Articles by Larry Anderson
The most likely scenario for the next 12 months in the United Kingdom is far lower risk of serious COVID-19 illness due to the vaccine. However, there will be big swings in R rates, and there is uncertainty about how effective vaccines will be against COVID variants. The ‘R’ rate is the number of people one infected person will pass a virus on to, on average. As the scenario plays out, and more companies open for business, issues of indoor air quality will continue to be top of mind. The UK cannot stay in lockdown forever, so the big question becomes: What will happen when R rates rise again? Significant illness transmission “People have become far more concerned about building safety issues because we are dealing with a deadly virus that transmits when people don’t realize they have it,” says Andrew Hobbs, CEO and founder of Surrey-based air quality and HVAC specialists Better Indoors. HAIs, including COVID, are still a major issue in National Health Service hospitals The guidance of increasing ventilation air changes and using passive systems like filters and UV has been the only mitigation for dealing with indoor air quality (IAQ) issues for many years, yet homes and offices still allow significant illness transmission, says Hobbs. Healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), including COVID, are still a major issue in National Health Service hospitals in the UK, and R rates generally rise when physical distancing measures are relaxed. Air purification solutions “It is because ventilation and passive processes do not destroy viruses at the point of transmission and until we introduce technologies that do, we will always be stuck in this loop,” says Hobbs. Better Indoors works to create the safest possible indoor environments for homes, offices, factories and on transport. Their active air purification solutions destroy viral emissions at the point of transmission – an essential feature for controlling indoor R rates, according to the company. “We are the UK’s exclusive distributor of unique technology that has been around for over 20 years and is used in millions of applications around the world,” said Hobbs. “This attribute is proving to be a key differentiator as firms race to futureproof their buildings and make their indoor spaces as safe as possible for staff and customers.” Master exclusive distributor Better Indoors is a master exclusive distributor to RGF Environmental Inc. Better Indoors is a master exclusive distributor to RGF Environmental Inc. of the United States, with a territory in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland. Better Indoors supports agents and wholesalers, providing training and education on how to specify, install and provide aftersales services. They also have a strong relationship with various operating businesses of Volution plc for their ventilation products. Passive technologies have been strongly promoted, as have ionization-only technologies. Less well promoted have been RGF Environmental’s photohydroionisation (PHI) and Reflective Electro Magnetic Energy (REME) technologies, which have had major impact where they have been installed. Photohydroionisation mimics nature’s air cleaning process indoors by creating an equilibrium concentration of ionized hydrogen peroxide molecules throughout the indoor space. More effective process These molecules react with viruses on contact, revert to water vapor and oxygen afterwards, and are replaced with new ones from the units. The process is continuous, safe and effective, says Hobbs. REME units contain an additional process of bipolarionization for particulate agglomeration also. Products include in-duct, in-AC units and standalone, plus individual units containing individual technology pieces to complement existing infrastructures. Our technology is the safest for COVID and every single future virus that comes along" Not all potential technologies have been tested in the fight against the novel coronavirus. If they had, the resulting guidance should include technologies that kill the virus at the point of transmission, which are safe and proven with millions of users. “Our technology is the safest for COVID and every single future virus that comes along,” says Hobbs. “You cannot get a safer more effective process than one that kills a virus at the point of transmission that is not dependent on the actions of behaviors of anyone or anything.” Offering maximum protection “We have learned the main route for viral illness transmission is in the air,” says Hobbs. “It is therefore essential that we future-proof our buildings and indoor spaces to the best extent possible so they offer maximum protection for when the next deadly pathogen comes along but also to minimize common illnesses going forward. The best possible protections come from IAQ processes that physically destroy viral emissions at the point of transmission rather than relying on moving it somewhere first like all filter and UV processes.” There are very few testing techniques that properly test certain technologies" One of the biggest misconceptions in IAQ is the difference between whether a particular passive IAQ process actually works and the limitations of how it works, Hobbs notes. “This is constantly misrepresented, misunderstood, and there are very few testing techniques that properly test certain technologies.” Technologies under consideration For example, the effect and performance of UV technologies are significantly limited by line of sight, inverse square law and dwell time, but this is rarely if ever mentioned, he adds. “Yes, it works but only if certain severely limiting conditions are met,” says Hobbs. “Furthermore, the industry-accepted testing metrics are designed for passives and not active systems, and this needs to be addressed also.” None of the other new technologies under consideration, such as Far UV, will be able to destroy the virus at the point of transmission because of their already known physical limitations. “We have been arguing for months that our active technology must be made mandatory for indoor spaces because it is the only method that can stop R rate rises regardless of which variant we have,” says Hobbs.
The practice of working from home soared during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and many observers see a likely continuation of the trend, as infection risks gradually subside. Both environments – home and office – depend on HVAC systems to keep occupants comfortable (and safe!). Therefore, the industry stands to be impacted whichever way the trend plays out. We asked our Expert Panel Roundtable: How will remote working affect residential and commercial HVAC?
Innovation is a driving force behind most industries, including HVAC. Keeping up with industry research, and looking toward the future, helps HVAC professionals to anticipate upcoming changes to the industry, and to be prepared when they happen. There is no shortage of innovation in the sphere of HVAC. I recently came across some interesting designs (and one product already on the market!) that provide a useful glimpse into the types of projects that may shape the HVAC industry of tomorrow. Large-Scale Air Purification System A new purification system on the horizon provides higher levels of purification and sanitation for large-scale applications such as hotels and other big businesses. It also seeks to protect HVAC service employees from exposure to viruses when they service a system. Rather than filter out viruses, the system destroys them with photocatalysis, which uses a semi-conductor to create radicals to zap the viruses. Photocatalysis has been around for decades but is only now becoming refined enough to provide a marketable solution. Promethium, the company seeking to bring the filtration to market, evolved from the work of two the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) students, and a University of California (UC) Berkeley graduate. The technology can be used in several ways – from water purification to energy generation – but purifying air is the first priority. Each unit is customized for a specific application, but a “basic” standard unit starts at around $10,000 and can clean 40,000 square feet of space, enough for a casino gaming floor, for example. The project won $250,000 in a contest sponsored by UNLV’s Lee Business School and has also signed a research agreement with Purdue University. It should be ready to go to market this year. Dual-Mode Heating and Cooling Device Duke University is demonstrating the heating and cooling capabilities of nanomaterials, including a dual-mode heating and cooling device that could lower HVAC energy costs by nearly 20% in the United States if widely deployed. The invention combines mechanics and materials science to either harness or expels certain wavelengths of light. Depending on conditions, rollers move a nanomaterial sheet back and forth to expose either heat-trapping materials on one half or cooling materials on the other. Designed at the nanoscale, one material absorbs the sun’s energy and traps existing heat, while the other reflects light and allows heat to escape. Flair’s Smart Vents are DIY devices that fit into existing floor and wall register slots in standard sizes The cooling portion of the sheet has ultra-thin silver film covered by an even thinner layer of clear silicon. Together, they reflect the sun’s rays like a mirror. The unique properties of the materials also convert energy into mid-range infrared light, which does not interact with the gasses in the Earth’s atmosphere and easily passes into space after it is emitted. For heating, an ultra-thin layer of copper is topped by a layer of zinc-copper nanoparticles, which interact with the copper beneath them to trap light onto the surface, thus absorbing more than 93% of the sunlight’s heat. The “reversible thermal contact” allows users to switch between two modes of heating or cooling. The device would be especially useful in the world’s temperate climate zones that require both heating and cooling during the year – and sometimes requires both within a single 24-hour period. Do-It-Yourself Smart Vents Flair’s Smart Vents are do-it-yourself (DIY) devices that fit into existing floor and wall register slots in standard sizes. The vents control airflow across individual rooms to boost efficiency. Electronics for the low-profile devices are contained in a casing that rests under the floor level. They can be hard-wired for power or can use two C batteries. The Smart Vents work with smart thermostats and/or with Flair’s Puck cylindrical devices that include temperature control and monitoring. The Smart Vents coordinate their open/shut status depending on temperature needs. For example, the vents can be used to equalize the temperature and route heating and cooling intelligently. It can provide a solution if one room is too cold when cooling or too hot when heating. The approach is aimed at approximating the results of zoned HVAC systems at much lower costs and to replace existing wall ducts.
