[Editor's note: This article is the final installment in a four-part series that examines poor indoor air quality (IAQ) in schools and what the HVACR trade can do to help stem the crisis. Here,The Newsdiscusses the importance of monitoring system performance and conducting scheduled maintenance.]

When it comes to ensuring the air quality of the nation's school buildings, proper system design is just the starting point. Products designed to provide heating and cooling, filtration, ventilation, and dehumidification must be installed correctly, their performance must be checked, and systems should be serviced according to the manufacturers' requirements. This article examines methods of monitoring school indoor environments and contains advice from manufacturers on how to service and maintain mechanical equipment.

Hall Monitors

One of the most accurate means of detecting changes in indoor air quality is to constantly monitor and sample the indoor environment. Two companies have recently introduced monitoring systems for testing by both HVACR contractors and building owners/managers.

Aircuity Inc. (www.aircuity.com) manufactures the Optimaâ„¢ system, a portable monitoring system designed to assess indoor environmental quality and building performance. According to Patricia Mormann, Aircuity marketing communications manager, "The system assesses the delivered performance of the building's HVAC system to verify the effectiveness of the filtration, ventilation, and control systems."

Mormann outlined the Optima system's three main components:

1. The monitor incorporates nine sensors designed to automatically measure environmental information within a building. "Sensors include temperature, humidity, carbon dioxide (CO2), carbon monoxide, ozone, airborne particles (two sizes), total volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and radon," she said. "Additionally, mold spores can be collected by the monitor for lab analysis."

2. A Web-based data management system is designed to organize building information and the collected data. "The system is completely paperless and totally secure," said Mormann.

3. The system features an automated reporting tool, the Aircuity Advisorâ„¢. "Report findings are based on the collective knowledge and experience of building experts," Mormann said. "The Advisor generates a comprehensive and easy-to-understand report detailing measured data, comparisons to accepted standards, and suggested causes and solutions for building improvement."

Often, results are available within 24 hours, said Mormann. "By narrowing the focus of probable sources, it saves time otherwise spent in a trial and error approach," she stated. "It also makes it economically feasible for a school district to conduct regular IAQ screening of their facilities to tackle this issue proactively."

AirAdvice Inc. (www.airadvice.com) manufactures monitors de-signed to help homeowners, building owners, and school personnel identify and measure levels of contaminants and potential sources of problems inside homes, buildings and classrooms.

"By continuously measuring temperature, relative humidity (rh) and CO2 levels in classrooms, schools can proactively manage their IAQ and create early warning systems before serious problems occur," said Jim Crowder, president and CEO of AirAdvice.

"When problems do occur, schools need to be able to measure multiple variables (particles, VOCs, rh, temperature, CO2) over time to determine what may be occurring and why."

Crowder suggested that contractors look into adding diagnostic services to their repertoires. "To prevent and/or address IAQ problems, schools need to be able to measure the indoor environment over extended periods of time. You can't prevent or fix problems if you don't measure. Contractors need to look at IAQ as an extension of their core competence in air handling and incorporate measurement into their tool kit."

Installation And Service Tips

Some of the manufacturers contacted for this series of articles on school IAQ shared some tips on installing and servicing their equipment.

StrionAir (www.strionair.com) manufactures an air filtration and purification product. "The StrionAir GC System is simple to install, requiring only basic sheet metal and wiring skills," said Doug Render, product manager for StrionAir. "Maintenance on the GC System requires the periodic replacement of disposable filters. Due to the long life of the StrionAir filters, it is likely they will be changed far less frequently than current filters, which is a windfall for schools that operate with minimum maintenance personnel and tight budgets.

"Marketing to schools is a straightforward proposition. The GC System will provide 8 times to 12 times cleaner air for students and teachers. In addition, it will actively kill airborne, illness-causing bacteria, mold, and viruses."

Quietside (www.quietside.com) manufactures a complete range of ductless mini-splits. "Contractors should understand the Samsung mini-split philosophy of moving a smaller quantity of air (cfm) slower through a coil, allowing the air not only to be cooled but also dehumidified," said John Miles, director of engineering and technical support for Quietside. "This provides the maximum comfort and optimum IAQ for a conditioned space.

"Contractors should also understand that mini-splits should be undersized for correct operation, a unit that reaches set point quickly cannot dehumidify the air and complete comfort cannot be achieved. Throw away your standard sizing rules and use the Samsung sizing guidelines instead. "Installation should be according to the manuals or practices taught in our training sessions; ensure the wall units are mounted high on the wall for optimum air distribution."

Airxchange (www.airxchange.com) manufactures energy recovery components for OEM integration in many IAQ-related products. "Most importantly, contractors need to know that energy recovery is no longer restricted to specialty custom air handlers designed for each application," said Bede Wellford, vice president of marketing for Airxchange.

