Quantifying Quality: The Rise of HVAC Air Monitoring

HVAC Focus More on Outdoor Air QualityMonitoring air quality is rapidly shifting from the realm of mere research to more practical applications as HVAC companies look for ways to ensure that both indoor and outdoor air quality levels aren’t negatively impacted by a new installation or repair. This rising priority should come as no surprise: Medical News Today notes that air pollution is now a leading stroke risk factor, while ACHR News points out that a large-scale bi-partisan energy bill could have serious impacts on how HVAC units are installed and evaluated. Bottom line? It’s not just what’s inside a heating or cooling unit that counts. To stay ahead, companies need a way to effectively quantify HVAC air quality.

Indoor Issues

Managing indoor air quality is now the focus of startups like Airviz, a Carnegie Mellon University spinoff — its “Speck” device is designed to report the parts per million of certain 2.5-micron size particles which could pose a threat to human health. In a recent MIT Technology Review piece, for example, author Simson Garfinkel describes the Speck detecting a rise of PM2.5 particles in his home, such as those released by cooking oil, which are in turn linked to diseases like asthma, autism and even ADHD. In fact, the WHO says that four million deaths worldwide are caused by poor indoor air quality conditions; conditions that quickly reached worrisome levels when Garfinkel’s family was simply frying eggs.

While in most cases more serious health issues are linked to indoor cooking or heating fires with poor ventilation, the ability of modern medicine to uncover multi-layered risk factors makes indoor air quality (IAQ) a hot market for HVAC installers since commercial property owner want to know what (if anything) is putting residents and customers in danger — and it’s always easier to leverage an installed device than go after-market for a peripheral. Better yet? Air quality reports can both demonstrate HVAC system compliance and encourage brand loyalty if consumers consistently enjoy clean air.

Beyond The Door

But what about outside air quality? Beyond the immediate area, can HVAC providers really make an impact? The MIT piece notes that when the Speck was placed outside it often read a PM2.5 of less than 1 — in other words, perfectly safe. But when nearby wildfires blew smoke into the area the value quickly climbed to 10, indicating it was risky to stay outside for too long. And with companies like Airviz now using this outdoor data to create a map of air quality around the world it’s only a matter of time before public officials use this data to form outdoor activity recommendations.

What does this mean for HVAC companies? That along with reports of quality, it will also be possible to track down the sources of air pollution. In Garfinkel’s case the culprit was a forest fire; nearby construction work or a souped-up car exhaust might could just as easily cause the problem. But what if HVAC units are the guilty party? While consumers might be happy with better-than-average IAQ they’ll quickly change their tune if other property owners come knocking with proof that their heat pump or air conditioner is the cause of an outdoor air quality drop.

Ultimately, the rise of air-influenced diseases and maladies along with increasing consumer savvy means HVAC companies need to get on the air monitoring bandwagon sooner rather than later. Getting a baseline for IAQ and OAQ on all units makes it possible for businesses to get ahead the curve, both by offering peace of mind for businesses and taking a hard look at the environmental impact of existing units.

Next Steps:

One comment


  • Arthur wszellaki

    Recently installed air handling unit came with some kind of orifice in a small plastic bag. I know that it was not installed with the unit but discarded. What is it for.

    July 21, 2016

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