The cruise ship industry has cracked the code on keeping passengers and crew safe from the coronavirus (COVID-19) spread, including changes to on-board HVAC systems to use more outside air and to filter out particles as small as the novel coronavirus. The industry, which voluntarily suspended worldwide operations at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, under the guidance of international and national health authorities, plans to resume worldwide operations fully later in 2021. Health protocols to mitigate COVID-19 risk The cruise ship industry resumed sailing in parts of Europe, Asia and South Pacific in July 2020 The cruise ship industry resumed sailing in parts of Europe, Asia and South Pacific in July 2020 and completed more than 200 sailings by the end of 2020. The success of these early sailings demonstrated the effectiveness of new protocols to mitigate risk of COVID-19 among passengers, crews and at destinations. The industry will resume operation in the United States, Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and elsewhere in 2021. Cruise operators, such as Royal Caribbean, have implemented new HVAC systems as part of the protocols. Supplying 100% fresh and filtered air Royal Caribbean says its HVAC system now continuously supplies 100% fresh and filtered air from outdoors to all indoor spaces. There is a total air change up to 12 times an hour in staterooms and about 15 changes per hour in large public spaces. Fan coil units provide an extra layer of protection in local spaces, such as public venues and staterooms, continuously scrubbing the air of pathogens and using MERV 13 filters to capture aerosols between 1.0 and 3.0 microns with 90% efficacy. Bio-aerosol assessment study Royal Caribbean participated in a bio-aerosol assessment of its ‘Oasis of the Seas’ ship by the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The study involved releasing billions of 1-micron aerosol-sized microspheres, each containing a uniquely DNA-barcoded inert virus surrogate, at pre-selected spaces throughout the ship. The test was intended to determine the efficiency and effectiveness of the vessel’s indoor air management strategies and to understand spread of aerosols through the HVAC system. Low risk of cross-contamination of air Testing results led to minimal changes, such as ensuring air exchanges are close to hospital standards and using MERV 13 filters Over a week aboard the Oasis of the Seas, scientists released billions of the individually tagged microspheres and then tracked where they went and how long they lingered in the air, and on surfaces. Testing results led to minimal changes, such as ensuring air exchanges are close to hospital standards and using MERV 13 filters. The study confirmed that cross-contamination of air between adjacent public spaces is extremely low and undetectable in most test cases. Royal Caribbean’s Healthy Sail Center determined seven important elements the cruise line can do to manage indoor air and keep it clean. These elements include: Enhanced filtration to the highest level possible Optimize airflow patterns Use negative pressurization in isolation rooms Minimize unfiltered, re-circulated air Increase number of air changes per hour Use portable HEPA filters in congregate areas Maximize outdoor functions and physical distancing Facilitating return to operation of cruise ships At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, between March 1 and July 10, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) discovered nearly 3,000 cases of COVID -19 or suspected COVID-19 infections and 34 deaths across 123 cruise ships. In October 2020, the CDC lifted its no-sail order, laying out guidelines for big-ship cruising to resume operations in U.S. waters. The Cruise Lines International Association (CIA), which represents 95% of the cruise ship industry, has said its members will return when the time is right and that timing will be based on factors, including input from scientists and medical experts. Cruise companies also have new technologies available to them now. For example, the Italian company, Integra provides an air sanitizer that uses an odorless disinfectant to combat airborne illnesses. It can be installed in 15 minutes.
The connectivity of the Internet of Things (IoT) provides new tools to monitor the well-being of an HVAC system, to provide instant alerts to any operational problems and even to predict when problems are likely to occur. Being alert to early warning signs of a problem enables deployment of less-expensive fixes before the problem escalates. predictive analytics Remote monitoring and predictive analytics of HVAC systems have been even more valuable during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, when many buildings have been empty. Potential problems come to light faster and can be repaired less expensively, even if no one is on site to complain about an obvious failure. When buildings are occupied, the customer experience is even better and operational and maintenance costs are lower. These capabilities can be integrated with other Building Management Systems (BMS) to provide a broad-based view of various operating systems throughout a facility. In addition to early warning of system failure, system monitoring can also provide new and smarter tools for keeping track of indoor air quality (IAQ) and to minimize energy consumption. Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the Cloud Predictive and preventive maintenance are key to ensuring that issues are addressed before they can do damage Sensors and other devices deployed in today’s systems provide hundreds of new data points that are interpreted by Artificial Intelligence (AI) operating in the Cloud. The combination provides detailed and useful insights into how a system operates over time, thus maximizing operation and minimizing energy usage in ways that are more in tune with environmental needs than ever before. Predictive and preventive maintenance are key to ensuring that issues are addressed before they can do serious damage, according to Johnson Controls (JCI). Smart data analysis enables more informed and smarter decisions, thus resulting in reduced maintenance costs, improved efficiency, and overall peace of mind, as per the company. Connected Services Johnson Controls (JCI) offers Connected Services to provide customers with constant equipment monitoring and data analysis, and uses the data proactively to identify faults before they occur and even predict future optimization opportunities and efficiencies. Integration of both equipment and software into a single system makes it more than a sum of its parts. Johnson Controls lists some key benefits of implementing an integrated system: Identify energy savings opportunities. Regular reports on the operational performance provide insights on areas of improvement. Extend asset life. Identifying and managing required maintenance helps to extend equipment lifespan. Minimize repair costs. Faults mitigated at an early stage avoid major failures. Reduced emissions. Operational performance reporting enables chillers to operate in the most efficient range. Monitoring system performance Emerson’s Sensi Predict line goes to the root of HVAC systems to monitor performance, identify issues and alert contractors and home owners to the efficiency, energy usage and overall performance of HVAC units. An internal Emerson study reviewed the most common HVAC failures and determined that installing the technology could detect up to 80% of failures in these areas, before a home owner suffers system outage. Real-time and connected systems use a variety of sensors that constantly monitor the functioning of an HVAC system. Connectivity puts more information than ever at the fingertips of HVAC professionals, making them more responsive than ever to customer needs.
