for them. Effective public relations It is no secret that HVAC systems can be relatively expensive to run It will become a matter of effective public relations for managers, building regulators and transport officers to make sure that the equipment they are using — and making — is ‘green’. By using the right materials that help conserve energy and increase efficiency, this will not only sit right with the general public, it should also be more economical, too. It is no secret that HVAC systems can be relatively expensive to run. Minimizing wastage, and the time spent on call outs and repairs will make a notable difference. Of course there are many other ways to also set about making air conditioning and heating units more efficient. Using seals or gaskets made from silicone is just one small piece of the puzzle. But utilizing them will almost certainly be more beneficial than you might imagine. And anything that is a step in the right direction is a welcome change.
LENNOX EMEA, a company in the design and manufacture of heating, air conditioning, air treatment, and refrigeration equipment, through its three brands Lennox, Friga-Bohn, and HK Refrigeration, is hosting a content-rich ‘Learning Month’, which will run from April 15th to May 15th. Learning Month will comprise a series of free online webinars (in local languages) that provide professionals in the HVAC-R (Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration) industry with targeted insight and strategy to take their skills to the next level. Regulatory changes Among the primary ambition of these enlightening webinars is to provide information and guidance on new industry developments and trends. There will be a particular focus on different European regulatory changes, such as F-Gas and EcoDesign 2021, giving customers the essential keys to prepare for the high season and maximize potential gains. A comprehensive understanding of regulatory changes is vital for all professionals in the HVAC-R sector, from consultants and design engineers to installers, facility managers, and maintenance personnel. Delivered by the renowned Lennox University, each webinar focuses on a specific topic identified as an ‘area of concern/interest’ through discussion with customers. Use of A2L in refrigeration For example, the first webinar will center on the use of A2L in refrigeration applications. Taking place on April 15th and available in English, Spanish, and French, refrigeration installers and wholesalers will learn more about A2L refrigerants, their composition, and their use in line with current regulations. Relevant regulation studies will reveal the main benefits of A2L refrigerants, while participants will also discover more about the calculation for permissible refrigeration charge/load limits and the principles of risk analysis. Refrigerant transition Staying abreast of regulatory changes is paramount from the perspective of sector professionals, so this webinar presents a great opportunity to build knowledge and learn more about the refrigerant transition. HVAC Applications Installers, engineers, and end-users learn more about R32 as an A2L refrigerant, its suitability, and its applicable regulations in the webinars Subsequent webinars focus specifically on HVAC applications. For instance, on April 22nd, Lennox, through refrigerant comparison, will explain why R32 is a wise choice for rooftop units and how to achieve a smooth transition from R410A. Installers, engineers, and end-users will learn more about R32 as an A2L refrigerant, its suitability for different projects, and its applicable regulations in the webinars. Six language options are available: German, Dutch, English, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. Refrigerant specifications On April 28th attention turns to understanding more about the specifics of the refrigerant changeover in HVAC applications. This webinar will set out how the F-Gas regulation is shaping the HVAC industry, and highlight the emergence of several lower-GWP refrigerants. Installers and engineers will hear about the impact of this trend and how to ensure a pain-free transition. The language options for this webinar are German, Dutch, English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Energy consumption These same language options apply to the next webinar, on May 4th, which will pinpoint the key facilitators that deliver optimized energy efficiency. Both end-users and maintenance professionals will benefit from registering for this presentation, the focus points of which include selecting the right IAQ (Indoor Air Quality) solution while managing energy consumption, upgrading fan technology, cloud-based monitoring, and EcoDesign 2021. Rooftop v/s chiller/AHU solution Rounding off Learning Month will be the webinar on May 11th: choosing between a rooftop or chiller/AHU solution. The differences between the two solutions, along with best-practice selection criteria, 1/2 will help installers, engineers, and end-users grasp the fundamentals required to reach the optimum decision. This webinar is available in German and Dutch. Ultimately, knowledge provides many opportunities, not least the chance to make astute selection decisions, optimize refrigeration and HVAC units for performance and efficiency, and become a source of advice and expertise. All those participating in any of the webinars at Learning Month will also get the opportunity to ask questions of the respective Lennox HVAC-R specialist.
