Francis Dietz is the Vice President, Public Affairs at the Air Conditioning, Heating, and Refrigeration Institute (AHRI). Dietz has worked for AHRI for over 15 years, where he oversees internal and external communications, media relations, websites, and events, as well as writing speeches, articles, and podcasts. Prior to his time with AHRI, Dietz worked for eight years as Government Relations Representative at the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) where he represented ASME in the legislative branch on energy and environmental issues.
Francis Dietz calls in to the show to discuss the importance of indoor air quality (IAQ), especially in a post-pandemic world. Their conversation centers around what IAQ is, how it can impact health and safety, some of the costs associated with upgrading HVAC systems to improve IAQ, and some of the challenges businesses and schools face in improving IAQ.
- While indoor air quality (IAQ) has been a popular topic in HVACR for years, it has become of vital interest since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
- Comfort is linked to productivity, with with former being an important contributor to the latter.
- The trend of the past several decades has been to completely close off office buildings without the ability to open windows. This trend, however, was not done in conjunction with proper ventilation filtration.
- Now that businesses are bringing employees back to the office, IAQ has become vital.
- One challenge in improving IAQ is that many decision-makers (e.g., business owners and school administrators) lack important information what changes should be made and how they should be implemented.
- Upgrades are often costly, so choosing the wrong ones can be financially devastating.
- To address this lack of knowledge, AHRI has released two papers: “Anatomy of a Healthy School” and “Anatomy of a Healthy Commercial Building.”
- Each paper includes import steps on making buildings as safe as possible. These steps include hiring only North American Technician Excellence or NATE-certified technicians, improving ventilation, and implementing proper filtration.
- This last point, air filtration, is particularly important because if an air filter is added to a ventilation system that it’s not designed for, the core system can be damaged.
- For commercial buildings to be as safe as possible, proper air flow is a must. Any pathogens in the air will have a harder time infecting people if they are constantly moving and never have a chance to find a host.
- Ideally, filters will catch pathogens before they ever have a chance to reach occupants.
- For these reasons, a well-functioning HVAC system can help mitigate the spread of viruses.
- While increasing air flow may reduce energy efficiency, it is more likely that energy use will simply increase as fans constantly operate.
- These energy costs can be partially alleviated by upgrading to a higher efficiency system, though such an upgrade will come with new installation costs, so upgrades will need to be chosen carefully.
- At the end of 2020, $82 million in federal funding was approved for schools, including upgrades to HVAC systems.
- Variable-speed technology will be a major component in keeping system efficiencies high as they are designed to run more frequently than traditional on-off systems, simply at lower speeds.
- Buildings that include large spaces and/or need to accommodate large crowds, such as malls and hospitals, will likely emphasize air quality in the future.
- UV light air filtration technology is also likely to be implemented more widely in the coming months and years.
- Innovation is a key to improving IAQ, just has it has been for other areas in the HVAC industry, such as energy efficiency and low-GWP refrigerant usage.
- New building construction will be able to more easily take advantage of new technology, but retrofitting existing system will be a challenge.
- Building emission law (such as in New York and Washington) and decarbonization laws (such as in California) will likely clash with new IAQ goals.
- “If you’re going to compete—energy efficiency and safety—safety is always going to win.” —Francis Dietz
- State and local (and even federal) tax credits can incentivize HVAC system upgrades, which will go a long way in improving both air safety and efficiency.
- While IAQ will continue to be important, it remains to be seen if it remains on the forefront of people’s minds once the COVID-19 pandemic has ended.
- Just as COVID-19 has changed the way the public at large views personal safety (e.g., wearing face masks, washing hands frequently, etc.), it will likely change views on the importance of IAQ.
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