Commercial heating and air conditioning systems are critical components that help keep business offices comfortable and safe for employees. While the addition of HVAC systems have proven to offer innumerable benefits, studies show that poorly maintained HVAC systems such as humidification systems, cooling coils and commercial ducts may be potential sources of serious health risks to occupants.
Potential Health Concerns
Poorly maintained commercial air conditioning systems are likely causes of respiratory infections for office workers, such as sore throat, common cold and tonsillitis. Dirty and contaminated air filters can cause airborne bacteria that can circulate inside your building, which increases the risk of infections.
In a past study on commercial HVAC health risks, the Oxford Journal’s International Journal of Epidemiology reports that “the moisture in air conditioning and humidification systems results in microbiological exposures that cause health effects through mechanisms that are irritant, toxic, or allergic. Very substantial evidence now exists that the presence of visible moisture and mold in many kinds of buildings (associated with condensation, leaks, floods, or other moisture incursions into the interior or envelopes of buildings) is consistently associated with increased risk of respiratory symptoms and asthma.”
In addition, the study notes that “surfaces in air conditioning systems that remain constantly moist, such as the cooling coils and drip pans, are supportive environments for the growth of undesirable micro-organisms, are directly in the path of all air supplied to occupants to breathe, and are often not well-maintained.”
New Advancements in Commercial HVAC Systems That Could Improve Air Quality
Today, office owners are concerned about both the health of occupants and the cost of heating and cooling. They want to achieve these goals at the lowest cost possible. Here are some of the technological advancements in HVAC that can help reduce health risks and make your office comfortable:
Regular system maintenance. Office owners can improve the quality of the indoor air through duct cleaning, installation of mechanical filters and duct sanitizing using ultra-violet light.
HVAC system zoning. Employers with multilevel offices with one thermostat can find it difficult achieving good air quality, but an experienced commercial air conditioning contractor can help make your office comfortable by maintaining a constant temperature level throughout your office. This can be done by zoning your office using electric dampers and supplemental thermostats, allowing you to enjoy the time spent in your office.
The introduction of electric dampers, which have been instrumental in commercial structures, can be used to regulate the amount of airflow in all rooms to provide the comfort you deserve. However, adjustments to a ductwork may be necessary to help solve the problem of high or uneven temperatures.
Duct sealing technology. This advancement can help seal any leaking ductwork that is making your office less comfortable. A special liquid can be injected into the ducts at high pressure to help prevent the loss of quality air. The benefit of duct cleaning is cleaner air, of course, and a system that works more efficiently.
Energy-efficient furnaces. Installing newer, high-efficiency systems can be helpful and could save you thousands of dollars in your utility expenses.
Indoor mechanical UV lights. These lights work by mimicking the capacity of the sun to naturally clean the air and rid of all germs. With the help of UV lights, you can clean your indoor air by installing UV bulbs in places where dust and other pollutants are likely to enter the building.
What Can Employers Do To Reduce Risks and Increase Comfort?
Employers have the responsibility of making their working environments safe through maintenance and/or improvement of their commercial air conditioning units.
Good quality air in an office can help improve the productivity of employees and help increase their concentration. Indoor air can have five times more pollution than outdoor air, meaning a lot of attention must be given to prevent hazards that come with air pollution. Several steps can be undertaken to achieve quality air, including the following:
Quality air can be achieved by ensuring all units work efficiently. Routine checks will help know if the heating and cooling systems need repairs, replacement of worn parts or complete overhaul. For instance, repairs and maintenance of ductwork will seal all the leaks and ensure only treated air is redirected into working rooms or offices. You can read more about the importance of having an air quality inspection (that applies to both home and office) on our blog.
Employee training and awareness program can significantly improve the quality of life of your employees and help improve their comfort. For example, employers can organize safety drives to help educate employees on how to identify whether the systems have failed to work properly.
Many employees who work in commercial buildings spend long hours each week in the office environment, with the expectation that their surroundings will be comfortable and safe. Proper and continuous consideration must be taken to care for the air that circulates in this space. Employers and building owners can reduce the risk of employee illness and improve air quality by keeping the welfare of their employees in mind and making HVAC maintenance as high a priority as other business decisions.