As the Internet of Things (IoT) has evolved, the need has become obvious for stronger unity among brands and ecosystems to enable products within smart environments to work together more easily. Working to serve that need is the Zigbee Alliance, which seeks to promote collaboration in the Internet of Things by creating, evolving, and promoting universal open standards that enable all objects to connect and interact. Their effort took off when Amazon, Apple, Google and the Zigbee Alliance announced an industry working group in December 2019 to take the “best of market” technologies from leading smart home standards, portfolios and ecosystems and to develop a “super spec” that will be open, inclusive and a significant industry shift in the smart home market. smart home automation system “Zigbee Alliance has been for a while now working on openness and interoperability, which has led us to the Project Connected Home over IP (CHIP), which is looking to unify the environment, under one technology, one certification program and one logo,” says Chris LaPré, Zigbee Alliance’s IoT Solutions Architect. “It really does fuel IoT possibilities, whether in HVAC or any other sectors.” There is a stronger need for unity, which is why we are developing Project Connected Home over IP" Project CHIP is a royalty-free connectivity standard that unifies brands and ecosystems into a single smart home automation system that operates any other technology based on Internet Protocol (IP). The intent is to simplify product development for device manufacturers, broaden consumer choice, and to ensure easy discoverability, deployment and engagement to fuel connected living. unifies that environment “We have noticed that, as the IoT has evolved, there is a stronger need for unity, which is why we are developing Project Connected Home over IP,” says Jon Harros, Zigbee Alliance’s Director of Certification and Testing Programs. “It fits with the Zigbee Alliance’s goal to unify systems, and to focus on everyone using the same application at the top. It unifies that environment, whether you are integrating your system with Amazon Echo devices or connecting to Google Home.” Participating in development of Project CHIP are 125 companies of various types from around the world working together with more than 1,100 of their experts serving across sub-committees to formulate specifications and fine-tune the project. Although the technology is being developed for the home market, the specifications have been formulated with an eye toward expanding into the commercial market in the future. home system technologies Development of open, interoperable systems provides greater freedom for consumers to choose among the many technology choices on the market, without being tied to a single brand or ecosystem. Zigbee Alliance certifications and memberships span the globe, with roughly a third in Europe, a third in North America and a third in Asia. Involvement in Europe is slightly higher than the other regions. Alliance members represent manufacturing sites all over the world. Project CHIP is a newer initiative of the Zigbee Alliance, which previously developed Zigbee Pro to enable home system technologies to operate using IEEE 802.15.4 wireless signals on the 2.4GHz radio band over a self-healing true mesh network. The original Zigbee protocol is used for many applications around the world, including HVAC. smart temperature devices HVAC developers who have specific use cases should have a look at the work of the alliance Members of the Zigbee Alliance include HVAC companies such as Lennox, Stelpro and Belimo, among others. Carrier is a recent company that has joined the Zigbee Alliance. Smart thermostats, including the popular Ecobee, have used the Zigbee protocol. More than 100 different devices have been certified as thermostats or smart temperature devices. Harros urges other HVAC companies to become more involved with the Alliance. “We want them to come and have a look to see what we are doing and get involved,” he says. “This is where the work is being done as we unify the environment and bring together all the devices and ecosystems to work together.” HVAC developers who have specific use cases should have a look at the work of the alliance, he adds. certification transfer program Among the strengths of the Zigbee Alliance are years of experience certifying products, which includes testing them and confirming that they comply with the promoted specifications and functionality. The specifications are open standards that are developed in cooperation with all the companies that are Zigbee Alliance members. Another route is the certification transfer program, in which a company chooses a certified white-label product, becomes a member of the Alliance, and then rebrands the product while retaining the certification. “It helps them get products on the market quickly while they build their own knowledge base,” says Harros. "All our work is focused on standardizing the behavior and functionality of products and making sure everyone is following the same standard to get interoperability,” says Harros. “Members all contribute to the standards.”
Challenged to propose a creative summer energy savings tip, Kortney Gaura of Le Claire, Iowa, chose to implement "Anything Can Happen Sundays" in her household, and her submission led her to be named Lennox’ newest "Energy Savings Superstar." The Lennox 2018 “Energy Savings Superstar” Contest offered an opportunity for consumers to think about how they devote their time and energy, and invited them to suggest simple but creative solutions for saving money on their energy bills during the steamy summer months. Gaura’s idea of filling a jar with several energy conserving tips to be implemented as a family created an opportunity for her family to spend more quality time together and save energy at the same time. home comfort solutions This is exactly the type of energy- saving advice Lennox Industries, a renowned provider of innovative home comfort solutions, was looking for when it launched the North America contest, which ran from July through August. "This year, we received hundreds of original yet innovative and creative submissions; however, Kortney Gaura suggested a relatable tip that can easily be implemented in any household wanting to save money and energy, while creating an opportunity for more family time," said Brittani Youman, Energy Efficiency Expert at Lennox. indoor air quality products Participants were encouraged to be clear, creative and above all, have fun with their submissions "Since Lennox is a recognized leader in energy-efficient heating, cooling and indoor air quality products, the Gaura family can rest easy knowing they are receiving world-class Lennox innovations that will maximize their energy savings and will keep them cool for many summers to come." For a chance to win, contestants had to describe their energy-saving tip in 1,000 characters or less, and submit a photo demonstrating their tip in action. The more creative and action-oriented the tip and photo, the better. As the grand prize winner, Kortney Gaura received: $10,000 in Lennox cooling, heating and indoor air quality equipment (including installation by J.L. Brady Company in Moline, Ill) A one-year supply of ice cream Four tickets to a water park near her home heating and cooling system As part of Lennox’ summer-long consumer education initiative on energy savings, hundreds of contestants submitted their tips along with photos of their advice in action via the Lennox Energy Savings Superstar Contest Website. Participants were encouraged to be clear, creative and above all, have fun with their submissions. Lennox selected four finalists to compete in a head-to-head public vote on the company’s website to decide the grand prize winner. "It’s exciting to know we are teaching our children at an early age how to be energy conscious and help save both money and the earth, and it’s something every family can easily do," said Gaura. "Winning a new heating and cooling system has already made a difference in how comfortable our home is, and I’m looking forward to even bigger savings with equipment that is much more efficient than what we had before."