It is well known that clean, fresh air in buildings is the key to safe, comfortable and efficient working conditions, and that contaminated air is a common cause of Sick Building Syndrome.
According to environmental health experts such as the US Environmental Protection Agency, Sick Building Syndrome is often linked to poor indoor air quality which may result from biological contamination, such as bacteria, moulds, pollen, and viruses that may breed in air ducts, humidifiers and drain pans.
Inevitably all air duct systems become fouled over a period of time. The rate and severity of contamination can be attributed to a number of factors. However it is possible to deal with these issues through a sensible programme of hygiene cleaning. For example, this may be as simple as changing the filters on a regular basis.
In fact, the Associated Code of Practice from the UK's Health and Safety Commission states that all mechanical ventilation systems should be regularly and properly cleaned, tested and maintained to ensure that they are kept clean and free from anything which may contaminate the air.
Therefore, to maintain a fresh air supply, it is essential that the air duct systems in your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) are maintained through a regular programme of air duct cleaning.
There are many companies that specialise in air duct cleaning. Some will focus on the residential market, particularly in the US, whilst others are supporting commercial installations. In Europe, domestic air conditioning is not particularly widespread, so most duct cleaning companies will be geared towards large-scale systems.
A specialist duct cleaning company will have access to a wide variety of extraction devices and specialised air jets and brushes specifically designed for the purpose, that enable them to remove contamination from air ducts and disinfect where necessary, depending on the design and configuration of your system.
An air duct system is generally cleaned in a particular direction aligned with the air flow, and the same is true for an extract system.
Moreover, contractors often find that existing air duct systems have insufficient access points to enable cleaning. If this is the case then they can also install access doors throughout the system to enable regular inspection, cleaning and disinfection to be properly undertaken. Once installed, the contractor will normally ensure that the location of the new access doors are captured on the client's duct plans.
After mechanical cleaning, the ducts are often sanitised to protect against biological contamination in the longer term. A sanitising emulsion is generally sprayed or atomised within the ducts so as to form a coating oin the internal surfaces.
The contractor will also be able to provide formal certification that the system has been cleaned in accordance with an established standard (for example in the UK the TR/19 best-practice guide from the HVCA is widely recognised).
Moreover, a European pre-standard known as prEN 15780: 'Ventilation for buildings - Ductwork - Cleanliness of ventilation systems' is in the final stages of preparation, and is expected to be formally issued later this year (2010), and this will further strengthen the standardisation of cleaning, which can only be a good thing for facility managers.
Iain Jones is with Pro-Duct Clean Ltd who deliver tailored commercial air duct cleaning services
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