HVAC System Safety: Top 5 Questions You Should Be Asking

Let’s face it, HVAC systems are complex. Their various connected parts can harbor nasty biological contaminants including mold, mildew, viruses, bacteria and the droppings from rodents, cockroaches or other pests.

iStock_000008948452SmallJust as a HVAC system can spread air, it can spread contaminants. Even bacteria and viruses such as measles, influenza, tuberculosis and Legionella, which are transmitted via air, can flow through a HVAC system.

We’ve also addressed the security of HVAC systems, explaining that they are susceptible to accidental or biological chemical threats in our blog post, HVAC Security: Is Your Facility Prepared?

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Legionella Linked to More Death, Illness

Our headline says it all: Legionella, which causes a lung infection called Legionnaires’ disease, is back with a vengeance.

iStock_000026952702SmallProbably one of the worst cases occurred in August when at least six residents of a Reynoldsburg, Ohio retirement community died due to an outbreak of the illness.

During that month, there were 39 cases linked to the retirement community, and those affected included residents, visitors and one employee, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

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HVAC Spring Cleaning: Recap of Last Year’s Checklists

Today is the first day of summer – and that means it’s time to crank up your facility’s AC. Is your facility’s cooling system ready?

How-to-HVAC-Cleaning-Checklists-77x300Last year we offered three checklists to help you prepare for the cooling season. It’s time to revisit our checklists before the real summer heat arrives. Give your facility’s cooling system attention now to keep it operating efficiently.

Checklist 1: How to Clean Chiller Tubes

Checklist 2: How To Clean Air Conditioner Coils

Checklist 3: How to Clean Cooling Towers

(Note: You must provide your email address to get access to each checklist.)

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HVAC, Building Performance: Chiller Performance and Energy Usage

Chillers typically use about 50% of a facility’s electrical energy during the seasons when they’re in use, according to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPoorly maintained cooling towers reduce the chiller efficiency by 10% to as much as 35%; a dirty coil condenser can reduce efficiency by 5% to 15%, according to the agency.

Efficiency Technologies Inc. estimates that there are over 100,000 chillers in use in the United States, and inefficiencies among them cost industry billions of dollars in energy each year.

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HVAC, Building Performance: Cooling Tower Maintenance & Goodway’s Cooling Tower Vacuum

We’ve talked about cooling tower maintenance quite a bit on the Goodway blog. And now that it’s spring and we’re starting to think about air conditioning maintenance, the subject is on our minds once again.

iStock_000022676282SmallIf you look back at past posts, you’ll see that the top two reasons for cooling tower maintenance resonate through them all: energy efficiency/system performance and health.

Often the importance of cooling tower efficiency is a bit overlooked because the focus is on chiller efficiency.

“Chillers use about five times the energy of the cooling tower. Consequently, more attention is paid to the chiller than the cooling tower in most facilities,” Steve Spielmann, Goodway’s Customer Service/Technical Manager, explains in this post about cooling tower maintenance.

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Your HVAC Spring Cleaning Checklists Redux

Spring is just around the corner, and that means summer can’t be too far behind.

HVAC-cleaning-checklists-staggered-300x186As winter makes it exit – not soon enough for some of us – it’s time to turn your attention to keeping your HVAC system humming right along through the hot summer months.

Last year we offered you three comprehensive checklists of tasks and tips to ensure the cooling system in your facility is operating at 100%.

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Post-Hurricane Sandy Series: Cooling Towers and Flooding

This week we continue our Post-Hurricane Sandy Series, as we discuss cooling towers and how they can be affected by flooding. Next week we’ll finish up the series when we give you FEMA resources to help you fully restore your facility after the disaster.

Flood waters carry debris that may get pulled into towers. So it’s crucial to a thorough recovery and clean-up process after flooding not to forget about cooling towers.

Cooling towers should be cleaned regularly regardless to keep them free of insects, dust, pollen and other debris. However, it’s particularly important to clean the towers after a flood to ensure that sediment and other debris doesn’t harshly affect the cooling tower.

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HVAC Security: Is Your Facility Prepared?

HVAC systems are vulnerable to accidental or intentional biological and chemical threats due to their complexity.

Just as an HVAC system spreads air, it can spread contaminants – and air intakes can introduce toxic chemicals. As Facilitiesnet explains, a terrorist attack is one potential source of airborne chemical or biological attack, but accidental incidents pose just as serious – and probably more likely – risks.

HVAC security attacks can include terrorist or criminal activity, fires, natural disasters or riots, but they can also include bacteria, viruses, mold and chemical fumes from VOCs, smoke, asbestos and carbon dioxide.

According to the EPA, common biological contaminants include mold, mildew, viruses, bacteria or even the droppings from rodents, cockroaches or other pests. HVAC systems can harbor such contaminants and distribute them. Some diseases, including humidifier fever – a respiratory infection – can result from microorganism growth in building ventilation systems.

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Clean HVAC Systems Prevent Virus Outbreaks on Cruise Ships

Outbreaks of viral infections on cruise ships have been appearing frequently in the headlines this year.

In the first week of February 2012, approximately 500 cases of norovirus reportedly occurred on two Princess Cruise ships, according to CNN. Both ships are based in Florida. On the Ruby Princess had 92 passengers and 13 members became ill with the virus. The Crown Princess ship reported that 364 passengers and 30 crew members came down with the virus.

In the same week as the Florida cases about 200 passengers on a ship departing from New Orleans became ill with norovirus, according to the Associated Press. The Royal Caribbean ship Voyager of the Seas was forced to depart late due to the illnesses. In May the cruise ship Boudicca reported 170 norovirus illnesses, causing the passengers to be quarantined. The ship, owned by Fred Olsen, experienced similar outbreaks in 2010. A spokeswoman for the company confirmed the passengers had a virus that caused gastroenteritis symptoms, according to the UK’s Mail Online.

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Top Ways to Diagnose Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Problems

Despite national attention on poor indoor air quality (IAQ), it’s still a problem affecting facilities and its occupants. Building owners who want to successfully combat poor indoor air quality, must ensure that their building managers and hired contractors understand IAQ and know how to address any problems that arise.

The Indoor Air Quality Building Education and Assessment Model (I-BEAM) is the EPA’s guidance tool for building professionals. It teaches you how to improve air quality and how to conduct an indoor air quality inspection. I-BEAM provides a set of forms to aid in diagnosing and solving air quality issues.

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