As COVID-19 case numbers decline, the Government of Ontario is moving forward with its reopening plan. This means that companies in commercial office buildings will be starting to welcome their employees back to the workplace.
The phased reopening also coincides with the return of hot, humid weather in Southern Ontario, prompting property managers to prepare their buildings’ air conditioning systems for regular seasonal use.
Here’s how you can properly start up your A/C system to preserve climate-controlled comfort for your building occupants, especially if it’s been sitting idle for several months.
Arrange for an HVAC inspection of Your A/C System
When starting up your A/C system again, it’s best to arrange for an HVAC inspection to catch any potential issues. This will help ensure your system runs efficiently throughout the season.
- Review previous inspection report: Your HVAC maintenance team will look at the most recent inspection report for any concerns noted at the time. Depending on the issues, this might be the time to repair them before they cause significant problems mid-season.
- Air filter changes: Over the winter months, your filters have collected contaminants circulating through your building’s air supply. Changing the filters will help ensure optimal air quality and increase air efficiency.
- Inspection of indoor parts: Your HVAC technician will check for and correct corrosion, mould, and mildew on your A/C components. They’ll also fix any refrigerant leaks and tighten any loose electrical connections.
- Cleaning of outdoor components: Your outdoor cooling equipment is continually exposed to extreme weather conditions, air pollution, and debris. They may also become infected by wildlife. Therefore, the outdoor condenser or heat pump should be inspected and thoroughly cleaned if required before starting up your A/C system. Vents will also be inspected and switched over to cooling operation to maintain the efficient distribution of the air conditioning to cool your building.
- Adjust temperature settings: Whether your heating and cooling control is done through a building automation system (BAS), programmable thermostats, or other means, your technician can help you check and set your temperature and operating scheduling across your zones for the warmer season.
Be sure to schedule your HVAC preventative maintenance inspection sooner rather than later to avoid the rush. It’s the best way to ensure your commercial HVAC system gets the attention and care it deserves, tailored to your building’s unique requirements.
Specialized COVID enhancements for your HVAC A/C system
Even as COVID vaccines continue to roll out, the medical community is discovering new variants, which might cause return-to-office hesitancy on behalf of your tenants.
Although no system can be completely COVID-proof, you can minimize the risk of airborne pathogens spreading through your building by implementing clean air solutions that may bring peace of mind to your building’s occupants.
Here are some of the cost-effective enhanced solutions we recommend to our clients:
- Install high-quality air filters: Currently, many commercial properties are outfitted with air filters with a minimum efficiency rating (MERV) of 8 or less. These filters are great for trapping most contaminants but aren’t effective against respiratory droplets, which have been identified as a primary transmitter of the COVID-19 virus. Instead, ask your HVAC technician for an upgrade to MERV-13 filters. MERV-13 filters trap up to 85 percent of particles from 1.0 to 3.0 microns in size, giving you the best chance at providing the cleanest possible air to your tenants.
- Run your HVAC system blower fan more frequently: Running your system more often will reduce the amount of time indoor air sits stagnant. Constant airflow enhances the ability of your air filters to catch airborne particles.
- Increase humidity to the airflow: Keeping your humidity level between 40 and 60 percent will limit the spread of respiratory droplets. An ERV system can help you better control levels white cutting energy costs at the same time. Ask your HVAC technician if ERV is a good fit for your HVAC system.
- Replace the indoor air more often: Venting in fresh outdoor air more often will prevent stale indoor air from lingering within your building.
- Install ultraviolet (UV) light into your HVAC system: UV light fixtures at the air conditioning coil and within your system ductwork will help eliminate dangerous pathogens before they can reach your building’s indoor spaces.
- Install variable-speed fan motors: Variable-speed fan motors allow for more airflow control than single-speed motors. You can easily adjust the fan speed according to your building’s needs and occupancy levels.
- Use particle air cleaners: High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters can capture over 99.97 percent of airborne particles as little as 0.3 microns in size. Using them at strategic points throughout your building will help the indoor air stay clean.
Remember only to use qualified, licensed technicians when preparing your HVAC system for reopening your building. It’s the best way to ensure you extend the life of your HVAC system and get recommendations for new energy-efficient solutions that will save you money.
As always, we’re happy to answer any questions you have about your commercial HVAC system. Feel free to call or email our team anytime.
Gregg Little, Paul DeThomasis, and Hugo Lopes are co-owners of Springbank Mechanical Systems. You can reach them at 905-569-8990 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.