Hurricane Floodwaters Now Mold Breeding Grounds at Many Facilities

Although the initial cleanup from hurricane rain and floodwaters is nearly finished, facility managers in the south have an ensuing issue to now consider – indoor air quality (IAQ).

Standing water and wet materials are breeding grounds for fast-growing microorganisms such as mold and bacteria. Failing to remove contaminated materials and reduce moisture and humidity may present serious long-term costs for facility managers and health risks to building occupants.

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Neglecting Proper Boiler Maintenance Can Mean Major Loss in Efficiencies

One problem you see with boilers in large institutions such as schools and universities is that cleaning and maintenance can be overlooked. This is often because boiler maintenance is not in the scope of work for HVAC maintenance staff and falls in the scope for the plumbing staff, who often don’t realize it’s part of their duties. It’s also often a misconception of staff that the highly intuitive controls that most new boilers have will prevent issues and send alerts when they occur, but controls are primarily responsible for boiler function boiler maintenance is still imperative for optimal operation. Otherwise, a boiler can sit for years, gathering scale and dirt that affects performance and can even cause premature malfunctions and breakdowns.

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HVAC System Repair and Maintenance Crucial after Hurricane Flooding  

For the first time in recorded history, the U.S. was slammed with back-to-back Category 4 hurricanes — Harvey and Irma — from the Atlantic. Many people in Texas and Florida continue to battle and hopefully recover from flooded streets, scattered debris, damaged homes, and inoperable buildings. The economic costs associated with this tag team of natural disasters in the U.S. are expected to be $290 billion.  

Mold and HVAC Systems

Part of that recovery process will be to assess the extent of the water damage. In the hot and humid climates of Texas and Florida mold growth is the biggest concern.

Mold and mildew pose real threats to flooded buildings. The stagnant standing water presents the perfect environment for bacteria growth, making any porous materials susceptible.

Typically, mold grows on floors and walls, but flooded HVAC systems can also pose a real health threat if mold is allowed to grow. Ductwork and insulation that has mold growth can pose a health threat to the entire building if the HVAC system is running because mold spores can be carried through ducts and distributed throughout the building.

HVAC System Cleaning

Proper cleaning of HVAC systems after a flood is imperative to the health of building occupants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you remove all flood-contaminated insulation and materials associated with the HVAC system and discard them.

Then you should clean the interior of the flooded system with a HEPA vacuum to remove the dirt and debris as well as microorganisms that typical industrial vacuums may not be able to pick up. After the HVAC system is cleaned it also needs to be thoroughly disinfected to prevent the growth of bacteria and microorganisms.

The aftermaths of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma will likely be felt for years while communities work to clean up and rebuild their homes and businesses. Prioritizing HVAC system cleaning is imperative to protect the health of building occupants during this time. Using a good HEPA vacuum to get rid of spores and a mold controlling cleaner are good ways to stop bacteria from growing and recurring.

Check out these other resources for information on HVAC mold prevention and cleaning:

  1. Effective Industrial Mold Control: A Three Step Process
  2. Controlling Mold: An HVAC Professional’s Guide
  3. How to Rid Your AC of Mold
  4. Mold Clean Up After Floods
  5. How to Protect an HVAC Unit from Flood Water

The Important Role Preventive Maintenance Plays for Your Facility’s PTAC Units

PTAC Unit Preventive MaintenanceFor commercial and mixed use development projects, designing for heating and air conditioning systems requires finding simple, cost-effective systems that allow occupants to control spaces individually. The solution is often self-contained units such as packaged terminal air conditioning (PTAC) units. But without proper maintenance, these types of units can mean big problems when it comes to clean indoor air and energy costs.

Lack of Ventilation and Poor Insulation

Self contained units like PTAC units are great for apartments, hotels, retirement homes and spaces where individual units and individual spaces but these units often do not come with outdoor air intakes. Many of these units have poor drainage, constant usage or sub-par maintenance. As a result, PTAC units experience odor issues, dirt and dust problems and mold build up.

Additionally, because these types of units go through walls to the outside, they tend to transfer heat and cold through their metal frames from the outside to the inside, making it even more difficult to maintain inside temperatures and keep energy consumption down. Without the ability to cool effectively, moisture trapped inside the unit can create dangerous mold buildup.

Where It’s a Problem

One of the main reasons PTAC units  are widely used in hotels, hospitals, and facilities such as nursing homes is because they’re relatively low cost. In fact, they’re often up to 50% less expensive than traditional HVAC systems with ductwork. But what is gained in upfront cost can be lost in repairs and energy usage if units are not maintained properly.

The Solution

While some owners and facility managers may lean towards replacing these systems with other types, this is not always a viable option. Plus, with routine preventive maintenance, indoor air quality can be improved and energy costs lowered. For example, changing filters regularly, cleaning unit evaporators and condensers periodically. In addition, cleaning and protecting a PTAC unit’s coils against mold and mildew with an EPA registered mold inhibitor is also a good idea.

PTAC units may have issues with indoor air quality and energy efficiency but these issues can be alleviated with cleaning and regular maintenance. Owners and building managers of facilities where PTAC units are widely used should consider regular maintenance using a coil cleaner like Goodway Coilpro to clean coils and Coilshine detergent to prevent mold and mildew growth.

Next Steps

Check out these related Resources for PTAC maintenance and indoor air quality:

OSHA To Enforce New Standard Next to Reduce Exposure to Respirable Crystalline Silica

Construction work has always posed a risk to employee health but exposure to dust from concrete and stone has such severe risks that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has passed a new mandate for employers. With the increase in instances of lung cancer, silicosis, kidney disease, and COPD on job sites due to prolonged exposure to respirable crystalline silica from concrete and stone, OSHA has issued a final rule that aims to protect workers and save employers money on healthcare costs. They will enforce this new standard on September 23, 2017.

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