A Breath of Fresh Air: Optimizing Indoor Air Quality in Commercial Spaces

Optimizing Indoor Air Quality in Commercial Spaces - Lee Company

Have you ever walked into a building and immediately noticed stuffy or stale air? Or maybe you’ve experienced frequent headache, allergies, or fatigue while at work. These unsettling experiences point towards poor indoor air quality (IAQ), an often overlooked aspect of workplace wellbeing.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air can be up to five times more polluted than outdoor air. In some cases, it can be as much as 100 times worse! As a facility manager or business owner, what can you do to ensure that your occupants and employees are breathing in clean, healthy air while at work?

Below, we’ll discuss the important role of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems in maintaining IAQ.


Understanding Commercial HVAC Systems

When we talk about IAQ, we can’t overlook the central role played by commercial HVAC systems. But for most business owners or facility managers, these systems are often “out of sight, out of mind.” We rely on them to keep us cool in the summer and warm in the winter, but rarely do we think about how they function to keep the air in your commercial space clean and comfortable.

What Makes Up a Commercial HVAC System?

A commercial HVAC system is a complex network of components working together to regulate the indoor climate, ensuring optimal temperature, humidity, and air quality. Key components include:

  • Air Conditioner: Works with other subsystems to dehumidify and remove heat from the air, and support temperature regulation.
  • Air Handler: Circulates air through the system, with the evaporator coil removing heat from the air and the blower distributing air throughout the building.
  • Chiller: Available in air-cooled and water-cooled varieties, chillers remove heat from liquid in the building’s pipes. Air-cooled units are typically found outdoors, and water-cooled units rely on a constant water recirculation process.
  • Compressor: Initiates the cooling cycle, compressing refrigerant and raising its temperature to start the heat removal process.
  • Condenser: Acts as the heat exchanger, removing heat from the building and transferring it outside, while converting gas refrigerant to liquid.
  • Duct System: Distributes air throughout the building for consistent temperature and air quality.
  • Terminal Units: Comprising an air filter, coil, and blower, these units can vary in size and are used to control temperatures in specific areas.
  • Thermal Expansion Valve: Reduces pressure from the liquid refrigerant, allowing it to expand and turn into vapor, aiding in precise refrigerant flow control.
  • Thermostats: Devices that control the overall temperature and climate settings in the building.

Within each of these components are many other smaller parts and mechanisms, all working together to create a healthy and comfortable indoor environment. But what happens when these systems are not properly maintained?


The Importance of Commercial HVAC Maintenance

Some businesses and property owners forego regular commercial HVAC maintenance because they see it as an unnecessary expense. But according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, regular maintenance can improve the efficiency of your HVAC system by 5-20%, which means a significant reduction in expenses in the long run.

In addition to saving on energy costs, regular maintenance can also prevent costly breakdowns and extend the life of your HVAC system.

It’s not just about efficiency and savings; the health of your occupants is at stake. Dirty air filters or clogged ducts create a prime environment for indoor air pollutants, which are linked to 4% of global diseases. These health issues encompass a range of conditions, such as:

  • Cardiovascular problems, including heart disease
  • Respiratory conditions like pneumonia
  • Cerebrovascular incidents, such as strokes
  • Metabolic disorders, including diabetes
  • Lung cancer

On the other hand, a well-maintained system ensures cleaner air, promoting better respiratory health, and overall well-being. Here’s more information about the importance of regular commercial HVAC maintenance.

Since poor IAQ can slow down productivity and cognitive function, wouldn’t you want to make sure your employees are working in a healthy environment?


Energy Efficiency, Environmental Considerations & Tax Incentives

These days, both consumers and employees are looking to engage with brands that put sustainability and energy efficiency at the forefront. For businesses, this means that investing in an efficient HVAC system does more than just reduce energy bills — it enhances your company’s image as a responsible, green organization.

HVAC systems account for over 40% of a building’s total energy consumption, highlighting the significant impact that regular maintenance can have on energy efficiency.

Regular maintenance helps these energy-sucking systems operate at peak efficiency, leading to reduced energy use and considerable cost savings. By keeping the system free of clogged air filters and obstructions, it operates more smoothly, enhances the efficiency of the HVAC system, and prolongs its lifespan.

But embracing energy efficiency isn’t just about doing good for the planet, creating a rosy PR story for your business, or improving indoor air quality; it also makes financial sense.

In states like Tennessee, where small businesses represent a staggering 99.5% of all businesses, initiatives like the Inflation Reduction Act offer tax credits to commercial building owners for energy efficiency improvements. You can receive up to $5 per square foot for enhancements that lead to lower utility bills. Tax credits covering 30% of costs for installing solar power or purchasing clean vehicles for commercial fleets further incentivize sustainable practices.


What Maintenance Does a Commercial HVAC System Need?

Whether your facility is a small office lined with cubicles and computers, or a large factory with heavy machinery, regular maintenance is necessary for all the equipment to function properly — and this includes your commercial HVAC system.