The demographics of the HVAC workforce are changing and more women are being welcomed into the HVAC industry in a wider variety of roles. In part, the changes are because of necessity as Baby Boomers retire from the workforce and leave a labor and skills gap to be filled. HVAC commercial service business, HB McClure Company, based out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, is embracing change and encouraging more women to consider a career in the HVAC workspace. The company’s female employees are happy to speak up about the advantages of working in the HVAC industry. Promoting women in HVAC industry Kara Boeckel began working at HB McClure Company as an HVAC technician and is now a Preventive Maintenance Coordinator. Back in trade school, she was the only woman in her class. She faced negative preconceptions about her capabilities compared to male counterparts and there were no female role models. Women were 50% of the U.S. labor force in 2019, but only 2% of employees in the HVAC field were women Despite the challenges, Boeckel found her vocational pathway. Now, her peers at HB McClure Company give her support and help her get past any fear of being a minority in a male-dominated field. “Now I don’t see being a female as a weakness,” said Kara Boeckel, adding “I see it as a strength.” Women were 50% of the U.S. labor force in 2019, but only 2% of employees in the HVAC field were women. And that number had increased from an even lower figure eight years before – 0.6%. Need for more HVAC technicians According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, HVAC employment will likely increase 15% through 2026. The growth, combined with the current labor shortage, means technicians are needed to fill the estimated 115,000 new positions that the industry expects to have available by 2022. If trends continue, many of them are likely to be women. However, more awareness is needed to attract employees of any gender to the HVAC market. “Students are not as exposed to the prospects in this industry,” said Shelly Matter, HB McClure’s Director of Business Development, adding “There is a shortage of skilled tradespeople, male and female.” Monetary benefits in HVAC After completing the required field training and certifications, many possibilities open up for women to grow their career, with job positions ranging from Foreman to Project Manager, Engineering to Sales. Shelly Matter has been in the commercial/industrial HVAC industry for more than 20 years. Now, she makes presentations at expos, conferences and local school career fairs. The number one question among prospective HVAC employees that she meets is, ‘How much does it pay?’ Shelly Matter is happy to assure students that it’s possible to make a generous living in HVAC, after one establishes capability and reliability. Challenges and opportunities in HVAC The best part is meeting wonderful customers and helping them solve their commercial HVAC problems" Kelly Overlander, New Business Development Representative at HB McClure, was formerly the owner of a successful hair salon for more than 15 years. After she sold her salon and entered the mechanical trades industry, Overlander is proud of her ability to bring value to customers. “My job delivers a variety of challenges and many opportunities for professional growth,” said Kelly Overlander, adding “The best part is meeting wonderful customers and helping them solve their commercial HVAC problems.” Importance of role models Having good role models is a critical aspect of women seeking to enter the HVAC business. Angela Klingler, HB McClure New Business Developer, sees a need for more female trade school instructors and appreciates the value of women surrounding themselves with people who have expertise and then learning from their strengths. She advocates mentoring, sharing industry opportunities and partnering with organizations, such as the Partnership for Career Development, to help bridge the gap between industry and education. It all comes down to identifying what one is passionate about, and then combining that passion with a career that aligns with those passions. “When you go to a nursing home and the heater isn’t working, you not only fix it, but you have taken care of bringing warmth to someone’s grandmother, and she’s thanking you,” said Kelly Overlander, adding “Working in HVAC is very rewarding.”
The computing power we know as the Internet actually resides in millions of data centers that house rows and rows of computer servers. And each data center represents a unique HVAC challenge: How to keep the equipment cool, the air pure and the humidity low. Providing the ideal operating conditions for a room full of computers requires the best that the HVAC market can offer. Data centers come in all shapes, sizes and configurations. Some are huge facilities that serve the needs of giants, such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft. Others are smaller and might contain the servers for a single company. In every case, there is expensive equipment operating, creating enormous amounts of heat and there is important data to be preserved. Air quality and temperature monitoring Data centers have a narrower range of acceptable environmental factors when compared to typical buildings Air quality and temperatures are monitored around the clock, and even small discrepancies can undermine the whole operation. Data centers have a narrower range of acceptable environmental factors when compared to typical buildings. ASHRAE provides guidelines and best practices for mission-critical facilities, which should be followed by any contractor working with data centers. The layout of a data center is an important consideration – what is the location of servers and other key equipment? Appropriate parameters in various zones ensure correct temperatures and humidity levels. Managing power loads Access must be maintained to the electrical infrastructure and supplies, and attention must be paid to electric loads. Typically, an HVAC system uses its own electrical supply, separate from the system that the servers depend on. This approach helps with managing power loads. Often server rooms have raised floors to provide technicians access to the infrastructures. Fans placed under the floor can discharge air in a wider pattern for more uniform cooling. Server rooms may also have higher ceilings to provide room for large equipment racks. These features can impact air flow, temperature and humidity and should be incorporated into HVAC system designs. ‘Hot aisle, cold aisle’ approach Managing higher heat loads of computer servers arranged in rows at data centers can use a ‘hot aisle, cold aisle’ approach. Cold air intakes and hot air exhausts face alternating rows. Because of moisture concerns, only plumbing that relate to fire suppression should be located near the server rooms. Server rooms typically do not have windows or outside doors or outside-facing walls. Air filtration For air quality, filters eliminate the smallest particles such as dust or pollen. HEPA filters are effective For air quality, filters eliminate the smallest particles such as dust or pollen. HEPA filters are effective. Other factors include new motor types, fewer moving parts, and more sensors to provide predictive maintenance. Preventive maintenance is a better approach than facing the possible dire consequences of an emergency. Keeping spare parts on hand is a good way to minimize risk. Variable-speed fans save energy, and they use motors that do not require belts, pulleys or bearing hardware for cleaner operation and less contamination, and less frequent maintenance. However, monthly HVAC inspections should be implemented to ensure maximum data center uptime. Mission-critical HVAC systems Mission-critical HVAC systems for data centers fall into two categories. One is Computer Room Air Conditioners (CRAC), which use compressors and are deployed for perimeter cooling. The other is Computer Room Air Handlers (CRAH), which use water from a centralized chiller and a control valve to provide cooling. Stand-alone ultrasonic units take the place of internal humidifiers on CRAC and CRAH units.
The Internet of Things (IoT) is the network of physical objects embedded with sensors, software and other technologies to facilitate connecting and exchanging data with other devices and systems over the internet. Use of the IoT is expanding among both business and residential applications. However, there are hurdles to overcome, including security, privacy and networking challenges. As more HVAC devices embrace the IoT, we asked our Expert Panel Roundtable: What is the impact of the Internet of Things (IoT) on the HVAC market?
Deadly cold weather recently made headlines in Texas, where wintry conditions knocked out power to around 4.5 million homes at one point. Power outages, combined with freezing conditions, sent Texans scrambling for home heating alternatives, such as generators and fireplaces, and to seek shelter in powered warming centers or businesses. Some resorted to living in running cars. Snow, ice and extreme cold have been widespread this year in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast United States, too. At one point, 78 million Americans were under a winter weather alert, and more than 27 million were under a hard-freeze warning. More than 2,500 new records were set for lowest high temperatures. At least 38 people nationwide died from winter storms or frigid conditions. Additional Challenges for HVAC Industry For HVAC companies, the cold weather means more business, and additional challenges to serve their customers' needs. Local TV stations often turn to HVAC installers to provide commentary and insights about their surge in business brought on by Mother Nature.Sub-zero weather translated into below-freezing indoor temperatures for some HVAC customers In Lincoln, Neb., for example, sub-zero weather translated into below-freezing indoor temperatures for some HVAC customers whose furnaces were not running. Many of the systems had been badly maintained, operated inefficiently, and/or were beyond their life expectancy. “We’ve had some guys that have houses that their furnaces aren’t running, we’ve had some houses at 31 degrees, 34 degrees,” said John Henry’s HVAC Service Technician, Thaddeus Bertsch, interviewed by 10/11 KOLN News. Issues with Frozen Pipes "As [cold weather] goes on, we are starting to get more calls for frozen pipes," adds Keith Jackson with Jackson Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling, Decatur, Ala. "People have no water," he told WZDX Fox News. HVAC technicians stay extra busy working in the snow and dropping temperaturesAlso, outdoor heating and AC units were shutting down. The units were freezing up, and frozen rain and ice affected the operation of the outside condensers. The company had crews out trying to help people with frozen pipes across Decatur and beyond. HVAC technicians stay extra busy working in the snow and dropping temperatures. For instance, business tripled for Jarboe’s Heating, Plumbing and Cooling in Louisville, Ky. Field technicians were working longer hours because of heaters going out, reported WDRB News in Louisville. "As soon as the phones are open, they’re ringing" For two days in February, by nine o’clock in the morning, J.E. Shekell Inc. in Evanstan, Ind., already had received over 30 service calls. "As soon as the phones are open, they’re ringing,” said Jim Poag of J.E. Shekell Inc. A report by WFIE 14 News in EvanstanFrigid temperatures cause furnaces to work extra hard to keep houses warm highlighted how frigid temperatures cause furnaces to work extra hard to keep houses warm. Depending on how well they are maintained, and how old the machine is, it can sometimes be too much. “We’ve been getting a lot of calls, several, you lose count after a while, just trying to help as many people as we can right now. It’s probably about my seventh call of the day so, we’re out trying to help as many people as we can,” said John Hambleton of Lyerla Heating & Air, Joplin, Mo. Dangerous temperatures and winds Lyerla Heating and Air received 300 service calls in just two days on Feb. 15-16. Like many of the local media reports, KSN News in Wichita, Kan., emphasized the need to prevent untimely breakdowns by getting units serviced before dangerous temperatures and wind chills set in. Staff at Wiersgalla Plumbing & Heating, Eau Claire, Wis., says service calls had risen roughly 25% when the cold rolled in. Staff worked extended hours to fix broken heaters and frozen home exhausts. "Over the last week and a half, we've experienced an increase in calls obviously because of the cold," said Christina Wiersgalla, VP of operations for Wiersgalla Plumbing & Heating, Eau Claire, Wis., in a report by WQOW 18 News. Among the consequences of brutal winter weather are a greater appreciation of the work of HVAC companies and an opportunity to shine a spotlight on how they keep customers comfortable in their homes and businesses.
