How often do you think about your building’s indoor air? Most people would answer that question by saying that up until a few months ago, they didn’t give it much thought. When the building’s HVAC system turned on, warm or cool air was pumped through the building, and everyone was comfortable. Of course, indoor air pollution, Legionaries disease, mold, dust and odors permeated through buildings long before the appearance of COVID-19. If all that particulate matter built-up in significant enough quantities, a building was said to have Sick Building Syndrome, which is a condition that is noted by a sudden and significant increase in headaches and indoor allergy symptoms. In order to ensure that a building’s air is healthy, it has to have a mechanical ventilation system to source and distribute outdoor air in a controlled manner inside the building.
Understanding Mechanical and Natural Ventilation
When we talk about mechanical ventilation, we are talking about a system of fans, dampeners and air ducts that allow fresh air into the building and stale air out of the building. Without the ventilation (V) part of an HVAC system, the air inside the building would recirculate endlessly and outside air would only enter the building when a door or window happened to be opened. This scenario would allow pollen, dust, dirt, dander and pathogens to accumulate inside the building, leading to unhealthy levels of indoor air pollution. This would also result in an increase in odors and humidity.
Natural building ventilation is the opening of a door or window. When a door or window is opened indoor air is allowed outside and outdoor air is allowed inside, and up until the invention of air conditioners and furnaces and the increased importance of energy-efficiency, this was how buildings were ventilated. If the indoor conditions in a room became uncomfortable, someone in the room opened a window or the exterior doors to the home or building were opened to allow fresh air inside.
Unfortunately, natural ventilation offers little control over what outdoor air enters the building, how much outdoor air enters the building and how it’s distributed, which means it is inefficient, and if a car happens to drive by with a leaking exhaust, that exhaust can enter the building. This is why modern buildings need mechanical ventilation.
Benefits of Mechanical Ventilation
Mechanical ventilation offers two major benefits over natural ventilation, including controlling where the fresh, outdoor air comes from and how that air is filtered and distributed throughout the building.
1. Ability to Control the Fresh Air Source
Where the fresh air that enters your building comes from is important. This is because you wouldn’t want a fresh air intake next to your parking lot where it can suck in car exhaust. You also wouldn’t want it located next to an exhaust vent for a kitchen where it can suck in cooking odors. The good news is that fresh air intakes can be located almost anywhere on the exterior of your building, including on your roof. By sourcing air from the best possible location, you are ensuring that fresh, clean outdoor air enters your mechanical ventilation system.
2. Ability to Control How Much Fresh Air Enters the Building
The second most important way your mechanical ventilation system helps you is by allowing only a certain amount of fresh air into the building and directing the outdoor air to where your building needs it the most. Of course, there is a process as to how the fresh air is allowed into your building and how it is circulated. Sensors inside your multi-unit residential building, commercial building or industrial building monitor certain gas levels, like CO2 and nitrogen. Once the level of these gases reaches a certain point, dampeners open on both the exhaust and the intake sides of the system. The exhaust dampeners allow stale air out of the building, and the intake dampeners allow fresh air into the building. Once the fresh air enters your Chicago building, it is filtered and either heated or cooled and circulated through your HVAC air ducts. By regularly allowing fresh air into your building in controlled amounts, it helps displace particulate matter that could be floating in your indoor air and improves your indoor air quality.
Mechanical Ventilation Solutions from Althoff, Serving Chicago
Here at Althoff, serving Chicago, we offer custom mechanical ventilation solutions to help you improve the health of your indoor air while not dramatically increasing your heating or cooling bills. We can add fans, dampeners, air intakes and exhausts to your building’s HVAC system in order to precisely remove stale air and indoor pollutants and to allow fresh air into your building. We do this by first examining your building’s current HVAC system and mechanical ventilation system and by performing air balancing tests. Next, we recommend upgrades and improvements to your system and explain their benefits. Once you agree to the upgrades, we order the parts and install them in a timely manner.
To learn more about how we can help keep your air fresh and healthy with mechanical ventilation solutions, give us a call at 800-225-2443.