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How Digitalizing School Facilities Can Maximize Efficiency In Response to COVID-19
How Digitalizing School Facilities Can Maximize Efficiency In Response to COVID-19

While lockdown restrictions are being eased, it is likely that COVID-19 will leave a lasting legacy on our attitudes to ventilation, building management, and safety. As schools readjust to operating within the new norm, one thing is for certain: there is always room for vigilance when it comes to school processes and safety. Whether to reduce costs, maximize efficiencies, or achieve optimal well-being of school-going children, smart technologies are here to stay for their extensive benefits.   Schools of the future will be smarter COVID-19 has underscored the importance of automated processes, which are adaptable to different building occupancies and shifting challenges. As schools around the world take the first steps towards digital transformation, the simplicity and ease of integration of some smart technologies are showing marked cost savings; streamlined safety, maintenance and operational efficiencies; and enhanced green potential. Real-time reporting from sensors and technologies are mobilizing schools to adopt a data-driven approach to take their schools into the future. COVID-19 considerations Real-time reporting from sensors and technologies are mobilizing schools to adopt a data-driven approach Since withdrawn, the government’s guidelines on schools’ management during COVID-19 provided food for thought for governing bodies and facilities managers in the school setting, driving the adoption of data-based smart solutions to counteract operational challenges and reduce costs. The guidelines dealt with partially closed facilities - and guidelines for full opening have since been issued. Within the school context, the categories outlined in the original guidelines are perennially important and, with a bearing on safety, the more precise, the better.  Coronavirus and temperature checking  Across different facilities, temperature screening has become a naturalised daily occurrence, with elevated temperatures a good indicator of underlying illness. In the school setting, crowd screening technology has the potential to give live temperature readings, alerts, and access control functionality. It can also be used as a contact traceability tool when high temperatures are detected. Using infrared sensors, this technology provides medically accurate readings in real time with minimal disruptions or student backlogs. Hot and cold water systems It is likely that COVID-19 will leave a lasting legacy on our attitudes to ventilation, building management, and safety The dormancy of school buildings has created a secondary worry around Legionella - and the latest guidance from The Department of Education encourages the usual pre-term building checks are conducted. This bacteria causes Legionnaires’ Disease, which is preventable yet potentially fatal. Mitigating the risk of Legionella spread is an ongoing responsibility; one which is traditionally labour-intensive, involving hot and cold water temperature testing and flushing. Automated Legionella testing removes the need for human effort, cost, potential exposure, and manual record-keeping. It also provides alerts of undesirable temperature readings and expedited response times (which, in buildings of extensive pipework, can avoid hefty maintenance bills). This smart approach to Legionella maintenance is a simple compliance tool, which will help to ensure statutory obligations and prevent sometimes punitive penalties.  A Smarter Outlook On Energy And Green Transformation Without question, saving energy is smart - and smart technologies are leading the charge in helping schools to reduce consumption and achieve green goals. This is being achieved in a range of ways - from constant monitoring of HVAC usage, heating systems, and lighting to the development of data-driven maintenance schedules to keep equipment performing efficiently. Smart sensors can deliver real-time insights on usage and occupancy, reducing waste to a minimum.  Ventilation Air quality is a fundamental component of a healthy indoor environment, with compromised air quality linked to disease and allergies. Research has also shown a correlation between indoor air quality, student performance, and teacher retention. Proper ventilation is one of the best ways to work towards good air quality. Smart technologies assist in myriad ways. One example is by providing real-time alerts on changes or undesirable metrics around pollutants, noxious gases, atmospheric conditions and humidity (with mold and damp in mind). In trying to achieve a balance of mechanical and natural ventilation, one is able to monitor and remotely control HVAC usage, as well as monitor and record the frequency of opened and closed windows in selected areas, to evidence effort in this regard. There’s Smart and There’s Smarter Proper ventilation is one of the best ways to work towards good air quality Iot (Internet of Things) solutions providers, like us, have developed a suite of smart solutions which cater to the schools of the future. Wireless, long-lasting and cost-effective solutions combine a system of tags, sensors, and pressure pads, which transmit data over a secure and private network. These powerful tools send data to a remote dashboard in real time, with alerts for undesirable readings, breaches, and metrics - tailored to facilities owners’ buildings, assets, and needs. With a user-friendly interface, these systems also collect data for thorough record-keeping and meaningful data insights, which have the potential to inspire informed decision-making and strategic development as schools continue to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Inverter Maintenance For Aircon Engineers
Inverter Maintenance For Aircon Engineers

