Indoor air quality (IAQ) has been one of the biggest buzzwords in HVAC for the last couple years. Not only are homeowners invested in better IAQ, but the commercial market has seen a boom in demand for cleaner, healthier air. Whether it is through the use of high-level filtration, UV lights, or other technology, manufacturers have been using the increased awareness of IAQ to their advantage, designing products to meet these new demands.
“I would say [our goal is to] make our product available on more than just the high end — accessories that fit each type of unit from low to high end.”
- Alec Burmania
Lennox International Inc.
Lennox International Inc.
A lot of end users have been reevaluating their IAQ strategies since the pandemic, said Alec Burmania, product manager at Lennox International Inc. He noted that the emphasis has mostly been on filtration, with many consumers opting for higher MERV filters in their HVAC systems, but there has also a demand for ionization and UV-C technology.
“We were an Innovation Award finalist for a brand-new MERV 16 filter, which comes in a 2-inch format, which is especially important because that means you can fit it into most commercial units without needing to do anything other than just taking the existing filter out,” he said.
FILTER: Lennox’s MERV 16 filter can be added to any Model L rooftop unit to help improve indoor air quality. (Staff photo)
Burmania described the product as a “huge innovation” because it is able to provide increased filtration without a significant upfront cost. He added that the size of the filter is also noteworthy, as many MERV 16 filters tend to be a lot thicker. The product is a part of Lennox’s Ultimate IAQ System, which also features factory-installed UV-C lights that help treat the interior surfaces of rooftop units (RTU), such as the Model L.
According to a white paper by Lennox, commercial RTUs that utilize the company’s Ultimate IAQ System are able to reduce over 99% of viruses that cause COVID-19 from the air, after just 30 minutes of use. The IAQ System also provides 95% single pass capture efficiency, as well as energy efficient dehumidification through the use of Lennox’s patented Humiditrol technology.
“I would say [our goal is to] make our product available on more than just the high end — accessories that fit each type of unit from low to high end,” said Burmania.
He noted that while potential challenges in commercial IAQ are still unclear, people’s awareness and interest in indoor air quality has presented an immediate opportunity for manufacturers to create products that meet consumer demands. However, as rules and regulations change over time, the way in which the industry navigates the IAQ space will “surely be affected,” he said.
Another trend in commercial IAQ has been the large focus on dedicated outdoor air systems (DOAS), as well as electrification and heat pumps, said Ross Miglio, president of Addison-HVAC. With many states, such as California and New York, on the path toward banning fossil fuels, manufacturers have been considering these regulations when designing new products.
“I doubt they'll ban any existing, but it's like any replacement work or system that goes in, they're not allowed to use natural gas,” he explained.
In response to these trends, Miglio said Addison has released a DOAS unit that focuses on the smaller end of the market, such as shops and other independent retail spaces. The AK1 Series Compact DOAS is one of the company’s newest products, available in a 3- to 90-ton range. The system features a reduced cabinet weight, compact footprint, and up to 6 inches of media filtration. While the unit can be still applied to larger spaces, such as schools or hospitality, its compact design makes it ideal to meet the demands of smaller retail stores.
To meet the growing demand for electrification, Addison has developed FrostShield, said Miglio, which can be used in DOAS units like the AK1. FrostShield is a mechanical and unit control technology that prevents air-source heat pumps from going into defrost mode during heating operation. As the evaporator within a heat pump system begins to approach the point where frost has the possibility to form, hot discharge gas is released and maintained until there is no longer a risk of frost. This process can extend the life of HVAC equipment while saving electrical energy and improving indoor occupant comfort.
“FrostShield can be used across several products and basically, it rewrites the law of heat pumps that says, ‘An air-source heat pump has to go into defrost,’” Miglio said.
According to David Heidel, director – global sales and marketing at UVDI, the increased awareness of IAQ post-pandemic brought with it a heavy focus on airsteam disinfection, and ensuring the right level of UV light to help kill viruses and bacteria in the air.
“Prior to the pandemic, the main focus for UV-type products were for coil cleaning inside of air handlers to make sure that there wasn't a growth on the coil,” he said, noting the shift in priorities.
He added that as the world continues to come out of the pandemic, the HVAC industry is seeing a lot of initiatives develop through government structures, as they begin to put stronger guidelines in place for the improvement of indoor air quality. Reducing the spread of infection was UVDI’s main goal when pushing out products during the peak of COVID-19, but now Heidel said the company is exploring different opportunities in the IAQ space, such as LED technology or portable units.
UVDI’s V-PURE system is a portable air cleaner that combines UV-C technology and certified HEPA filtration to provide highly effective air purification. The V-PAC SC, another portable unit, boasts similar features but also utilizes photocatalytic oxidation (PCO) technology, which helps reduce odors, VOCs, viruses, and bacteria. Since the units do not require in-duct or HVAC installation, they provide end users with the advantage of being able to move the system from room to room, according to need.
CONVENIENCE: Portable air cleaners, like UVDI’s V-PURE and V-PAC SC units, provide the advantage of being able to operate in various rooms, according to need. (Staff photo)
“We would see it used in offices and things like that, where they have conference rooms and they want to have added filtration in those locations. Or casinos. There's a lot of these units that are spread out through casinos where they have heavy smoking,” Heidel said.
He stressed that because people spend the majority of their time indoors, adopting higher IAQ standards is the key to ensuring that they breathe cleaner indoor air.
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