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How Auxiliary Air Filtration Can Assist In Upgrading Your Office Air Quality

office space with air filteredThere are a numerous sources of indoor air pollutants. These include materials such as office furnishings and office carpets, as well as building materials such as paints, lacquers and plastics which may emit volatile organic compounds or VOCs. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sources of VOCs may include cleaning supplies, waxes, pesticides, office furnishings, carpets, air fresheners, moth repellents and dry-cleaned clothing. On top of this, building HVAC systems are designed to bring outside air into the building and that outside air may include some VOC odor concerns produced by adjacent land use and industrial processes.

In addition to VOCs, indoor air quality can be negatively impacted by particulate contaminants including combustion products from tobacco products, candles, and furnaces. The building HVAC system may also introduce particulates that are potential allergens such as pollen and, when cooling towers are nearby, legionella bacteria exposures may result.

Adverse health effects associated with this combination of particulate and VOC contaminants may be short-term or long-term. These can include headaches, dry throat, eye irritation, runny nose, and other respiratory system ailments.

Obviously, the last several years have added the more urgent concerns over the transmission of COVID-19 and perhaps other communicable diseases. Upgrading the existing building HVAC system, or minimally replacing filters with higher efficiency filters, is often recommended. With regard to COVID-19, the CDC also recommends using multiple mitigation strategies for exposure and risk reduction. Ventilation improvements to increase the delivery of clean air and dilute contaminates can be a part of your mitigation strategy, according to the CDC. More useful information can be found at the following link: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/ventilation.html

Air Filtration Upgrade Obstacles

Note, however, that upgrading the existing building HVAC system to filter particulates and VOCs from the office air can often be problematic. For example:

  • The fan/blower for the building HVAC system may not be designed to handle the increased demands of an efficient particulate air filtration package. “Tight” filters require fan/blowers specified for high static pressure losses due to the airflow restriction associated with high filtration efficiencies. Most building HVAC systems do not include fan/blowers designed for “tight” filters.
  • There may not be room to install a more efficient particulate air filtration package.
  • There may not be room to install sorbent media beds for mitigation of VOCs and odors.

In order to successfully mitigate the above health risks without re-engineering the building HVAC system, a dual-purpose air cleaning system is required that is specifically designed to remove both VOCs and particulates from the office air.

Air Quality Engineering, Inc. can answer questions concerning use of self-contained auxiliary systems which can offer different levels of particulate removal efficiencies depending upon your application. Such units are available in portable as well as self-contained ceiling hung or in-ceiling versions. A number of particulate removal efficiencies are available including the following:

  • MERV 11 (65% ASHRAE)
  • MERV 13 (85% ASHRAE)
  • MERV 16 (95% ASHRAE)
  • HEPA 99.97%

For more information on what a true HEPA filter can do, check out this article.

Of course, the above particulate filters do not mitigate VOCs. The most common way of addressing VOCs employs carbon bed filters in addition to the particulate filters. Air Quality Engineering can provide information regarding substantial carbon bed filtration.

For more information contact an Air Quality Engineering specialist at 1-800-328-0787 or send us a note.

*Note: Most known general air filtration units including legitimate HEPA units are not FDA approved for the treatment or mitigation of disease. To our knowledge there are no units or systems which are tested on the live COVID-19 virus. Please refer to CDC guidance on legitimate use of filtration equipment for the use in multilayered mitigation strategies.