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Home » Keeping office air germ free – what businesses can learn from hospitals

Keeping office air germ free – what businesses can learn from hospitals

By Shaun Scannell – General Manager Air Solutions at LG Electronics

It feels like just yesterday we were dreading the start of winter, but now spring is here. As happy as we are about the warmer weather, we’re not looking forward to the sniffles and sneezes the change of season brings along with it. They’re bound to hit your office – an environment that is often a breeding ground for germs. Given the current pandemic, germs taking over your office is not ideal, and finding a way to provide safe, breathable air in your workspace should be non-negotiable.

Safe air goes further than simply your direct office space; it also refers to the building in which your office is located. Although you can take steps to control the air quality in your own space, you cannot escape the potential threats carried throughout the rest of the building. We need to look at the bigger picture if we are to prevent the spread of airborne pathogens and diseases.

Following the onset of the pandemic, businesses have put many additional measures in place to keep their spaces germ free; wiping down surfaces, sanitising hands and mask-wearing are all mandatory practices, but if the quality of the air we breathe isn’t considered, this could all be futile. A flexible air handling solution might just be the most important thing a business can look into in order to provide employees with fresh, safe indoor air at a comfortable temperature. And who better turn to for advise than hospitals? After all, they’re the experts at maintaining germ-free environments.

Can an air conditioner reduce the presence of germs? 

Ensuring sufficient air circulation in enclosed spaces means that contaminated air flows out of the system, while fresh, breathable air flows in. An air conditioner with the correct air purification system filters out various particles, including pollen, dust and bacteria, so that fewer of those harmful substances linger in the office space. 

With research now indicating that the coronavirus is potentially airborne, there’s no better time to look into the state of your building’s air conditioning system. Companies and their employees could be at risk if their current air conditioners are unable to properly filter and purify the air. Consulting a building expert will help you in determining whether or not your current system needs to be upgraded. 

In addition to air conditioners, tech-like UV lights and bipolar ionisation can be used to neutralise viruses and bacteria by releasing electrically charged atoms that attach to the pathogens in the environment.

The role of UV lights and bipolar ionisation in air purification

Research has found that UV lights are effective in treating viruses, mould and bacteria present in the air we breathe. This technology can be used to sterilise HVAC systems, as well as in germicide systems in shopping centres, restaurants, hospitals, and other public places.

The UV lights in HVAC systems remove microorganisms and disrupt the RNA and DNA of germs, influencing their ability to reproduce. They can also prevent the growth and build-up of fungi, bacteria, pollen and dust in your air purification system, reducing the risk of it being spread in the air we breathe. This, in turn, diminishes the risk of transmitting airborne illnesses.

Another way to clean the air is through bipolar ionisation. Air solutions that use bipolar ionisation can reduce the presence of airborne viruses by manipulating the positive and negative ions that form when air flows through the system. When charged, these atoms attach to substances such as bacteria and mould, and neutralise the threat posed by unwanted intruders in the environment. This prevents the dispersal of these germs and pathogens within the airflow system.

How do hospitals keep the air clean?

So, what do hospitals do to keep the air safe for patients and staff? Of course, they take stringent precautions when it comes to wearing masks and sanitisation, but they also pay attention to the air in the building. With Covid-19 to consider, many hospitals have added extra air filtration systems or units in their wards to mitigate the spread of the virus. These systems need to meet strict hygiene and maintenance requirements in order to keep patients and staff safe and healthy.

An example of a hospital adapting to the sudden influx of Covid-19 cases is Clairwood Hospital in Durban. To deal with the cases, they needed to convert their general wards into isolation and quarantine wards. They used a hybrid package solution from LG that utilises optimum filtration levels to provide air clean enough for their ICU.

Businesses can follow the example set by hospitals when it comes to keeping the air clean. State-of-the-art VRF Multi V5 units that have been equipped with temperature and humidity sensors enable precise monitoring and control. Units equipped with LG’s communication module can be integrated with all types of DX-AHUs to either discharge air or return air control.  

Energy concerns

Of course, one should always consider energy efficiency when using HVAC systems. Smart inverter technology allows for a wide range of functions, while actually reducing heating and cooling costs. Always look for an air conditioner that features this technology to keep costs low.

These types of air conditioners maintain indoor temperatures by using the minimum breeze needed to maintain the desired temperature. This guarantees more efficient operation, especially when compared to the more commonly used constant speed air conditioners that switch on and off to maintain the desired temperature. 

As we move into spring, it is important to still be aware of the ongoing pandemic. Businesses can help keep their employees safe with something as simple as an air handling system, and a reputable air conditioner expert will be able to advise on which one will meet their needs. Public spaces and buildings need a unique approach to air solutions, as there is no blanket approach to maintaining safe, breathable air quality.