How Should Schools Really Tackle IAQ?

6/21/2021 | Michael D. Vinick, ASCS, CVI, President - Duct & Vent Cleaning of America, Inc., Past President - NADCA

Suddenly, many municipalities and schools have an abundance of cash from the Cares Act. They must spend it or risk losing it. Many are rightfully targeting the funds towards Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) initiatives.
Schools are being sold on many different “solutions." There is not one solution to the IAQ challenges that each unique building is confronting. Yet, many schools are making purchases with the idea that they are purchasing the one needed product to correct the IAQ in their school. Two items we are seeing schools spend large amounts of money on are Portable HEPA Air Cleaners and UV Lights. What is not being thought through is that both need to be maintained. If they are not maintained, more problems will invariably present themselves.
Many HVAC Systems are already set up to perform functions to improve IAQ. Maybe the fresh air intake needs to be adjusted to allow more outside air into the building. Belts and motors that have not been looked at in years need to be maintained. Perhaps the air conditioning coils need to be cleaned. Most schools do not budget for or fully understand the preventative maintenance that goes along with purchasing the so called “solutions." HEPA filters in portable air cleaners need to be changed out when they get too loaded. That does not mean at the same interval for every unit. HEPA Filters are expensive and must be installed correctly. Ensuring the air cleaning machine is doing the job is imperative. Is the portable machine even going to be placed correctly and left in the correct location to perform the job it is intended to perform? Is it going to stay plugged in?
One thing for certain is that each school should ensure the HVAC system components and ductwork are clean to ensure that the outside air and recirculated air being brought to the occupied spaces is traveling through clean systems. It is also important if a school does implement the use of portable HEPA units, that the system is not bringing particulate to the rooms loading up the HEPA filters. It is also important that the UV lights do not get loaded with debris, also lessening their intended effectiveness.
There are many variables in the complexity of IAQ solutions. If you are uncertain about the direction that your school or building should take, please feel free to open our website and contact us here.

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