While changing the filter is the most frequent and essential maintenance task, there are other key areas that require attention from a professional. These include:

  • Checking and repairing leaks.
  • Inspecting air ducts for mold, debris, damage, or pests.
  • Lubricating moving parts of the HVAC system.
  • Inspecting and cleaning the condenser and evaporator coils.
  • Checking refrigerant levels and refilling if necessary.
  • Calibrating thermostats and other controls.
  • Inspecting electrical connections.
  • Ensuring adequate ventilation for proper airflow.
  • Testing safety features.

Having a trained professional get their eyes on your HVAC system can save you from potential breakdowns and health hazards. They’ll know what common HVAC problems to look for and offer solutions before they escalate into major issues that interrupt your business operations.


Commercial HVAC Maintenance Schedule

We’ve established that regular maintenance is important, but what does “regular” mean? What factors should be considered when creating a maintenance schedule?

Factors Influencing Maintenance Frequency

  • System Size and Usage: Larger systems or those that are used more frequently may require more regular maintenance.
  • Climate: In regions with extreme weather conditions, HVAC systems may need to be serviced more frequently to ensure efficiency and reliability.
  • Air Quality: In areas with poor outdoor air quality, HVAC systems may need additional attention to maintain optimal indoor air quality.
  • Type of Business: Businesses with sensitive equipment or processes, such as medical facilities or data centers, may require more frequent maintenance to prevent downtime.
  • Age of the System: Older systems may need more frequent checks and cleaning to keep them running smoothly.

Recommendations for Regular Maintenance

Without knowing the specifics of your unique system and commercial property, it’s difficult to give a hard and fast recommended maintenance schedule. As a general guide, a commercial HVAC system should be inspected by a professional HVAC contractor every 3-6 months for optimal performance. Some tasks, such as filter replacements, may need to be done more frequently.

The best times to schedule maintenance are in the spring and fall, right before the peak seasons of summer and winter. This guarantees that your system is prepared to withstand heavy usage even in extreme temperatures.

Remember, regular maintenance shouldn’t be seen as an added expense, but rather a long-term investment. This is especially true when you consider the potential health and productivity benefits for your employees and occupants.


Signs of HVAC System Issues in Commercial Buildings

We know it’s easy to put off HVAC maintenance, especially when there are several other things on your plate. So, if you’ve missed a few rounds of maintenance, it’s important to keep an eye out for these common signs that your HVAC system may need attention:

  • Unusual Noises: Banging, clanking, or whistling sounds can be a sign that something is amiss. It could be a loose part, a problem with the belts, or something more serious.
  • Inconsistent Temperatures: If different parts of your building are experiencing varying temperatures, your HVAC system might be struggling to distribute air evenly.
  • Bad Odors: Musty smells could indicate mold growth within your system, while a burning odor might signal an electrical issue.
  • Increased Energy Bills: A sudden spike in your energy bills could mean your HVAC system is working harder than it should, possibly due to dirty or clogged air filters.

Don’t wait until your system breaks down to give it attention. Catching these issues early can be the difference between a simple filter replacement and a costly system repair. If you want to avoid unhappy occupants and expensive emergency repairs, regular check-ups and air filter changes are crucial.


Commercial HVAC Solutions from Lee Company

At Lee Company, we’ve seen firsthand how regular HVAC maintenance and innovative solutions can significantly improve indoor air quality and system efficiency. Here are some real-world examples:

Case Study #1: Overcoming Humidity Issues in a Dog Food Industrial Plant

A local dog food industrial plant faced humidity issues due to their choice of an air-cooled compressor. Lee Company stepped in to provide a solution that not only resolved the humidity problems but also ensured a healthier and more comfortable environment for both the workers and the pet treats being produced.



Case Study #2: Optimizing Air Quality in a Medical Setting

Hospital Corporation of America (HCA) entrusted Lee Company to overhaul their HVAC system. The result was a more reliable and efficient system ensuring a safer and more comfortable environment for patients and staff, and showcasing the critical role of HVAC maintenance in healthcare settings.



Case Study #3: Indoor Air Quality Improvements for University Housing

At Southern Adventist University, Lee Company provided an innovative solution for heating and cooling challenges in two of their residence halls. By thinking outside the box, we were able to enhance indoor air quality and create a more comfortable living space for students.



These case studies highlight the tangible benefits of prioritizing HVAC maintenance and indoor air quality. It’s not just to keep your HVAC system running smoothly, but also to protect the health and productivity of those who occupy your commercial building.


Commercial HVAC Solutions by Lee Company

Lee Company offers comprehensive facilities management solutions designed to optimize, maintain, and extend the life of your facility’s infrastructure. Our team of HVAC, plumbing, and electrical experts provides tailored plans to meet your building’s specific needs in Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, or Kentucky. From general maintenance and repairs to specialized services and around-the-clock support, we can keep your commercial space running efficiently and comfortably.

By establishing a regular maintenance schedule and partnering with professionals like Lee Company, you can ensure the longevity of your HVAC system, save on energy costs, and most importantly, maintain a healthy indoor environment for your employees, customers, and community.

Contact us today to learn more about our services and how we can help you achieve optimal indoor air quality for your commercial property!

Improve the air quality in your building today!

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