Researchers Look to UVGI To Improve HVAC Performance

HVAC Innovation

Researchers are looking into a new way to improve the air quality and energy efficiency of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. A team from Penn State University have been testing whether ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) would work to help maintain cooling coils and keep them clean.

The team went about testing the air flow, humidity, and pressure drop before and after cleaning the cooling coils with UVGI. They will then use that data to measure what the benefits would be of using it.

HVAC Operations

When an HVAC system is running, microorganisms collect on the coils that transfer heat throughout the system. These fungi and bacteria, along with other materials, can build up to a point that affect the performance of the system as a whole. More energy is used to make up for the gap in performance. Not only that, but the microorganisms are also spread into the building. The condensation that forms on heat transfer coils are what make them particularly susceptible to contamination.

What to Do

There are a few current options for cleaning the coils. They include mechanical and chemical methods. UVGI is also currently used, but because there is very little research about its effectiveness, it is not common. UVGI is a common disinfectant for other applications, but there are concerns not just about the effectiveness for HVAC systems, but also whether it negatively affects air quality. This new research is meant to make determinations on these questions.

The project is currently operating at two test sites. Not only will they be collecting immediate data, but they will also collect data over time to see if the results hold up in the long term. That way, they can see if UVGI continues to be safe and effective after several uses.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) have been working to “maximize the actual operational energy performance of buildings and facilities,” and this research coincides with that effort. The hope is that UVGI will prove to be a safe and effective cleaner for HVAC systems, and can be used more widely.

There is a movement across all industries and sectors to be more energy efficient and safer in all things. HVAC systems will continue to improve in both factors through research like this.

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