Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) as an expression refers to the quality of air in indoor environments, which is important for occupants in any building, as it has an impact on their health and their performance in their everyday life activities.
Indoor environments contribute significantly to exposure to air pollutants. People spend almost 90% of their time indoor, where air quality can be affected by penetrating outdoor air, specific indoor pollution sources and lack of air exchange.
Some pollutants may even be more concentrated indoor than outdoor. That means that Indoor air quality, whether it is at home, office, or hotel rooms, it can be 2 to 5 times worse than outdoor air.
That is why providing indoor environments with air exchange is vital.
The COVID-19 emergency has shone a light on the importance of keeping air quality levels high through air-exchange, to bring contaminants concentration down or even close to zero.
Air exchange can be provided in different ways, even simply keeping windows open, but it goes without saying, that is not always possible, or that might not be a good option, both from an energy efficiency and a thermal dispersion perspective.
A more viable option for ventilation of the premises is a mechanical ventilation. Mechanical systems can introduce properly filtered air from the external environment and simultaneously extracts the internal air, expelling it outside. This allows proper ventilation and air exchange in indoor environments, diluting or even removing the possible presence of bacteria, viruses, CO2, and other contaminants.
While doing that, mechanical ventilation systems can also ensure energy savings, thanks to heat recovery features, able to transfer heat and moisture from the airflow being extracted to the airflow being introduced in the premises.
These systems, besides being extremely effective in replacing exhaust air and ensuring high indoor air quality levels, also guarantee perfect thermal control, minimizing or avoiding thermal dissipation, then making the whole building more efficient as far as energy consumptions.
Finally, other aspects that can be addressed with mechanical ventilation and can make indoor environments healthier are:
- air processing, which can help filtering out pollen, dust and odours that are harmful to our health
- and humidification, which provides the desired moisture level in the conditioned space.
Things to consider when designing a HVAC system
When designing HVAC systems, whether they are for residential buildings, schools, office, commercial buildings, or light commercial buildings, meeting the cooling and heating demand of the buildings, in the most energy efficient way possible, is very important. But there are equally important aspects to not overlook. That is the case of ventilation, air filtration and indoor air quality.
Ventilation systems are essential to ensure a comfortable and healthy environment in buildings of all sizes and types, to do that, though, they need to be properly sized, so the right airflow and adequate air-exchange rate can be ensured.
In fact, there is a close correlation between ventilation-rate and how clean indoor air is, because the higher is the ventilation rate per hour in a room, the lower will be the pollutants concentration.
Finally, another relevant aspect is related to the level of filtration the ventilation system can apply to of the outdoor airflow before it is introduced into an environment. Since we do not want to introduce outdoor contaminants in indoor environments during the air exchange process, it is important that ventilation systems can adequately filter outdoor air, then it is important having filters of the highest standards.
Cleaning and maintenance activities
Lastly, to get the most out of the use of a ventilation systems, it is necessary to properly schedule maintenance activities. It is therefore important to program cleaning and maintenance activities to ensure correct operations and reliability of the whole system.
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