When you think of first responders, HVACR contractors don’t usually come to mind. However, they are first on the scene in the dead of winter with negative wind chills for no heat calls or in the sweltering summer heat for no air calls. They are also on-hand following natural disasters, helping homeowners and business owners get their HVACR systems up and running after floods, fires, and much more. In fact, many HVACR equipment manufacturers have emergency relief programs for customers impacted by natural disasters.

HVACR contractors also make a positive impact on the lives of those with special needs by installing the proper equipment in both home and classroom settings. HVAC systems regulate indoor environments for comfort and reduce noise to promote optimal learning.


The indoor environment is two to five times more toxic than the outdoor environment, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). That, combined with the fact that Americans spend about 90 percent of their lives indoors, is a recipe for disaster.

Per the EPA, indoor air pollution quickly reaches unhealthy levels due to lack of airflow and the many pollutants built indoors. Because today’s building codes are airtight, it often improves energy efficiency but limits airflow, which allows pollutants, like CO, nitrogen dioxide, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and bacteria and viruses, to build up, negatively impacting the health of building occupants.  

“The health benefits of fresh, properly conditioned air in the home are not only increasingly important to homeowners but increasingly necessary,” said Joseph Hillenmeyer, marketing content specialist, Aprilaire. “As building envelopes have tightened, there is far less passive ventilation occurring in the home. This allows VOCs, odors, and humidity to quickly build up in the home. Especially with homeowners who have chronic illness in the family, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or severe asthma, effective fresh air delivery is something contractors increasingly need to address.”

The need for fresh, clean, indoor air only continues to grow, driven by the aging population and the increasing rates of asthma and allergies in children.

“Homebuilders, and especially HVAC contractors, will need to provide solutions to help those with respiratory and pulmonary illnesses,” Hillenmeyer said. “Stagnant air exacerbates asthma and allergy symptoms and can also cause headaches, nausea, and, potentially, cancer. The buildup of humidity in the home promotes mold growth, which further aggravates asthma and allergies and damages the home itself.”

In order to efficiently deliver outside air to the home, contractors need solutions that intelligently ventilate the whole home, Hillenmeyer noted. Aprilaire offers a solution with its Model 8191 Ventilator with Dehumidification. The ventilator helps control relative humidity (rh) in the home during periods when the air conditioning system does not run long enough to remove sufficient moisture. If the air conditioner can satisfy rh requirements, the unit’s compressor shuts off. The ventilator also optimizes energy savings by locking out ventilation during the hottest or coldest times of the day.

“A healthy, comfortable home for those with breathing conditions is possible — and HVAC contractors will continue to play an increasing role,” Hillenmeyer added.


There have been numerous studies indicating that poor IAQ and ventilation can have both short- and long-term effects, which can negatively impact children’s productivity or learning ability. This holds true even more so for students with learning disabilities, such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 68 newborns in the U.S. will have ASD; and more than 3.5 million Americans live with an autism spectrum disorder, according to Bloomberg.

ASD is defined by a certain set of behaviors and is a spectrum condition that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. Some of the behaviors associated with autism include delayed learning of language; difficulty making eye contact or holding a conversation; difficulty with executive functioning, which relates to reasoning and planning; narrow, intense interests; poor motor skills; and sensory sensitivities. Especially because of sensory sensitivity, schools and classrooms with special needs students require comfortable and quiet settings. This is something Smouse Opportunity School in Des Moines, Iowa, took into account when it decided to upgrade its HVAC system.

Smouse was originally commissioned in 1931 and was one of the first schools in Iowa designed to create a conducive learning environment for students with special needs who were unable to attend traditional public school due to physical or mental disabilities.

In the classroom, the new system had to be quiet enough to not disrupt lessons, and in other rooms, such as offices, the teachers’ lounge, and hallways, the system needed to be minimally invasive to preserve the architecture, according to Steve Blanchard, sales engineer, variable refrigerant flow (VRF) specialist, and LG product manager for DPT Mechanical in Urbandale, Iowa. The system also needed to be centrally controlled to ensure the rooms were kept at a consistent temperature and could not be accidentally adjusted within the learning spaces.

Therefore, LG’s VRF Multi V Water IV system was selected for the project.

“The school had some very unique architecture, and updating that to today’s standards for heating and air conditioning posed some pretty big challenges,” Blanchard said. “The VRF system was chosen because we could accommodate those needs in the existing structure and the limitations we had and upgrade them to a very efficient system that allowed them to heat and cool at the same time and save quite a bit of energy.

“Obviously, noise can be a big factor, and temperature in classrooms was important for overall comfort,” he continued. “The lower sound levels, specifically from the VRF equipment, allowed us to place it in classrooms because it’s unobtrusive and cools and heats the space without being a distraction to students.”

LG air conditioning technologies are designed to provide optimal comfort for occupants while operating with great efficiency, said Lorie Quillin-Bell, marketing director, LG Electronics USA Inc.

“The benefits offered by LG’s products, such as quiet operation and maintaining set point without temperature swings, help to create a productive environment for those with special needs,” she said. “LG is proud to be a part of projects like Smouse Opportunity School.”

In general, the primary goal of any HVACR equipment is to achieve the comfort and health of all the building’s occupants, noted Joe Ellison, sales manager, Engineered Products, Modine Mfg. Co.

“Modine has extensive laboratories in which we do some of our own sound testing,” Ellison said. “We have a semi-anechoic chamber, for which we can take various sound measurements — sound pressure and sound power — and using that information, we design our products so that they perform as well as possible acoustically to provide the quietest solution for in-classroom equipment.”

Modine’s ClassMate with STUDY Package features improved acoustic insulation to dampen noise to the highest standard and was developed to meet background noise prerequisites for LEED Gold certification.

“Other design factors, such as lighting and construction materials, play a role in accommodating special needs students, but a quiet HVACR system can contribute to a welcoming learning environment,” Ellison said.   

Publication date: 4/16/2018