Buildings breathe through their air-conditioning systems. Whether it be a hotel building or a hospital, a big multiplex or a mall, an industrial house, or even an office, all have conditioned indoor spaces. In other words, it means that the air inside these buildings comes from the huge HVAC (Heating & Ventilation Air Conditioning) systems that are installed in these buildings and are the single most source of providing air to them.
Now all these HVAC Systems have cooling coils that perform the task of conditioning the air which ultimately gets distributed inside the buildings. It is this conditioned air that the people inside the building breathe. This simply implies that the air passing through these cooling coils is as clean as the cooling coils themselves.
So if the cooling coil is clean, the air passing through it will also be clean. But if the cooling coil is unclean or contaminated, the air passing through it will also be contaminated. This will make the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) of the building contaminated as well.
How can the Cooling Coils get contaminated?
The Cooling Coils (& Drain Pans included) are damp and dark due to the condensation that takes place during the air conditioning process. And these places are an excellent breeding ground for microbes such as viruses, bacteria, mold, spores, fungus, etc. These microbes not only grow rapidly, but they also multiply rampantly.
How can Microbes that grow on the cooling coils pose a threat to Building Occupants?
The microbes that grow inside the HVAC on the cooling coils contaminate the air that passes through these cooling coils and gets distributed across the buildings, making the building IAQ unsafe and unhealthy for its occupants.
Research has shown that building occupants exposed to such unhealthy environments can develop health issues, including sinus, congestion, headaches, allergy, asthma, and upper respiratory ailments, along with cold and flu, commonly referred to as ‘Sick Building Syndrome’. Repeated exposure to mold and bacteria in these buildings can cause inhabitants of the building to feel irritation in the eyes, skin, throat, and lungs which can lead to other grave infections.
According to EPA (US Environmental Protection Agency), “50% of all illnesses are caused or aggravated by polluted indoor Air”.
Have you ever felt your eyes watering or difficulty in breathing or suddenly start sneezing when you are inside a building? That is because of the contaminated air you are breathing inside the building. Dirty cooling coils are amongst the top reasons for poor and contaminated IAQ.
Should Building/ Business Owners spend on HAVC Maintenance and Cooling Coil Cleaning?
Some people may question, how damaging can it be if one lets the coils remain dirty? Who is going to go see inside the aircon systems as to how dirty the coils are? How will it impact the business if the building has poor IAQ? It is not visible to people, so it will not impact the goodwill of the business? How does thinking about the well-being of the people in the building make good business sense? Why take so many maintenance headaches and spend so much?
There is definitely some cost involved in maintaining cooling coils and one may decide not to incur this cost, but if you see the bigger picture and the benefits of clean uncontaminated coils, this cost may seem negligible.
Let’s discuss it!
a) From the point of view of Employees:
Continuous exposure to unhealthy indoor air will make the employees sick. And it is a no-brainer that sick employees don’t perform… they take leaves. This increases the absenteeism ratio in the company, reduces employee productivity, and increases health costs. To think of it, these would cost the company more than it would cost to spend on maintenance of HVAC.
As per the study conducted by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab in the US, each year poor IAQ of commercial buildings result in $58 billion health cost and $200 billion productivity loss.
b) From the point of view of Customers:
Would you like to visit a hospital or even a mall where you find difficulty in breathing or where the air is contaminated? I think, absolutely not…
No customers mean no income and no income means no profits.
So all this has just one logical conclusion. Appropriate measures must be taken to clean cooling coils so that they can efficiently perform what they are supposed to do. As is said.. prevention is better than cure.
Besides posing a threat to the health of the building occupants, dirty cooling coils result in heavy energy consumption and higher electricity bills.