If history truly repeats itself, might we learn lessons from the past – even lessons about managing a novel coronavirus that upends our way of life and changes the world forever? The most commonly cited parallel to the COVID-19 pandemic is the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918. Both diseases are caused by viruses that had not been seen before. In both cases, no one had immunity to a highly infectious germ that was spread through respiratory droplets. Both outbreaks occurred in multiple waves over several years. Furthermore, in both cases, it became clear that ventilation, fresh air, open spaces and sunlight are useful factors in promoting good health. Fresh Air Movement During the time of the Spanish flu, there were signs posted in buses and throughout New York that advised: "Keep your bedroom windows open [to] prevent influenza, pneumonia [and] tuberculosis." There was even a national campaign known as the “Fresh Air Movement,” calling for people to be outside more, and urging greater ventilation indoors. The movement included a kind of traveling show that spread the word about the “national poison,” which was the result of people breathing stale air inside closed rooms. These concerns predated by decades our enthusiasm for “indoor air quality.” In became common after 1918 to position radiators providing steam heat under open windows to combine warmth with fresh air, even on the coldest of days. The Open-Air Treatment of Pandemic Influenza It was also common practice by 1918 to place the sick outside in tents or in specially designed open wards But the advantages of fresh air go back even further, as described in a 2009 article in the American Journal of Public Health (AJPH) titled “The Open-Air Treatment of Pandemic Influenza.” During the 1918 pandemic, as today, many cities banned public assembly, closed schools, isolated those infected and mandated the wearing of face masks. It was also common practice by 1918 to place the sick outside in tents or in specially designed open wards, according to the AJPH article. The practice dates back to English physician John Coakley Lettsom (1744-1815), who was among the first advocates of the “open-air method.” The 1800s saw emergence of tuberculosis sanitoriums, which treated the lung disease with a combination of fresh air, gentle exercise in the open, nutrition, and a minimum of medicines. Lack of ventilation Spending time in well-ventilated houses in the country became seen as superior to patients being confined to warm, badly ventilated rooms to protect them from the supposedly harmful effects of cold air. Lack of ventilation forced patients to breathe foul air, contaminated with germs, over and over. Research later confirmed the importance of measures to prevent influenza virus from spreading through buildings. Improvements in air-handling equipment, portable filtration units, and introduction of physical barriers and other partitions or doors also provided protection. These lessons were clear long before the advent of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Their successful deployment during the pandemic have further supported their value. importance of HVAC Although the COVID-19 pandemic caught the world off-guard, there were plenty of historical precedents However, lockdowns during the pandemic have also tended to keep the population closed up in buildings, sometimes with less-than-adequate ventilation and access to fresh air. In retrospect, some of those decisions seem regrettable. Although the COVID-19 pandemic caught the world off-guard, there were plenty of historical precedents. Copious research over the years supported the best approaches to stemming the spread of the virus, although it took time for historical insights to work their way into the general practice implemented in the current pandemic. There is also historical precedent for the importance of HVAC in the current pandemic. Ventilation and fresh air have become higher priorities, as has the HVAC market’s role in providing a safer indoor climate with minimal disease spread.
Attitudes about indoor air quality need to change, especially given the current pandemic that forces people to spend most of their time indoors. But addressing the pandemic through increased ventilation and better indoor air quality can be expensive. For example, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the second-largest in the nation, has spent $6 million on HVAC upgrades and new air filters in response to the pandemic and expects to pay about $1.7 million a month for ongoing inspections and filter replacements. Updating & Improving HVAC Systems Updating HVAC systems to minimize virus spread has been an expensive proposition all around. Some school districts in California report the costs are insurmountable. Sometimes seeking to replace or update an HVAC system opens a can of worms: Electrical systems must be rewired, asbestos must be removed, and/or an expensive roof needs to be replaced. Schools in low-income areas are especially likely to be in poor condition, and unable to afford improvements. Some school districts have used money from the federal CARES Act – a $2 trillion federal economic package passed in March – to make ventilation improvements. Hope remains that additional state and/or federal money will be available, but funding is still likely to be inadequate. Airborne Transmission Study showed that some classrooms had air change rates below 0.5 changes per hour The airborne transmission was initially underplayed as a means of spreading the novel coronavirus. There was more emphasis on the dangers of touch during the early days of the pandemic. However, the airborne (aerosol) spread is now believed to make up about 75% of transmissions. A group of 239 scientists from around the world advocated more action to address aerosol spread in a July 2020 open letter to the World Health Organization (WHO). The concern is a global challenge. For example, a survey of 20 classrooms in the United Kingdom, carried out by National Air Quality Testing Services (NAQTS), revealed very low air change rates that could increase the risk of virus transmission. The study showed that some classrooms had air change rates below 0.5 changes per hour (3 to 5 changes per hour would be desirable). Even small increases in flow rate could reduce the risk of infection significantly. Raising airflows from zero to 100 cu m/hour cuts the risk by up to a third, according to NAQTS. Fresh Air Ventilation & Filtration The Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) advised the UK Government last fall of a need to ensure undisrupted education for children of all ages. A critical part of keeping children in school is clear guidance and support packages, including better ventilation and air filtration, particularly through winter. The German government advises schools to open their windows for at least five minutes every hour Other countries can learn a lot about the value of opening windows to allow in more fresh air from the Germans. For years, Germans have habitually opened their windows twice a day, even in winter. In fact, “lüften,” or airing a room, is among the cheapest and most effective ways of decreasing the spread of the coronavirus. The German government advises schools to open their windows for at least five minutes every hour; for example, when classes are changing. Improving Indoor Air Quality Airing of rooms is a likely factor in the lower number of coronavirus cases reported in Germany compared to, say, the United Kingdom. In the end, improving indoor air quality involves some combination of letting in more fresh air, upgrading air filtration systems, and installing technologies such as UV light to kill pathogens. However, implementing these measures only mitigates the likelihood of contracting COVID-19. Some risk remains.
The pandemic of 2020 presented unique challenges to the HVAC market, and in many instances, responding to those challenges relied on technical innovation. It’s safe to say that the pandemic accelerated several technology trends, redirected others, and overall raised the stakes in the industry’s ongoing challenge to meet customer needs across a wide spectrum. But what comes now? We asked our Expert Panel Roundtable to weigh in on this question: What technologies and trends will define the HVAC industry in 2021?