"Today, our components are available on every conceivable platform, including unit ventilators, ceiling cassette split units, and wall-hung units specifically designed for the classroom markets. Contractors and designers should recognize and sell the energy, design load reduction, and humidity control benefits of this technology. If they do, it will become standard practice in any dense occupancy such as a school. In all but the mildest climates, enthalpy recovery pays for itself rapidly."

Installation and service are pretty straightforward, Wellford indicated. "Regular service is limited to cleaning or changing filters and checking the mechanical operation of belts, motors, seal adjustments, etc. and will fall well into the normal realm. Keep in mind that deferred maintenance is one of the biggest problems we face in the nation's schools and either educate the staff or offer maintenance contracts to keep all the HVAC systems providing a healthy environment as they were designed and installed to do. Washing or replacement of heat exchange media should be performed to maintain latent effectiveness as required, generally on a five-year cycle for a school environment."

Stulz Air Technology Systems Inc. (www.stulz-ats.com) manufactures CeilAirâ„¢ ceiling-mounted supplemental air conditioners. "The Stulz-ATS Ultrasonic Humidifiers are available in a wide range of configurations, from in-the-airstream to stand-alone," said Anne Shubert, marketing coordinator for Stulz-ATS. "There are several models designed specifically for application to small unitary air-handling devices such as classroom unit ventilators. All Stulz-ATS equipment can be provided with complete controls packages or for communication and control via building management systems (BMS)."

Rotor Source Inc. (www.rotorsource.com) manufactures energy recovery wheels and desiccant dehumidification wheels.

"Contractors generally install our equipment as part of an OEM package," said Rotor Source President Spencer K. Goland. "So, they should be familiar with the particular OEM's installation and start-up manual. We market to OEMs and design-build firms, so the

contractor is really selling the OEM's product through their recommended marketing path."

Desert Aire (www.desert-aire.com) manufactures TotalAireâ„¢ and VerticalAireâ„¢ dehumidifiers. "Contractors need to know that Desert Aire's units are specifically designed for IAQ applications and have been incorporated into hundreds of HVAC systems in schools across the U.S.," said Keith Coursin, Desert Aire's president. "A contractor requires a basic background in refrigeration to install our units. However, we also provide additional installation training at our headquarters in Milwaukee. The class is designed to teach contractors vital techniques on how to install every model of Desert Aire dehumidifier, including our IAQ units."

Circul-Aire/Dectron Internationale (www.circul-aire.com) manufactures air filtration and dehumidification systems. "Historically, Dectron has marketed its products through the engineering and architectural communities," said Brian Monk, vice president of sales and marketing for Circul-Aire/Dectron Internationale.

"Today, school boards, parent committees, and maintenance contractors are all effective avenues to help market and eventually install air purification and/or dehumidification systems.

"Contractors should be aware that the multifaceted use of a school requires several equipment solutions. Make-up air for the gymnasium or corridors can be treated to remove the outdoor air pollutants before they have a chance to enter the space. Classroom ventilators can incorporate a Dectron filtration component that not only ensures purified air but helps minimize noise levels within the classroom environment."

Educating The Educators

Charlie Seyffer, technical services manager for filter manufacturer Camfil Farr (www.camfilfarr.com), emphasized that educating school officials on the importance of regularly scheduled maintenance would benefit contractors as well as school districts. "Most schools that we have worked with use their own personnel to service the HVAC units. Usually the same people that are responsible for building and grounds, their actual HVAC knowledge is limited as it is such a small part of their overall responsibilities.

"Proper marketing efforts by contractors could open a whole new area of expertise here, and we all would benefit. The ‘sell' is usually to the school board, which is a difficult path to promote a concept, but, as we all know, a superior outcome usually requires added effort.

"Contractors have the most impact during the design stage. A good contractor will work with the specifying engineer, and often the school board, to educate the parties on the benefits of a central system. The impetus of design should be the health of both the children and the staff.

"Ironically, the installation contractor, in doing what is right for all involved, should find greater profit for their organization because of the higher costs of installing a proper system."

The Rotobrush® is a residential/light commercial air duct cleaning system that simultaneously agitates and vacuums dust and debris on contact.

Sidebar: Don't Forget Duct Cleaning

Rotobrush/AIRQC Corp. (www.airqccorp.com) manufactures a complete line of air duct cleaning equipment, video inspection equipment, and electrostatic air filters.

"AIRQC's air duct cleaning equipment removes contaminants in air duct systems," said Richard Wade of the marketing department of Rotobrush/AIRQC Corp., Grapevine, Texas. "All of our portable units are HEPA filtered (removes 99.97 percent of particles down to 0.3 microns in size), allowing for operation inside the school. AIRQC electrostatic air filters remove 95 percent of airborne contaminants and are reusable, thus reducing the cost of air filtration."

Wade said, "AIRQC offers contractors a free certified air duct cleaning training course in our 3,500-square-foot training facility in the Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas, area. Also, our equipment can be used for more than schools. Contractors can use it to clean residential ducts all the way up to commercial/industrial."

- John R. Hall

Publication date: 08/16/2004