Inverter driven air conditioning is more energy efficient, cheaper to operate and more profitable to install than its non-inverter driven equivalent. Here Neil Ballinger, head of EMEA at automation parts supplier EU Automation, explains how HVAC engineers can maintain the inverters in their customer’s aircon units. Do you remember cross country at school? It was exhausting; miles of seemingly pointless jogging and sprinting and, if the teacher was not looking, walking. If you were unlucky enough to be born before modern safeguarding measures were introduced, it probably also meant getting lost in the nearest woods.Why isn’t every installation an inverter driven unit, instead of the traditional single stage or dual stage models? My PE teacher, who seemed particularly vicious at the time, but in retrospect just knew about sports science than most, used to make us do something called fartlek as well. This meant long distance runs, incorporating elements of speed training by mixing up sprints with jogs and walks. The worst bit was starting to run again after a walk. That is exactly how the motor in your customer’s air conditioner feel if the units you fit are not inverter controlled. The motor has to act just like a runner doing fartlek — it sprints continuously, operating at full speed until the thermostat tells it the room is cool, then it stops. When the room gets warm, it starts again, powers immediately up to full speed and repeats the process indefinitely. Just like a teenage cross-country runner, it is the starting and stopping that is the tough bit. Furthermore, the unit probably doesn’t have to run at full speed to keep the room at the correct temperature, if the motor were inverter controlled it would speed up and slow down as the temperature fluctuates. Why isn’t all aircon inverter driven? We all know that inverter driven aircon is better than its non-inverter driven cousins. It can provide heating as well as cooling and the lifetime cost of use is less for the customer — because their energy bills stay low. The cost of installation is also higher because it is a more complex job, so it works out better for the contractor. It’s a win-win. The research firm Technavio even lists it as one of the key technologies driving growth in the HVAC market in its annual reports every year. So, the only question is, why isn’t every installation an inverter driven unit, instead of the traditional single stage or dual stage models?When contractors contact EU Automation to buy automation parts, for the units they maintain, they have given us another reason: maintenance Cost is a factor, but when contractors contact EU Automation to buy replacement motors and inverters, and other automation parts, for the units they maintain, they have given us another reason: maintenance. As HVAC engineers, we are not necessarily specialists in power electronics, and this makes inverter maintenance daunting. Microcontrollers and IGBTs (Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistors) are not beyond us by any means, but they can be intimidating. Personally, I would back an electrical or heating engineer over an electronics specialist in a problem-solving contest all day long; but that doesn’t solve the problem at hand. Furthermore, while we are experts in air conditioning brands, and know our Daikins and Grees from our Mitsubishis and Fujitsus, we don’t necessarily have contacts at the inverter manufacturers. Amtech, Danfoss, Vacon and Yaskawa are all names we know, but the local dealer for any of them is probably not in your phone book. This is especially true if the unit you need is from a first-generation inverter driven aircon unit and well over a decade old. While we are experts in air conditioning brands, and know our Daikins and Grees from our Mitsubishis and Fujitsus, we don’t necessarily have contacts at the inverter manufacturers Maintenance techniques While inverter maintenance can be daunting, it isn’t difficult. The tools you will need most often are nothing more than a rag and a spanner, while the more esoteric kit is stuff you probably carry anyway, a laptop, vacuum and a Fluke meter. Before you start, remember that while we tend to refer to an inverter as an inverter, the manufacturers themselves, and many of the sources of information online, often refer to them as VSDs (Variable Speed Drives), VFDs (Variable Frequency Drives) or just plain old drives. As a result, when you are searching online for a video to explain something, it’s worth using all three of those terms, alongside the inverter manufacturer’s name and the problem to make sure you get the right result.While inverter maintenance can be daunting, it isn’t difficult When you do move on to maintenance, step one is simple; make sure that the unit is free of dust. This is as easy as vacuuming the heatsink with an ESD (Electrostatic Discharge) vacuum cleaner when you perform routine maintenance or investigate a problem. While you are checking for build up of dust and daily grime, check the filters. They will probably have to be replaced during annual maintenance, but high use might mean they need to be replaced more often. The control panel itself should be well ventilated and free of dust as well, if it isn’t it can overheat, which is the number one cause of inverter damage and the most common reason contractors contact us for replacement units. Before you put your vacuum and duster away, you should make sure that the inverter unit’s location is clean and as sheltered from the elements as possible. Because it’s normally situated on a roof, it’s not going to be perfect, but the units are designed to take a limited battering. That doesn’t mean it’s okay for them to be covered in leaves, surrounded by rubbish or immediately beneath the guttering outlet though! Before you put your vacuum and duster away, you should make sure that the inverter unit’s location is clean and as sheltered from the elements as possible Get out the spanner Once you’ve finished these steps, you are done with dusting for now, it’s time to get out your screwdriver and your spanner. Step one is to make sure the fans on the inverter are operating normally, without noise and with nothing blocking their rotation. The fan keeps the internal components running effectively, just as it does on PC, and if its function is impaired the capacitors will overheat and the inverter will fail.When you install or maintain an inverter on an air conditioning system, it is a sensible precaution to back up the drive parameters to your laptop The next job is to grab your spanner and make sure the power terminals are on tight. Loose connections cause arcing, overheating and even melting of components and are easily checked during any kind of maintenance and repair. While we are still in the realms of the work your apprentice can do with their eyes closed, you should also make sure that the inverter’s removable LCD control pad is stored sensibly and not continually attached to the drive. If it remains attached, there is a chance the display will stay on permanently, which means that when you need it to diagnose a problem, it will probably already be burnt out. Break out the laptop When you install or maintain an inverter on an air conditioning system, it is a sensible precaution to back up the drive parameters to your laptop. It takes minutes and is normally done by using the removable LCD control. In fact, it’s often as simple as selecting ‘PARs’ and then ‘BACKUP’ from the menu. If you struggle, there are lots of videos on YouTube, like this one, which explain the process for each drive. As a result, if the inverter ever does need replacing, you can whip out your backed up parameters and order a new or refurbished one easily, before reloading the parameters to the replacement and getting up and running in no time. Your customers will think you are a power electronics genius, as well as a HVAC expert, and they will be loyal for life; especially of you save them on a hot day! If you follow these simple measures, you will find that the inverters in your customer’s air conditioning units last much longer and no motors will have to run the equivalent of a cross country, thanks to a lack of inverter control.