When a freezer failed at a medical center in Seattle, there was a mad dash to use as many of 1,600 stored doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine as possible before they expired. Facing expiration at 5:30 a.m. the next day, nurses, firefighters and volunteers worked throughout the night to ensure none of the precious vaccines went to waste. Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Vaccine freezer requirement The episode underlines the conspicuous role that refrigeration plays in distribution and delivery of COVID-19 vaccines. In fact, the need for ultra-low-temperature freezers for the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines has been an expensive challenge during vaccine distribution. Fulfilling that need has again highlighted the contributions of the HVACR industry, with the R for refrigeration.Large hospitals have rushed to buy the ultra-cold freezers, but their cost is beyond the means of most rural hospitals. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine must be stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius (minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit). The Moderna vaccine must be stored at minus 20 degrees Celsius (minus 4 degrees Fahrenheit.) Ultra-low-temperature freezers are designated for vaccine storage and distribution, but the expensive freezers are not available at every stage of vaccine distribution. Other strategies must be deployed. Once thawed, vaccines can be kept in a refrigerator at between 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (36 to 46 degrees F). Once transferred to a refrigerator, the Moderna vaccine must be used within 30 days, and the Pfizer vaccine must be used within 5 days. Ultra-low Temperature Freezers Ultra-low-temperature freezers typically have large outer doors and smaller inner doors, all insulated extra-thick. There are two compressors, one using a conventional refrigerant to cool another loop with low-temperature cooling. The freezers have built-in temperature monitoring – wireless devices that ensure continuous cold 24/7 and communicate via Wi-Fi. A data logger within the unit also validates that temperatures were maintained. The units cost between $10,000 and $15,000.One estimate suggests that there are only 25 or 30 countries (among the 195 countries in the world) that have the infrastructure for ultra-cold supply distribution. Large hospitals have rushed to buy the ultra-cold freezers, but their cost is beyond the means of most rural hospitals. Therefore, urban hospitals have an advantage gaining access to the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised state health departments not to buy the freezers because vaccines with less-demanding storage requirements will be available soon. Especially in areas that are not a “hot spot” and/or that do not have a high-risk population, the best course might be to wait for availability of other vaccine candidates that do not require ultra-cold storage. Freezer supply shortage With little clear guidance on who should invest in the freezers, locales have decided for themselves. For example, North Dakota has spent $100,000 for four freezers and nine portable freezers. Pennsylvania, in contrast, chose to follow CDC advice and not purchase the units. A supply shortage of the freezers has been somewhat of a challenge, with delivery delays averaging two to six weeks for some, and up to two to three months for others. Rather than invest in freezers for storage, some hospitals are taking advantage of “just in time” delivery of vaccines shipped from centralized hubs packed in dry ice. Just in time delivery of medical products is already a familiar practice. Pfizer use 'just-in-time' deliveries of vaccine Pfizer is shipping the vaccine to distributors in storage containers of 1,000 to 5,000 doses. The containers use dry ice to keep the vaccines at minus 75 Celsius for 10 days. The doses can be stored for five more days while refrigerated. Longer delivery times to rural areas degrade the number of days they can be safely stored. The 1,000-dose supplies may also be more than a smaller population might use in the necessary time window. On a global basis, the refrigeration requirements may prove even more limiting for use of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. One estimate suggests that there are only 25 or 30 countries (among the 195 countries in the world) that have the infrastructure for ultra-cold supply distribution. Serving the refrigeration needs for vaccine distribution is just the latest requirement that has placed the HVACR industry squarely at the center of the global pandemic and its aftermath.
Imagine a HVAC system that captures cardon dioxide and water from the air to be converted into renewable hydrocarbon fuels that can take the place of fossil fuels. This futuristic approach is a reality today, although on a small scale with little impact – for now. The challenge is to scale up the processes to create a “circular” CO2 economy that uses chemical processes to create renewable synthetic oil that substitutes for non-renewable fossil-based oil, while eliminating emission of CO2 and its impact on global warming. retrofitting air conditioning systems A technical approach to decentralized synthesis of hydrocarbon fuels based on CO2 is possible today by retrofitting air conditioning systems in houses, apartments and office buildings to capture CO2 and H2O from the air. Electrolysis of H2O can produce hydrogen (H2), which can be combined with captured CO2 to produce hydrocarbon fuels via Fischer-Tropsch catalysis or related approaches.A technical approach is possible today by retrofitting air conditioning systems in houses A paper published in the journal Nature Communications highlights the possibilities under the title “Crowd Oil Not Crude Oil.” The paper includes a preliminary technical analysis for three practical use cases – the Frankfurt Fair Tower office building, a typical grocery store and low-energy houses. crowd-owned production The idea could be deployed in individual production units in a home or business; an alternative would be larger crowd-owned production facilities for a whole neighborhood. The paper states: “This analysis impressively demonstrates that air conditioning systems already in place, if equipped with the appropriate technology, could capture a very significant amount of carbon dioxide.” The envisioned model of “crowd oil” from solar refineries “enables people to take control and collectively manage global warming and climate change, rather than depending on the fossil power industrial behemoths.”Companies have already commercialized technology to capture CO2 directly from the air Companies have already commercialized technology to capture CO2 directly from the air, for generating H2 electrochemically from H2O, and even for synthesizing gas by converting H2 and CO2 into hydrocarbon or oxygenated fuels. It’s just a matter of putting it all together and expanding to a wider market. CO2 capture functionality Adding CO2 capture functionality to an air conditioning system is not difficult and has already been patented as a way of lowering energy requirements. Using AC to make hydrocarbon fuels, if adapted globally, could be the “AC 2.0” of the 21st century. In fact, the direct conversion of solar radiation, CO2 and water into hydrocarbon fuels may become a competitive approach in the future. Local generation Local generation of chemical energy sources is especially attractive in regions with underdeveloped infrastructure, such as remote locations and difficult-to-reach islands. Avoiding the need to transport energy sources over long distances also saves energy and costs.There may not be a public appetite for storing renewable hydrocarbon fuels in empty spaces There are possible drawbacks and obstacles on the way to realizing this approach. For example, there may not be a public appetite for storing renewable hydrocarbon fuels in empty spaces, such as depleted oil wells. Possible contamination of nearby water supplies would need to be investigated. Collective action would also be required among diverse societies around the world. However, there is appeal to using technology to empower people to become energy independent while helping to solve problems such as greenhouse gases, global warming and climate change. For the HVAC market, the idea suggests one of many possible ways the industry could be radically different in coming decades. It may seem visionary, but the current rapid pace of technology development suggests the future may come sooner than we think.
