developments driving demand for HVAC and air flow purposes

By Richard Boothman

ONAs the economy begins to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the commercial HVAC industry is evolving to meet the increased demands of customers for air quality and ventilation. Meanwhile, the demand for ventilation solutions will continue to grow in the coming months.

Industry outlook

In the first quarter, School Systems increased demand for HVAC and ventilation equipment. Instead of an expected lull in the first few months of the year, there was robust activity in the education sector. This may be caused by the school systems pushing jobs that were previously approved but postponed due to COVID-19 disruptions in 2020.

Modine is very active in the school market and is seeing increasing interest in indoor air quality applications – particularly improvements in ventilation and filtration, and solutions to actively neutralize pathogens such as: B. UV air treatment systems and bipolar needle ionization.

This initial surge in school activity does not appear to be driven by new federal funding opportunities. In the US, the initial funding approved by Congress in December to meet the needs of schools for HVAC and ventilation went into immediate mitigation measures such as deep cleaning, filter replacement and PPE. With this immediate need met, the demand for ventilation and HVAC products for schools will continue to grow as new funds from the US rescue plan enter the pipeline.

Modine is also experiencing strong institutional demand from hospitals, healthcare facilities and nursing homes. HVAC work in the commercial and hospitality sectors remains depressed in the first quarter, but that will change as the economy opens up further.

Ventilation problems

As the United States focuses on reopening schools for personal learning, concerns about the need for improved ventilation and indoor air quality (IAQ) have come to the fore. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control guidelines suggest that improved ventilation in classrooms will provide more protection from the COVID-19 virus.

With increasing ventilation requirements, there is a need to compensate for the additional energy consumption in connection with the treatment of the incoming outside air, which can be hot, cold or extremely dry or humid. This is more energy-intensive than treating clean room exhaust air. The industry has seen continuous growth in the use of energy recovery equipment in HVAC equipment to reduce operating costs.

The most commonly used energy recovery devices include plate heat exchangers or heat recovery wheels. These devices can be used to recover around 60% of the energy cost of the preconditioned air that is pumped outside. This can reduce the size of the mechanical systems required to properly operate the facility and, in addition, reduce energy consumption.

Other trends

In addition to the increased focus on ventilation and IAQ, there are other trends that will continue to influence the design of HVAC and ventilation applications in the months and years ahead:

  • Increased filtration. In order to eliminate pathogens and pollutants in the room air, the facilities move away from the use of typical MERV 8 filters. They use MERV 13 and higher filters to capture smaller and smaller particles, but this has one drawback. Increasing the efficiency of the filters leads to a greater pressure drop indoors. To address this, manufacturers are increasingly using electronically commutated motors in HVAC and ventilation applications.
  • Active neutralization measures. In order to strengthen trust in the IAQ, the use of active measures to neutralize pathogens is becoming more and more common. This may include needle-tipped bipolar ionization technology that creates charged ions to help remove pathogens from the air and UV air treatment.
  • Humidity control. Long used in the southern regions of the US, dedicated humidity control is becoming increasingly popular in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Humidity controllers work by cooling and dehumidifying air while maintaining room temperature to maintain comfort.
  • More durable equipment. Higher ventilation requirements mean HVAC equipment works harder. Manufacturers address this by increasing the durability of the units, using double-walled cabinets and higher R-value insulation to prevent moisture transfer.
  • To keep up with the changing needs of facility management, HVAC equipment is getting smarter. The integration of building management systems via an open protocol is becoming the standard for the industry.

looking ahead

The demand for improved ventilation solutions will continue in 2021 and beyond. In response to the response from HVAC manufacturers, the industry will continue to innovate and develop more efficient and effective products to meet these needs.

Boothman is the Director of North American Sales at Modine.

Click here to learn more about facility management related to HVAC.

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