Cliff Ewing – How Can Ventilation Systems Be Used to Slow the Spread of the Corona Virus?

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Cliff Ewing
Cliff Ewing

Cliff Ewing and I talked about an important part of elder care that is often left out of the conversation – heating, ventilation, and air conditioning, or HVAC. During his seven years in the HVAC industry, he’s worked on projects in multifamily settings, healthcare settings, and emergency room settings. We talk about the impact COVID is having on his work and how it is making HVAC more important than ever for our immunocompromised aging population. Finally, we discuss the benefits of improved air quality and the unfortunate obstacles that prevent some long-term care facilities from implementing better HVAC practices.

Hanh Brown: [00:00:00] So cliff, thank you so much for taking the time to be here with me today.

Cliff Ewing: [00:01:47] Well, thank you for having me, I really appreciate the opportunity to speak on the topic of HPAC.

Hanh Brown: [00:01:53] Great. Thank you. So let’s start by having you share with the audience a little bit about yourself, where you’re from and what projects are you working on right now?

Cliff Ewing: [00:02:02] Yeah, that’s great. Again, my name is cliff Ewing. I’m a with a company called carrier enterprise. I’ve been in the HPAC field for a little more than seven years now.

[00:02:13] Currently reside in. In Franklin, Tennessee, working on a wide range of projects from multifamily projects to healthcare, freestanding, ERs, and commercial real estate.

Hanh Brown: [00:02:26] Great. Great. Okay. For starters, can you begin reminding all of us HPAC what that stands for and what kind of services that you work on?

Cliff Ewing: [00:02:37] Yeah, absolutely.

[00:02:38] Um, just from 10,000 foot view, HPAC is heating ventilation and air conditioning and with COVID and this current pandemic ventilation is really getting a strong focus and ASHRAE the American society for heating refrigeration and air conditioning engineers. Defines ventilation as supplying or removing air from a space to control contamination, levels, humidity, and temperature.

[00:03:12] That’s why ventilation is getting so much focus is that contamination levels. So you can bring in more outside air to dilute those contamination levels and depending on how the building’s being used or occupied. You can bring in more outside air and dilute and reduce those levels of transmission. But if the building has an existing HPAC system, It’s been designed to introduce a certain amount of outside air.

[00:03:45] Sometimes it can’t handle bringing more outside air in because it’s summertime, we have hot humid air wintertime. You have cold dry air in for assisted care facilities. You want to make sure that health. Is paramount, of course, but also comfort. And you can’t bring in more outside air and it’s too warm in the summertime because of that equipment just can’t handle that load.

[00:04:11] Or in the winter time, it’s just too cold because it’s just not designed to handle all that, but there are some other ops.

Hanh Brown: [00:04:19] Great. I’m going to go back just a little bit. I feel like HPAC has been sort of not given enough attention historically, and obviously the pandemic has. Definitely brought the ventilation to the forefront.

[00:04:31] So I know you touch on the use the benefits of the HPAC. Let’s maybe do it a little bit deeper, dive on, and how can the ventilation be used to slow the spread of the coronavirus?

Cliff Ewing: [00:04:45] So the ventilation can be used by, like I said, previously, the dilution of the air. So what you’re doing is. Instead of that airs, that’s being research-related through the building.

[00:04:57] You’re bringing in outside air, which dilutes that research-related air. So it’s replacing fresh air or freshening up the building with that outside air. Additionally, there’s other products that can be introduced into the Airstream of the equipment that allows for sterilization purification as well.

Hanh Brown: [00:05:18]So, increasing ventilation.

[00:05:20] May sound like a easy fix in theory, but I’m sure there’s not always the case in practice. Now do some types of industries have an easier time increasing ventilation than others?

Cliff Ewing: [00:05:32] Certainly if you have say a warehouse where you can sacrifice some of the comfort for the increase of health side air, if the.

[00:05:43] Infrastructure like the duct and that sort of thing is large enough to allow for that. But when you don’t have those capabilities, then you have to come up with a more creative kind of layered approach to solving that problem of poor air quality infectious disease and that sort of thing.

Hanh Brown: [00:06:03]So, specifically, is it hard for long-term care communities to increase the ventilation?

[00:06:10] And can you explain why.

Cliff Ewing: [00:06:11] So, yes, it is hard for them to increase ventilation because your equipment is going to be sized for typically it’s going to be the code standards. And that code standard is going to be somewhere around 15 to 20% outside air. And even though you’re bringing in outside air nowadays with ASHRAE and the CDC, they’re the recommending.

[00:06:37] Bringing in more outside air opening windows. And now that the temperatures are starting to drop, it’s just not feasible for a facility that’s entrusted with 24 seven care to just bring in that cold air at night, bring in that warm air during the day. We want to make sure that. Everyone is safe. We have administrative safeguards, but we also want to make sure everyone’s comfortable.

[00:07:04] The facilities are not designed and the equipment’s not designed to bring in more outside air than what the code is designed around.