During the coronavirus pandemic, UV-C systems have surged from a niche market to mass production capable of meeting historic demand levels. As a result, UV lamp manufacturers, as well as their component providers (e.g., glass suppliers), have struggled to meet the growing demand. Because of UV-C’s historic proven effectiveness, interest in and orders for UV disinfection equipment have increased exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, in July, lighting manufacturer Signify (previously Philips Lighting), reported increasing “UV-C light source production capacity by a factor of eight.” The pandemic has settled in the affirmative the question of whether 254 nm germicidal wavelength can inactivate the genetic material in the SARS-CoV-2 virus (that causes COVID-19). acute respiratory syndrome Moreover, when aerosolized, the COVID-19-causing virus is likely to be more susceptible to UV-C damage than other coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV-1 (that led to the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome) or MERS-CoV (that caused the 2012 Middle East respiratory syndrome). Delivering doses of SARS-CoV-2 virus vaccine is one of the greatest logistical challenges ever undertaken The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ASHRAE [American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers] have recommended UV-C as a technology that can “reduce the risk of dissemination of infectious aerosols in buildings and transportation environments.” The need for the technology continues. Delivering billions of doses of the SARS-CoV-2 virus vaccine is one of the greatest logistical challenges ever undertaken. airstream disinfection As of this writing, experts do not agree on the number of vaccinated individuals necessary to outright extinguish the COVID-19 pandemic. “As there is no clear end in sight, there is no foreseeable decline in the demand for the germ-killing and airstream disinfection benefits offered by UV-C,” says Daniel Jones, President, UV Resources, a pioneering company in ultraviolet-C (UV-C) equipment. Specifiers and HVAC contractors should not be deterred from recommending and specifying the proven benefits of UV-C disinfection systems, Jones contends, as the industry is rapidly adapting to what might likely be the “new normal” level of demand. “In other words, we expect commercial and residential demand for UV solutions to remain high due to their ability to efficiently inactivate the SARS-CoV-2 virus,” he says. pharmaceutical processing plants The company reports that disease-defeating UV-C surface and airstream technologies are especially popular with facility managers servicing hospitals and nursing homes, commercial offices, as well as food and pharmaceutical processing plants. Upper-room UV-C fixtures have been a "go-to" technology in the battle against the spread of COVID-19, among restaurants, school and university classrooms, airport screening areas, correctional facilities and community shelters. COVID-19 pandemic has ingrained the need for ongoing infection mitigation systems" Even after the pandemic subsides, demand for UV solutions will continue to remain high as perception of the technology has shifted to a health and safety need, says Jones. “Although the current pace of demand for germicidal UV-C solutions may decrease, the COVID-19 pandemic has forever raised awareness and ingrained the need for ongoing infection mitigation systems,” he comments. indoor air quality Despite nearly eight decades of research and thousands of applications in hospital emergency and operating rooms, urgent-care centers, universities, and first-responder locations, UV-C has previously not been widely leveraged. During the 1990s and 2000s, drug-resistant “superbugs” and hospital-acquired infections renewed interest in UV-C, known to kill virtually any microorganism, including antibiotic-resistant germs. The current pandemic, however, has laid bare the societal health outcomes offered by the proven germ-killing technology. While antibacterial UV-C applications have improved indoor air quality for decades, it was the pandemic that took the technology’s use in the eyes of building managers from energy savings to infection mitigation. air conveyance systems HVAC systems operate better, longer and users are happier when UV-C is installed in air conveyance systems Now, the market is starting to view UV-C along the same lines as air filtration - providing a cleaner, healthier environment which will result in a decrease in absenteeism. Additionally, HVAC systems operate better, longer and users are happier when UV-C is installed in air conveyance systems. Higher demand has produced supply challenges for these products. How can HVAC engineers best navigate equipment/parts supply shortages? Facility engineers and HVAC contractors would be well advised to place orders as early as possible and to accept partial-order shipments, says Jones. This will ensure that HVAC firms have the components/fixtures in-house (or even installed) once the lamps finally arrive. Jones advises specifying engineers who are unfamiliar with UV-C and who are conducting their due diligence should investigate the following points when choosing a supplier: Market Longevity - There are only a handful of companies that have been selling UV-C for HVAC/R for years. EPA Registration - Examine a device manufacturer’s registration with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a pesticide device-producing establishment. Industry Credentials - Make sure products meet applicable safety standards and certifications (such as UL/CUL and CSA). Industry Participation - Look for manufacturers that routinely author technical articles, actively serve on regulatory and standards committees, and enjoy a solid industry reputation. surface disinfection system Selection of an air or surface disinfection system is based entirely on the application. UV Resources furnishes the following chart that summarizes the selection factors:
The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in a poorly ventilated indoor space depends on the number of people who exhale their breath in that space. And aerosol virus contained in exhaled breath is a common way that COVID-19 germs are spread. Therefore, might the CO2 level in a given space serve as an approximation of the likelihood of coronavirus spread? Broadly speaking, poor ventilation of indoor spaces can increase the likelihood of aerosol transmission, and a higher CO2 level is an indicator of insufficient ventilation. In indoor spaces, the CO2 concentration should not exceed 1,000 parts per million (ppm), which is higher than the 400 ppm concentration in the fresh air. Deployment Of CO2 Sensors Measuring aerosols in the air is complex and expensive. However, measuring CO2 is inexpensive. Using low-cost and compact CO2 sensor devices can help to warn against high concentrations of CO2 in the air, and by extension, the likely higher levels of aerosols and greater virus spread. Seeking to provide a warning of high CO2 levels (and thus a likely higher concentration of aerosols) points to a need to increase deployment of inexpensive CO2 sensors in a variety of applications. The simplest implementation might be a CO2 traffic light that signals air quality changes with red, yellow, and green lights. Data Analysis, Remote Access, & Monitoring CO2 sensors tied to the cloud for data analysis, remote access, and monitoring and linked to other IoT devices CO2 sensors can also be tied to the cloud (along with other sensors) for data analysis, remote access, and monitoring. They might be linked to other Internet of Things (IoT) devices such as air purifiers and thermostats. CO2 sensors that are the most accurate tend to be bulky and expensive. However, using a microelectromechanical system (MEMS) technology, a CO2 sensor based on photoacoustic spectroscopy (PAS) can analyze CO2 concentration in parts per million. It provides precise results in a small format. CO2 Levels Proxy For COVID-19 Transmission Each person in a building will exhale approximately 8 liters of air per minute. The air has been in contact with lung tissue and contains tiny liquid droplets (aerosols) that can float in the air. Exhalation air also has a concentration of about 40,000 ppm of carbon dioxide, which increases the CO2 levels in a room. In effect, CO2 levels can be used as a proxy for COVID-19 transmission risk. Evidence shows that long-range aerosol-based transmission routes play an important role in transmitting the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Therefore, analyzing aerosol concentration provides an indicator of the safety of an indoor space. Because of the close link between indoor CO2 concentration and aerosol density, using CO2 sensors to monitor an indoor environment can help to monitor possible indoor spread. CO2 Monitoring The Federation of European Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning Associations (REHVA) in Germany has published guidelines for schools to use CO2 monitoring, including the use of a traffic light indicator. In addition to CO2 levels, other factors should also be considered when determining infection risks, such as the number of infected people in a region, activity type, air filtration, and mask-wearing. Activities such as talking, singing, or shouting can increase risk. Ventilation using outdoor air dilutes both CO2 and virus concentrations. Germany’s Federal Environment Agency’s general guidelines for health assessment of carbon dioxide in indoor air include advice relevant to COVID-19. The guideline classifies any CO2 concentration between 1,000 and 2,000 ppm as questionable; anything above 2,000 is unacceptable.
The year 2020 will forever be remembered for the global pandemic that transformed almost every aspect of our lives. COVID-19 impacted the HVAC market, as it did most other business sectors. However, HVAC also rose to a new level of prominence at the center of the pandemic, both as a potential cause of virus spread and as a source of solutions to fight the virus. This article will highlight the intersection of HVAC and COVID-19 based on articles published during 2020 at HVACinformed.com. Impact Of COVID On HVAC In an HVACInformed.com Expert Roundtable Discussion, several industry experts weighed in on the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the HVAC market. Contractors were either not allowed to or were reluctant to enter people’s homes for sales and installation purposes, resulting in decreased demand and, ultimately, decreased sales. However, during extraordinary times, it was encouraging to see a renewed focus on something the HVAC industry has been delivering for years – comfort. Survey By Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) A survey by the Air Conditioning Contractors of America (ACCA) gathered insights on the effect the coronavirus pandemic is having on the HVAC industry. The survey in March indicated 65% of respondents expected COVID-19 to translate into long-term business viability concerns; 9% were concerned their businesses may not survive. HVAC industry employees were included among “Essential Critical Infrastructure Workers as designated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Roles Of Ventilation HVAC technicians and companies have risen to the challenges of social distancing and wearing masks There was increasing awareness of the role of air ventilation in fighting the virus. There has been renewed interest in air filtration, not to mention the benefits of UV-C to mitigate to mitigate germs circulating in the air. Furthermore, HVAC technicians and companies have risen to the challenges of social distancing and wearing masks as they are invited into customers’ homes and businesses during the pandemic. Resources To Maximize HVAC Systems ASHRAE developed resources to help maximize how HVAC systems can have a positive impact as the coronavirus spreads. The society recommends strategies such as dilution ventilation, laminar and other in-room flow regimes, differential room pressurization, personalized ventilation, source capture ventilation, filtration (central or unitary), and ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) (upper room, in-room, and in the airstream). Ultraviolet Light 2020 saw an unprecedented surge in demand for germicidal solutions. UV-C light is a short-wavelength, ultraviolet light that kills germs by inactivating a microorganism’s DNA. Although UV-C is effective in killing other varieties of coronaviruses, such as SARS and MERS, scientists do not yet know about the impact of UV-C on COVID-19. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), the power provider in the United States, is offering incentives to businesses and schools to install UV-C germicidal lights to fight germs in indoor air. Role Of HVAC In Virus Spread Whether HVAC could contribute to virus spread was a repeated topic of interest. One theory goes that air conditioning, by removing humidity from the air, may enable infectious droplets to linger longer than they would outdoors or in another space where humidity is higher. More humidity can weigh down viral droplets as they float through the air. Minimize The Spread Of The Virus ASHRAE opposes the advice and asserts that keeping air conditioners on during this time can help control the spread of the virus Does it make sense, therefore, to turn the AC off to minimize the spread of the virus? according to ASHRAE, which officially opposes the advice not to run residential or commercial HVAC systems. In fact, ASHRAE asserts that keeping air conditioners on during this time can help control the spread of the virus. Also related to virus spread, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported on a case under the title “COVID-19 Outbreak Associated with Air Conditioning in a Restaurant, Guangzhou, China, 2020.” Research Trends And The Future The need for more research will continue after the pandemic. Broadly speaking, we know that crowded spaces with poor ventilation and/or low humidity levels tend to promote virus spread, that filtration can help to remove the virus, and that measures such as UV-C radiation can help to disinfect indoor air. More study is needed, and more time is needed to complete those studies and expand our base of knowledge on this important subject. Preventing COVID Panasonic has conducted research that verifies that hydroxyl radicals contained in water can inhibit the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2). The nano-sized electrostatic atomized water particles are generated by applying a high voltage to moisture in the air. Here is a statement from the company, "While Panasonic makes a wide range of products that generate these types of free radicals, none of these products has been tested for efficacy in the inhibition of the SARS-CoV-2 virus on surfaces or in the air.” Innovative approaches to fighting COVID include HVAC-equipped smart, glass-paneled bus stop shelters that that help to prevent pandemic spread in the Seongdong district in northeastern Seoul, South Korea. Ventilation And Air Filtration As schools worked to reopen safely in the midst of a global pandemic, HVAC was at the center of the mission. Adequate ventilation and effective air filtration are critical elements to ensure safe indoor air quality for educational institutions. Many schools are housed in older buildings that may not have been adequately maintained. Transforming them to address the new challenges of minimizing exposure to the novel coronavirus is that much more difficult.
