More than ever, building owners and managers need to make sure that their HVAC systems are helping to keep their buildings healthy and safe. Remember, your customers’ buildings need your help today AND tomorrow.

Many are running scared, frantically looking for ways to safeguard employees, tenants, and customers in this current pandemic. The logical reaction is to seek out devices and products that promise to make building air safer.

The good news is there are many great filtration and air quality control products on the market today. The bad news is when misapplied or improperly installed, these devices can inadvertently make buildings less healthy or safe.

At NCI (National Comfort Institute), we regularly hear horror stories of owners and managers adding Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) devices to their HVAC systems that don’t work or make things worse. This happens when someone without the right knowledge installs them. Every contractor needs a knowledgeable person on their team to carefully weigh the potential adverse effects on the overall building pressure balances and air distribution.

Sample Issues

For example, many filtration products are being touted as a panacea to the spread of dirt, germs, and viruses. In a lab, these products may perform optimally. But before they are installed on an HVAC system, it’s imperative that a properly trained professional studies their impact on system pressures and airflows, as well as building pressures.

Replacing media in a filter bank with more restrictive filter material, for example, can have negative unintended consequences. Mitigating these issues ahead of time happens with thoughtful planning and redesign.

The solution might include adding more filter surface area or increasing blower capacity to deliver the right airflow even with the increased filter pressure drop. Of course, there are other factors to consider including higher velocities which could cause moisture blowoff on coils, and/or create heat transfer issues.

While my intent for this editorial is not to be a technical instruction on redesign, it is a cautionary tale on how changes made to HVAC systems can impact how they operate, and how healthy or safe they are.

Buildings need help despite the pandemic. To keep customers safe and happy today and in the future, some  belt tightening is required.
Buildings need help despite the pandemic. To keep customers safe and happy today and in the future, some belt tightening is required.

Rise to the Buildings-Need-Your Help Challenge

While design is important, verification is where the rubber meets the road. Over the years, NCI contractors have reported incorrect readings from some of the most sophisticated sensing systems in high-end buildings – including medical facilities, government facilities, and laboratories.

One common problem occurs when a control/monitoring system inaccurately reads a pressure differential, velocity, or airflow. The reason could be a defective sensor or an improper installation. Or it’s installed in the wrong location. No sophisticated computerized system is infallible. Verification through direct measurement is the best backup plan. That’s why our motto for more than 25 years has been, “If you don’t measure, you’re just guessing.”

Who better to verify a system works properly than an NCI-certified Commercial Air Balancing or Commercial System Performance Specialist? Direct measurement and knowing how to interpret readings with confidence are at the core of these certifications.

If you employ NCI or NBC-certified commercial technicians, now is the time to bone up on the latest IAQ standards. Be sure to have them review their certification class manuals and Field Reference Guides, and look for ways to apply their knowledge and skills to this critical area.

What You Can Do

The fact remains that buildings need your help and it doesn’t matter if they are residential or commercial. It’s important that you let customers know about your capabilities, and how you can help guide them through the right decision-making process to help keep their buildings healthy and safe. Be sure to market your unique abilities and training. This includes sharing information on your website, social media platforms, etc.

Put together a packet that illustrates the testing services you offer, and how they can help keep facilities safer and healthier during these difficult times and beyond. Remember to use simple language, and focus on what’s important to them.

Now is the time to sell your verification capabilities to help both your company and your customers get through these challenging times.