You’ve done your testing and your facility has an air quality problem. Stepping through your doors feel like getting a tour of an 1890s steam powered factory. It’s just gross and you’re going to turn your air into something people actually want to breathe.
Your first line of defense is to attack everything getting inside with some physical mitigations. Every person entering the building is going to carry allergens, pathogens, and other problems with them. Imagine someone who just walked through a grassy field, tracking pollen with every step they take. Imagine the gentle breeze blowing through the door as your guests enter, and carrying with it the latest plague to sweep the nation.
There are two defenses you can use here. First, you need a nice, big, hefty door mat of some kind, that everyone ends up walking across. They’re tracking pollen on their shoes, make sure it gets stuck where it won’t cause a problem: in a fibrous tangle where it’ll never bother you again. Second, you need to regularly clean the floors of your facility. All the nasty stuff in the air is hovering around, suspended like tea leaves in water. If the air is still long enough, it’ll all settle on your shelves, floors, and equipment until someone kicks it up into the air again. Use microfiber mops to capture and remove the problem while you can. Don’t use a typical broom though, that’s just going to launch the material into the air again.
Along with the cleaning, it’s important to also maintain your equipment. This is especially true if you want to have a manufacturing facility with clean air. Wherever there’s big equipment, there’s going to be the potential for oil and other fluids to leak. You’re going to end up aersolizing Volatile Organic Compounds if you don’t keep everything nice and sterile. When your facility was new, the equipment was probably shiny and clean. It takes years of neglect for machinery to get covered in its own oil.
Mitigations like this need manual labor, but they are the first step on the road to keeping things clean and healthy. It’s better to have one worker spend perhaps twenty minutes pushing a mop around their work space than have another fifty workers suffering from allergens and airborne pollutants.
Manual labor isn’t the solution for the rest of the problem. For people like us, we want to automate as much of the solution as possible (hey, who wants to help me build an industrial-scale robo-vaccuum for Scot? We take a garden tractor and… Oh, he doesn’t like that idea.) Your HVAC system is a massive automation power house, if we give it the right equipment and sensors.
Heating VENTILATION Air Conditioning
One of our HVAC System’s best strengths is its ability to control the air. We can suck in fresh air from outside, filter it, and fill the building with it. We can refilter the air inside the building. We can exhaust our indoor air into the outside environment. If we detect that there is a problem in the air, we can do a lot of things to treat it automatically.
The exact configuration of this will depend on the type of facility. For a massive warehouse, we’re basically going to pump fresh air in one side and exhaust it out the other. It’s going to be something strategic, find the best places to bring it in, create negative pressure and draw it across the facility in the most efficient way possible. There isn’t a lot of reaction here, because it’s hard to deliver a targeted response to what is essentially a massive chunk of the outdoors with a roof.
For a facility with a lower roof, more office space, and more walls, we can be more strategic in how this issue is handled. It’s possible to push fresh air into rooms where the air quality sensors detect a problem. Air can be circulated out of the room and through filtration or replaced exhuasted. We can use our existing zoning technology to manage exactly what you’re dealing with on a room-by-room basis.
That’s not everything though. Mold, bacteria, and allergens love something else too: humidity. All life needs water. Mold and bacteria don’t need a lot of water. They can get their water from the air. With enough humidity, these nasty little devils will go wild and make your workers and customers sick. The issue can be worse with allergens. Your nose uses moisture to capture and keep allergens and pathogens out of the body. Air dries up? Prepare to suffer.
Luckily, humidity can be measured by many air quality sensors. Even in circumstances where its not measured by the IAQ sensor, we can acquire stand alone humidity sensors. It’s a very common thing. Chances are, your facility even has a dehumidifier already. Air conditioners and dehumidifiers are nearly the same thing. The first air conditioner was intended to dehumidify the air. In that sense, you may already have the equipment you need to regulate your humidity. We want to aim for somewhere just under 50%. This is low enough to kill most microbial issues, but not be an issue for your nose.
It is possible to humidify the air at industrial scales too. It’s perhaps not as needed as dehumidification. The air in most parts of the world is naturally humid. In Pennsylvania, it can be humid even through the winter. Places like California and Florida can be soaking wet around the clock. We can often just knock down the humidity a bit, and leave room so it doesn’t get too low. That said, in dry places like Texas or the middle of the desert, industrial scale humidifiers exist. In such places you end up balancing out the work of the humidifer against the air conditioner, but it works.
Don’t Skip the Maintenance
Lastly, these defenses all rely on one thing: CLEAN YOUR EQUIPMENT. You need to ensure that your HVAC system’s ducts remain clean and mold free. you need to regularly change your filters. You need to clean the coils of your air conditioner and if applicable, your heating system. It won’t matter if the HVAC system is the most advanced thing ever built if it’s bogged down by mold growing inside it.