Sustainability and environmental impact are core issues of the HVAC market in 2020 or any year. During the last year, HVACinformed.com has addressed multiple facets of sustainability in some of our most popular articles. This retrospective will highlight some of the sustainability articles published during 2020 at HVACInformed.com. An HVACInformed.com Expert Panel Roundtable commented on various aspects of sustainability, including the responsibility of HVAC manufacturers to develop more sustainable, energy-efficient products that can reduce a building’s reliance on fossil fuels. Energy consumption pattern Honeywell has launched a platform that incorporates newer technology. Combining self-learning algorithms with building automation, Honeywell Forge Energy Optimization is a cloud-based system that analyzes a building’s energy consumption pattern and adjusts its settings. Heat networks, or district heating, are becoming an ever-greater part of the industry’s involvement Pete Mills of Bosch Commercial & Industrial outlines how cities are using ‘heat networks’ to achieve carbon emission targets in the United Kingdom. Heat networks, or district heating, are becoming an ever-greater part of the industry’s involvement in larger-scale schemes. The ability to help the decarbonization of heat both now and in the future has made them an attractive solution to the new-build sector, as well as those undergoing deep renovation works. Centralized heat generator Generally, heat networks are defined as a system of supply pipes with a centralized heat generator (Energy Center) that serves multiple domestic or non-domestic dwellings. These are usually in different buildings, but sometimes within a single large building like an apartment block or a university campus. Some U.S. cities are taking the lead to make building performance standards mandatory, thus providing additional incentive for customers to invest in new, more efficient and climate-friendly HVAC technologies. New York City has deployed its Carbon Mobilization Act, which will cut six million tons of CO2 annually by 2020. Washington D.C. adopted the first Building Energy Performance Standard, which will reduce energy use in buildings by more than 20%, thereby lowering carbon dioxide emissions by a million tons annually. Improving environmental performance Newer buildings tend to be designed to be ‘green’, but what about older existing buildings, which still represent the largest share of environmental impact? There is more work to be done in the retrofit sector; and improving environmental performance of older buildings often involves ‘deep retrofits’ that are costly and impact multiple factors inside a building. In the COVID-19 era, there is also growing concern about needs such as circulating outside air, increasing humidity, and improving filtration systems even as older buildings seek to become greener. The consistent theme is a need to work toward better-designed, more energy efficient and healthier buildings The consistent theme is a need to work toward better-designed, more energy efficient and healthier buildings. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is moving forward with rulemaking that sets limits and deadlines to decrease the use of refrigerants with global warming potential (GWP) in the commercial refrigeration market and in the residential and commercial stationary air conditioning equipment markets. Air conditioning systems California regulations are widely expected to influence the direction of other states seeking to regulate GWP of refrigerants. The addition of biodiesel lowers the carbon content (and thus the environmental impact) of heating oil. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says biodiesel reduces greenhouse gas emissions, including nitrogen oxide. The process of making biodiesel from renewable and organic sources also boosts the environmental profile. The Wyss Institute at Harvard University has developed an evaporative cooling system that uses a specially coated ceramic to cool air without adding humidity. Researchers say the approach can yield more affordable and environmentally friendly air conditioning systems for the future.
Data is playing an increasingly important role in smart buildings. Analysis of building system data is guiding an expansion of capabilities in the smart building environment, making building systems - including HVAC - more efficient, effective and smarter. The growth of intelligence in the HVAC market was among the more prominent industry trends in 2020. This article will revisit some of the year’s most popular articles on HVACinformed.com that focused on the trend toward more intelligent systems. "I don’t think many would disagree that the most talked about trend in the HVAC market is smart technology,” says Chris Windass of Incentiv Tec in an HVACinformed.com Expert Panel Roundtable article. “Smart technology like mobile apps allow building managers to control HVAC technology from one centralized point. With this smart technology, HVAC will be able to identify and alert building managers when maintenance is needed or assets have failed to operate.” smarter building technology A Johnson Controls survey found that 77% of organizations planned to make investments in energy efficiency and smarter building technology in 2020. “A complete overhaul of legacy systems is not necessary as small investments today can help position a facility to more easily adopt technologies at scale in the future,” says Lisa Brown, Senior National Director of Municipal Infrastructure and Smart Cities at Johnson Controls. More Intelligence in Home Systems Google’s Nest smart thermostat is offering a new capability that will alert homeowners of problems “As a first step, it’s important for building owners to conduct an assessment and establish a strategy that defines a comprehensive set of requirements and prioritizes use-cases and implementations. From there, incremental investments and updates can be made over a realistic timeline.” Smart systems are also a big part of residential HVAC systems. For example, Google’s Nest smart thermostat is offering a new capability that will alert homeowners of problems with the operation of their HVAC systems based on artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms that analyze system performance. The technology will empower Nest Learning thermostats to provide “early warning” of HVAC problems and even direct homeowners to a repair company. Remote Troubleshooting Emerges Sensors are another element of smart buildings. The Internet of Things (IoT) has enabled more sensors of different types to be deployed in more locations throughout the building easier than ever before. The point of installing and using IoT sensors is to gain deeper insight into how buildings are performing, and ensure buildings are healthier, more productive for people to work in, more effective to run and more energy efficient. In-room sensors, such as temperature, air quality and occupancy, work with the IoT to improve building performance. The benefits of IoT sensors are that they are easy to install, both physically and from a commissioning perspective. Remote troubleshooting is another smart capability that is generating interest. CoolAutomation’s Remote HVAC Service Solution enables HVAC service providers to remotely troubleshoot issues by analyzing real-time and historic data trends and analysis. Communicating in Smart Buildings They receive automatic error and anomaly notifications in their office or on their mobile phones They receive automatic error and anomaly notifications in their office or on their mobile phones. “The remote service solution provides the tools that HVAC service providers need to offer remote services to their existing clients while attracting new customers who understand the value of remote service for their business,” says Roy Muchtar, VP of Products at CoolAutomation. Communication is a central aspect of smart building systems, and now there’s a better option: a high-speed wireline communication standard called HD-PLC that is developed specifically for today’s industrial IoT and smart building applications. In 2017, after careful evaluation of various technologies, LonMark International adopted HD-PLC as its new channel standard. smart home standards And last October, the Consumer Technology Association (CTA) approved ANSI/CTA 709.8 LON HD-PLC (High Definition Power Line Communication) as a new standard by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Also related to communication, the Zigbee Alliance 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. A quick search also provides a manual, wiring diagram and video training content for that specific unit 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. The Project Connected Home over IP (CHIP) is looking to unify the environment, under one technology, one certification program and one logo. Training Technicians Using Technology Technology is also helping to fill the skills gap in the HVAC market. The XOi Vision platform helps on-site HVAC technicians in three ways. One is to “capture” images and videos. A technician can take a picture (with a smart phone or tablet), and the system’s machine learning can extract the text from the nameplate of a unit in the field, interpret the type of name plate, and provide full model number, serial number and other information about the unit, which is relayed automatically to the technician in a text message. A quick search also provides a manual, wiring diagram and video training content for that specific unit.
