Maintaining clean and comfortable indoor air is essential for occupant health, safety, and happiness. These days, indoor air quality (IAQ) has become a hotter topic than usual as property owners look for ways to keep SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) and other transmissible pathogens at bay. Indeed, air disinfection for coronavirus has proven to be a worthwhile endeavor for facilities everywhere, considering the sheer amount of airborne and aerosolized particles floating around. The topics of ventilation, filtration, and purification often get jumbled up, but they all refer to different things. If you want to provide your facility with the best indoor air quality and comfort year-round, it’s important to know the distinction between heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and air purification.
As you can see above, HVAC is an acronym for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems. These systems include several components that work together to adjust a facility’s internal temperature and humidity levels. A standard HVAC system is complete with vents, air ducts, coils, compressors, condensers, blowers, terminal units, filters, thermostats, and more. HVAC systems don’t just keep residential and commercial properties comfortable -- they also aid in facility maintenance, preventing structural problems related to thermal shock (i.e., sudden extreme changes in temperature), high moisture content, pest infestation, and so on. At the most basic level, a functional HVAC system allows you to heat up or cool down an interior space (and adjust its humidity levels) with a great degree of control. Modern HVAC systems are also highly responsive, efficient, automated, and easily controlled from multiple remote devices.
If the name didn’t give it away, air purification is the process by which indoor air is cleaned and made rid of various unwanted and potentially harmful particles, including dust, pollen, bacteria, fungal spores, viruses, and more. There are many different methods for purifying the air inside a room, too. High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) purifiers can capture approximately 99.7% of particles 0.3 microns and larger in size, making for a much healthier internal environment. Activated carbon filters aren’t as efficient as their HEPA counterparts, but they do excel at absorbing and removing harmful and obnoxious airborne substances and odors, including perfumes, VOCs (volatile organic compounds), tobacco smoke, and more. An electrostatic air filter captures particles through a process known as ionization, wherein charged particles are attracted to and contained by the oppositely charged surface. And ultraviolet (UV) air purification can sterilize germs like viruses and bacteria through powerful UV-C energy.
Comparing the descriptions of HVAC and air purification systems above, it’s clear that there are key distinctions between them. Before we dive further into those differences, however, let’s first acknowledge what HVAC and air purification have in common.
To begin, both HVAC systems and air purifiers are important for overall building maintenance. After all, HVAC systems contribute to facility stability and comfort while air purifiers mitigate the presence of harmful substances like mold and dust. When working in concert, HVAC and air purification systems reduce the amount of maintenance and repairs facility managers must oversee. Likewise, both of these important systems filter the air, just to varying degrees -- filtration isn’t the main goal of HVAC systems, of course, but the best HVAC units contain filters that keep larger contaminants at bay. And finally, air purification and indoor climate control are both vital for keeping occupants comfortable and safe year-round. Without functioning HVAC, your facility can quickly become too hot, too cold, too dry, or too humid. And without proper air purification, occupants may find it harder to breathe (not to mention the potential for disease transmission, allergies, etc.).
There is also some overlap here in terms of combining processes. More specifically, HVAC and air purification systems can be merged with the proper components. For instance, UV air filters might be installed above HVAC coils for increased disinfection.
The similarities between HVAC and air purification mentioned previously end there, however. Once more, HVAC systems are meant to control the indoor climate’s temperature and humidity levels, whereas air purifiers are dedicated to removing contaminants from the air. The level of filtration provided by standard HVAC systems alone doesn’t touch the efficiency provided by HEPA purifiers. And on the other hand, even the most powerful air purifier cannot significantly adjust the temperature or humidity level inside a given room. You need to invest in both types of air manipulation to achieve the optimal IAQ and comfort levels for your facility.
If you’re not in the business, it’s easy to confuse HVAC and air purification, especially as these technologies become sleeker, more effective, and more integrated than ever before. Still, it’s worth knowing the basic differences between these systems so you can provide your facility with the best air quality solutions available. At The Budd Group, our specialists provide installation, repair, and maintenance services for HVAC and air purification. Let us become your go-to provider for all your facility’s IAQ maintenance needs.
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