National HVAC Technology Day: HVAC Systems Explained

Inspired by National HVAC Technology Day (22 June), we’re spreading the importance of HVAC systems as part of hard facilities management services.

Facilities management comprises ‘hard services’ and ‘soft services,’ with the former relating to functionally important (such as mechanical and electrical) systems and the latter to less structural services such as cleaning and grounds maintenance. HVAC systems fall under the hard service category and play an important role in facilities management. 

 

What Does HVAC Mean?

 

HVAC stands for Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning. From family homes to large office buildings, these systems “provide the means for environmental comfort” by providing heating, cooling, and airflow to all buildings.

The heating element of an HVAC system typically refers to a furnace or boiler, and its “pipe system for the fluid carrying the heat or ductwork” when working with forced air systems using air ducts and/or vents. Heating is just one important factor in keeping a working environment comfortable and suitable for use, especially in the cold and wet UK weather.

Ventilation can either be natural or mechanical. Ventilating a building naturally refers to “when the natural air outside moves through your windows, doors, and vents of its own accord” without the need for “specialised equipment, construction, or add-ons.” Mechanical ventilation, then, is when this equipment is present. Modern buildings are becoming more tightly sealed and thus need both natural and mechanical ventilation. Air enters the building through a “specially designed air inlet unit” and then redistributed throughout the building, often being used to “remove dust/dirt, allergens, and various other particles” along the way.

Finally, AC or Air Conditioning refers to cooling systems that work by moving the heat from inside the building to the outside, then blowing cool air back into the building. Air conditioning machines cool the air by “blowing it over a set of cool pipes, called an evaporator coil,” similar to a refrigerator. There is specific UK government guidance to follow for people managing air conditioning systems and meeting the requirements of the Energy Performance of Buildings Regulations.

 

Why Are HVAC Systems Important?

 

As HVAC systems “are responsible for the regulation of heat, airflow, ventilation, and air conditioning of an entire building,” they’re essential to the comfort and safety of visitors and employees. Regarding legal compliance, the law states that “employers must make sure there’s an adequate supply of fresh air (ventilation) in enclosed areas of the workplace.” All building owners and facility managers should opt for reliable and safe HVAC systems in their buildings.

 

HVAC Systems & Their Role in Returning to Work After COVID-19

 

HVAC systems play a vital role in the safe return to office buildings once the COVID-19 work from home order lifts. Adequate ventilation “reduces how much virus is in the air,” lowering the risk from airborne virus transmission (when optimised alongside other COVID-19 guidelines such as sanitisation, masks, and social distancing).

It’s important to make buildings COVID-secure for when employees return to office work. Alongside providing guidance to facility managers on air conditioning units and vehicle ventilation, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends following these steps for HVAC systems in your building:

  1. Identify poorly ventilated areas,
  2. Assess the fresh air/ventilation,
  3. Improve natural ventilation,
  4. Improve mechanical ventilation,
  5. Balance ventilation with keeping warm.

 

The Future of HVAC 

 

There are already advancements being made in the world of HVAC technology. Cielo claims that “fully automated, super-efficient, self-learning and sustainable HVAC systems are the future.” Recent advancements in HVAC technology/capabilities include smart technology and automation, sustainable geothermal systems, ductless systems, solar-powered HVAC systems, and more. We’re moving towards a greener, more sustainable world, and facility managers need to keep up with the changing scape of cost and energy-efficient HVAC systems.

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