Artificial intelligence (AI) provides a tool to deliver significant savings and dramatically reduce carbon emissions, enabling a self-operating building. Because of AI’s ability to be proactive in buildings, rather than reactive, a 25% reduction in total energy costs is possible, along with a 20-40% decrease in carbon footprint. "Our mission is to fight climate change by bringing innovation and cutting-edge artificial intelligence to the built environment, making buildings smarter and greener," said Jean-Simon Venne, Co-Founder and CTO of BrainBox AI. BrainBox AI BrainBox AI is at the forefront of a new era in building automation and a leader in the green building transformation. Located in Montreal, Canada, BrainBox AI offers a technology that combines deep learning, cloud-based computing and autonomous decision-making to support a 24/7 self-operating building. BrainBox AI’s solution enables the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning) system in a building to operate autonomously, in real-time. “Some 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions originate from buildings, and HVAC systems are responsible for over 50% of those emissions. BrainBox AI is comprised of experts in the fields of artificial intelligence (AI), data science, real estate, HVAC and energy efficiency, all working to create a better future,” said Jean-Simon Venne. AI technology thrives in logical environments AI technology thrives in logical environments, and HVAC systems are extremely logical" Venne adds, “AI is very stable and super predictive. AI technology thrives in logical environments, and HVAC systems are extremely logical. A fan, for example, will continuously have the same behavior, over and over again.” Due to HVAC’s predictability, AI can study a building and learn how it operates, identify each potential improvement opportunity, and then act on them. AI is also able to monitor a multitude of data points at once, so it’s more reliable in optimizing HVAC systems in real-time than humans alone. Communicating with HVAC controls Communicating with HVAC controls is a requirement of applying AI to the HVAC market. There are over 700 control languages currently being used for HVAC control. Looking at the big picture, about 20 of those 700 languages make up 80% of the market. BrainBox AI’s system focuses on the 20 or so dominant languages. Part of their minimum requirements for system integration is that the HVAC system must speak one of those 20 languages. Autonomous real-time cloud connection BrainBox AI also recently launched a driver for the Niagara Framework, the first AI application to use an autonomous real-time cloud connection to the platform, which is the leading open platform for the building automation market. Their Niagara driver allows the platform to connect to a building’s management system (BMS) through the cloud, thus decreasing the connection time to less than 30 minutes. “If you’re going to use AI, you really need to use the cloud, in order to use the proper computing power,” said Venne, adding "Using a cloud system makes it easier to store and share information. For example, if you’re a building owner, the cloud system can give the building owner visibility into all the data being collected and a holistic view into what’s happening in their buildings.” Autonomous AI HVAC system BrainBox AI's customer AMP Capital is now the first organization to install an autonomous AI HVAC system" Venne further stated, “BrainBox AI's customer AMP Capital is now the first organization in the world to install an autonomous AI HVAC system across its managed real estate portfolio. But how does an automated system adapt to the changing and possibly competing comfort preferences inside a building? It's an excellent question.” The AI solution is all about predictive behaviors, but that sometimes requires compromise. There will always have be someone who prefers to work in 60 degrees and someone else who prefers to work in 80 degrees. "Because BrainBox AI collects thousands of real-time data points such as outside temperature, sun/cloud positioning, fan speed, duct pressure, heater status, humidity levels, occupant density and more, we’re able to report a 60% improvement in occupant comfort thanks to an improved respecting of set points," adds Venne. Airborne Virus Mitigation Program In the age of a global pandemic, airborne viruses, such as COVID-19’s SARS-CoV-2, can be re-circulated non-deliberately throughout building HVAC systems, creating a liability to building owners and operators. To help proactively mitigate the potential spread of pathogens and improve air quality in buildings, BrainBox AI provides commercial buildings access to its Airborne Virus Mitigation Program (AVMP). Through AVMP, BrainBox AI instructs the HVAC system to operate as instructed to minimize the spread of contaminants and improve air quality, based on CDC and ASHRAE guidelines. BrainBox AI’s system focuses on the 20 or so dominant languages Supporting buildings with partial HVAC system shutdown Additionally, many commercial buildings are significantly less occupied than usual during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. BrainBox AI supports these buildings by proceeding with a complete or partial shutdown of their HVAC system(s). BrainBox AI’s cloud-based technology optimally instructs the networked HVAC system to decrease its operations to a minimum, enabling up to 30% in energy cost savings. BrainBox AI's go-to-market strategy is comprised of three different parts. First, the company has its own sales force, which is deployed mainly in North America, but also in APAC and EMEA, where they can sell directly to building owners and operators. The company also uses reseller partners for commercialization, which are usually system integrators or local integrators. These partners are typically already selling controls to different building owners and operators in regional markets. Now, they have the opportunity to provide their clients with BrainBox AI. They are also using this strategy globally. Partnerships with OEMs BrainBox AI is developing partnerships with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) Lastly, BrainBox AI is developing partnerships with original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to help support their individual strategies of implementing artificial intelligence into their existing HVAC and controls products. “We’re just now starting to really see the impact that automating building HVAC systems can have,” said Venne, adding “Buildings have been non-adaptive for such a long time, but now with building automation, we’re really starting to change that. Right now, AI thrives on predictability, based on the thousands of data sets it’s able to collect. That being said, the weather keeps changing outside, with global warming continuously on the rise; building mechanics should react and adapt to that.” AI building blocks Venne further stated, “Humans are also not robots, they gather in different areas in the building and don’t always have the same patterns. It's a challenge to enable and train AI to be more adaptive in that sense. AI building blocks eventually will aggregate together and give more intelligent insights, ultimately creating a more intelligent city and eventually a much more intelligent world that can be operated by AI, under the watchful eye of humans.” “A misconception is that this technology will ‘steal’ jobs from humans and replace them,” stated Venne, adding “Naturally, that makes people a bit scared. Right now, every building has only a few people operating the building system. They are so frequently called to change an office’s thermostat that utilizing AI actually makes their job easier.” Controlling and optimizing building HVAC systems We’re reaching a very interesting time in terms of AI and technology in general" He adds, “By allowing BrainBox AI to control and optimize the HVAC systems in buildings, the building operators are able to spend more time running the building, rather than flipping switches and changing temperatures. We’re reaching a very interesting time in terms of AI and technology in general." Venne further stated, “All my life I was given limitations, hearing 'no, we can’t do this, the computers can’t handle this, etc.’ But right now we’re reaching the point where we’re not limited by our technology capabilities, we are only limited by our imagination." He concludes, “It’s just a matter of breaking that imagination wall to find a way to create even more value with the existing technology today. Things are accelerating and we’re going to need to move forward. We shouldn’t be scared, but rather embrace it and accelerate forward.”