HVAC Recruitment Considerations In 2020
HVAC Recruitment Considerations In 2020

As a Managing Director of a company that provides temperature and humidity solutions to predominantly the warehousing and industrial sectors, I thought I would share my dilemma that I’m sure other business owners and managers also face. I don’t pretend to know the answers, but thought it might be worth sharing some of the considerations that I’m facing in whether to reshape, recruit and build or hunker down until the World, Europe and the UK offers some sort or predictability. I promise to not refer to ‘new normal’, masks or social distancing as this is extensively covered elsewhere. Context Our business has seen steady growth in the past 5 years, as a result of our efforts to create and retain relationships with customers who value our offer. Our focus has always been to offer solutions to large scale complex HVAC projects. We invest heavily in intellectual talent sponsoring PhD and MSc students, to keep us on our toes and develop leading edge solutions. We also feed off each other and our network of equally talented suppliers. My dilemma as Managing Director is do I continue our ambitious Research & Development (R&D), IP and Business Development or throttle back and take a cautionary approach until the economy offers a more certain platform? ‘Fortune favors the brave’ they say, but when you have a good business and employees look to business managers to ensure their livelihoods, how brave is brave? The Dilemma Immediate transactional or contractor resources are easy to obtain with the right screening and due diligence Immediate transactional or contractor resources are relatively easy to obtain with the right screening and due diligence, but for more developmental strategic roles, do you recruit in an emerging post pandemic, catastrophic employment forecast, that to in a mid/post Brexit world? From my personal perspective, it boils down to attitude, communication, enthusiasm and buy-in from everyone in the company. Nothing new there, but it feels that the stakes are higher so confidence is key. Do we or don’t we? Inaction is the riskiest response to the uncertainties of an economic crisis. Rash or scattershot action can be nearly as damaging. Rising anxiety (How much worse are things likely to get? and for how long is this going to last?) and the growing pressure to do something often produces a variety of moves that target the wrong problem or overshoot the right one. Within the world of HVAC, changes to legislation, environmental considerations, technological changes and research and development might be slowed or influenced, but won’t stop as a consequence of the immediate economy, which is a good thing. Recruiting on a need basis Many companies recruit when needed, to fill a vacant position or when a large project demands more manpower than the current headcount supports. This approach is obvious and addresses immediate transactional and resource needs. Using headcount as a KPI for growth, at a glimpse may illustrate positivity, but may be signaling a stop gap and may not be a true indicator of strategic growth. Of all the things I have observed over the last 5 months, reading the news, talking to colleagues and peers, a few things have stuck out for me, such as how companies have treated their employees, customers and suppliers, how creative and flexible some big organizations have been in responding to market changes and demands and how, despite uncertainty, their core business skills, intelligence and ability enabled them to prosper in a new and unforeseen environment. Finally, how companies will be remembered post crisis. Robust business planning The ability to respond quickly to market changes relies on creativity and attitude My belief is that those companies that have and continue to float to the top had the key ingredients of a successful business, enabled by capable enthusiastic talent that were given the opportunity to shine. These people weren’t hired to fill a stop gap, but rather these people were hired as part of a robust business plan. So, ‘do we or don’t we?’ Our philosophy at Jet Environmental Systems is to have a solid platform, identify future markets, trends and technologies and hire the absolute best people that we can to get us there. Recruitment in our business is a process that supports our strategic development and so for us our answer is yes, have confidence and continue to invest in the best talent. The ability to respond quickly to market changes relies on creativity and attitude with support from equally enthusiastic management who create the opportunity for individuals who present this talent to grow. Conclusion I hope the thought process I’ve shared has been useful, for me it has been a checkpoint in whether our choice of investment in people is right, not just now but in all situations. For me, it’s a resounding yes! I think we will create opportunities by having vision and giving people opportunity.

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