In a recent interview with ASHRAE Journal’s Hot Air Podcast, David Schurk sheds light on the critical issue of wet and moldy air handling units in sensitive environments like hospitals. As the author of an article featured in the November issue, Schurk discusses the imperative to address indoor air quality (IAQ) or, as he prefers to term it, environmental quality (EQ).
The interview delves into the reasons behind his choice of topic and the innovative solutions available to mitigate the challenges faced by critical care facilities.
Schurk begins by emphasizing the growing awareness of IAQ or EQ and its crucial role in healthcare settings. He stresses that wet conditions within HVAC air handling units can foster mold and microbial growth, posing significant risks in patient care areas.
Schurk also highlights the importance of aligning IAQ best practices with sustainability efforts. He advocates for a holistic approach that addresses both environmental quality and sustainability in HVAC systems.
The discussion then shifts to the practical solutions available to prevent the occurrence of wet and moldy air handling units.
Schurk identifies wet air filters, cooling coils, drain pans, and ductwork as potential culprits. He emphasizes the need for proper air handling unit design, selection, and control to eliminate most causes of wet final filters.
Additionally, Schurk proposes decoupling the air handling unit's sensible cooling requirements from its latent load to achieve a more sustainable HVAC system.
One notable solution proposed by Schurk is the use of desiccant dehumidification.
By decoupling the air streams and deeply drying a smaller portion using a desiccant unit, hospitals can maintain dry conditions in critical components. Schurk explains how this approach addresses not only wet componentry issues but also helps control relative humidities in operating rooms.
Desiccant dehumidification emerges as a versatile solution with benefits extending beyond hospitals to any environment prioritizing IAQ or EQ.
In the final segment, Schurk shares insights on improving HVAC system outcomes. He advocates for selecting air handling unit cooling coils capable of handling sensible-only cooling loads.
This strategic approach keeps downstream components, including ductwork and final filters, dry, reducing concerns related to microbial growth. Schurk underscores the applicability of these practices in various critical care environments, emphasizing the importance of maintaining dry and clean conditions.
The interview with David Schurk provides valuable insights into the challenges associated with wet and moldy air handling units in critical care facilities.
By exploring innovative solutions like desiccant dehumidification and promoting a holistic approach to IAQ, Schurk offers a roadmap for creating sustainable and efficient HVAC systems. As the conversation highlights, ensuring clean and dry air is not only crucial for patient well-being but also aligns with broader sustainability goals in the field of HVAC engineering.
If you are in need of a desiccant dehumidification system, contact us to explore your options and learn how you can customize a dehumidifier to fit your specific needs.
Here is a detailed explanation of how desiccant dehumidification contributes to enhancing IAQ in healthcare settings:
1. Mold and Microbial Growth Prevention:
- Healthcare facilities are highly sensitive environments where maintaining a sterile and hygienic atmosphere is paramount. Excessive humidity levels can lead to the growth of mold and microbial organisms, posing significant risks to patients, staff, and visitors.
- Desiccant dehumidification helps in preventing the conditions conducive to mold and microbial growth by efficiently removing moisture from the air. This contributes to a healthier indoor environment and reduces the potential for airborne contaminants.
2. Control of Relative Humidity (RH):
- Desiccant dehumidifiers are particularly effective in controlling relative humidity levels. Maintaining optimal RH is critical in healthcare settings, as it directly impacts the comfort of occupants and the integrity of medical equipment.
- By precisely regulating humidity levels, desiccant dehumidification ensures that the air in critical areas, such as operating rooms and patient care spaces, remains within the recommended range. This not only enhances patient comfort but also supports the longevity and reliability of medical equipment.
3. Preservation of Medications and Medical Supplies:
- Many medications and medical supplies are sensitive to environmental conditions, including humidity. Desiccant dehumidification aids in preserving the integrity of medications and medical equipment by preventing moisture-related damage.
- In pharmacy areas and storage facilities, where precise environmental control is crucial, desiccant dehumidifiers play a vital role in maintaining optimal conditions for the storage of pharmaceuticals and other medical supplies.
4. Reduction of Airborne Contaminants:
- High humidity levels can contribute to the spread of airborne contaminants, including allergens and pathogens. Desiccant dehumidification helps reduce airborne particles by eliminating excess moisture, creating a cleaner and healthier indoor environment.
- This reduction in airborne contaminants is particularly beneficial in healthcare settings where vulnerable individuals, such as patients with compromised immune systems, are present. Improved air quality contributes to a reduced risk of respiratory infections and allergies.
5. Energy Efficiency and Sustainability:
- Desiccant dehumidification offers energy-efficient solutions for managing indoor humidity levels. These systems often have the flexibility to operate in a manner that optimizes energy consumption while effectively dehumidifying the air.
- The integration of desiccant dehumidification into HVAC systems aligns with sustainability goals by promoting energy efficiency and reducing the overall environmental impact of healthcare facilities.
6. Comfort and Well-being of Occupants:
- Maintaining a comfortable and healthy environment is essential for the well-being of both patients and healthcare staff. Desiccant dehumidification contributes to a more comfortable indoor environment by preventing the discomfort associated with high humidity levels.
- Improved comfort can positively impact patient outcomes, contribute to a better working environment for healthcare professionals, and enhance the overall experience of occupants within the facility.
In summary, desiccant dehumidification is a versatile and effective solution for healthcare facilities seeking to enhance indoor air quality. By addressing humidity-related challenges, preventing mold growth, and promoting a clean and comfortable environment, desiccant dehumidification significantly contributes to the overall well-being and safety of individuals in healthcare settings.
David N. Schurk DES, CEM, LEED-AP, CDSM, CWEP, SFP, CIAQM, is National Sales Manager for Innovative Air Technologies in Covington, GA. He also serves as an ASHRAE Distinguished Lecturer, is an ASHRAE Life Member, and Committee Chair for the ASHE Sustainability and Decarbonization Leadership Task Force. He has over 40 years of experience in the design and analysis of heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems for a variety of market sectors, with a special focus on healthcare and aerospace environmental control and air quality.
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