Hanh Brown: [00:07:12] Oh, I see. So are there other options to help stop the spread of Corona to HPAC interventions aside from ventilation?

Cliff Ewing: [00:07:21] Absolutely. I like to go with the acronym that my, uh, Colleague Douglas McNamara, coined it’s SPF.

[00:07:30] And we’re all familiar with SPF when it comes to skincare. But SPF, when it comes to indoor air quality stands for sterilization purification and filtration, and it starts from the inside of the equipment. And works its way out. So sterilization is sterilizing the internal components of the HPAC equipment.

[00:07:53] So usually you’re going to use something like a UVC light and that shines inside of the equipment and it sterilizes the equipment. So molds and bacterias and viruses can not be harbored inside of the equipment. You want to make sure that you’re using. A light that’s tuned to about 254 nanometers. And it’s very specific, but that’s a common piece of equipment in the HPAC industry.

[00:08:22] And the reason they use that is it, it will penetrate the cell membranes of microorganisms and the lipid membranes of viruses, and it destroys the DNA and RNA. So renders the viruses, inactive and kills microorganisms. There are other types of, uh, UV lights out there called vacuum UV. And those are not recommended for occupied spaces because those are known to create ozone and ozone is unhealthy for occupied spaces.

[00:08:55] Make sure you’re specifying a, the 254 nanometre UVC lights. That’ll keep everyone safe. And then. When it comes to the purification portion, these are devices that are usually downstream of the HPAC equipment. So on the leaving side of the fan, as the air is moving, and there’s two types of those there’s active purification devices, which means it distributes to the condition space.

[00:09:26] And then there’s passive means that the air needs to pass over the device for it to purify the air in the space. Couple options for active purification devices are needlepoint bipolar. I bipolar ionization. It’s a long long-term needlepoint, bipolar ionization. And photocatalytic oxidation devices. And there’s a lot of options in the market out there.

[00:09:53] A lot of different manufacturers that have produced those devices. And then for passive, you have UVC lights. Again, those can be a passive device, and then you also have activated carbon. So there’s a lot of options out there and there’s a lot of different manufacturers as well. So what you want to do is you want to make sure that the equipment is at least UL eight 67 certified, which means low ozone production or UL two nine, nine, eight certified, which means no ozone production, um, but really need to know your space because.

[00:10:31] They do a lot of different things. They’ll mold, UVC reduction, particulates that float freely in the air. It will agglomerate those. So they clumped together. So it’s filtered better. You just really need to know your space. And not only is it viruses that you want to take care of, but they do a lot more.

[00:10:52] So. Some do things better than others. So really understanding your space, you can get an engineer to help you pinpoint what, which device would be best. And then finally, there’s filtration and filtration is it’s an integral part of an HPAC system. There will be filters installed, but you want to make sure that your filters have been upgraded if possible.

[00:11:18] ASHRAE recommends it leased a Merv 13 filter and Merv is minimum efficiency, ratings value. So that just means how well it can capture those smaller particulates. So it goes anywhere from low Merv, all the way up to HEPA filtration, like they have been in hospital or rooms. So. If your equipment can handle it, increasing the efficiency value of your filters is really important because let’s take like a dining room or maybe an activity hall in an assisted living facility you have about four air changes per hour.

[00:11:57] And that means taking the total volume of the air in the room and changing over. So four times in an hour. And when that’s happening, that’s the only time those small particulates can get trapped in that filter, making it much more efficient means at each pass. You have a greater and greater chance of capturing viruses, molds, and small particulates that can really, um, aggravate breathing and people with asthma and that sort of thing.

Hanh Brown: [00:12:25] Thank you so much for all the insight, many considerations to sort out and knowing your own situation, your own current system, or maybe even new designs to incorporate all of which you’re discussing. Now, the communities are implementing layer strategies to make buildings safer. There are health checks at the door, social distancing.

[00:12:48] Enhanced cleaning base math and many more. So is there a similar layer strategy for the HPAC system?

Cliff Ewing: [00:12:57] Absolutely. All HPAC systems will have the filtration. Many of them will not have the sterilization with UV lights inside the equipment and the purification devices, that layer strategy, starting with the filters.

[00:13:12] You can increase filtration. And then if the budget allows it and if it’s a renovation or if it’s new construction, then you can add purification. You can add the sterilization. So it’s certainly, there’s no one silver bullet that’s going to be the best. Just like the administrative protocols of hand washing and social distancing and face coverings.

[00:13:37] There’s no silver bullet, but if you can layer those strategies for the HVC system, you’ll create a healthier and safer building in the process.

Hanh Brown: [00:13:49] So, can HVC make quarantining situations like isolation, more successful?

Cliff Ewing: [00:13:55] Absolutely you can target spaces, say there’s a, a duct work. That’s going specifically to one area in one room that you want to use as maybe like a visitation.

[00:14:08] Room at a facility, you can focus a purification device that will send the N ions if it’s needle point bipolar ionization specifically into that space. But also there’s other options like mobile devices, which actually on casters, it can be wheeled into a room and plugged into a 115 volt socket. And it uses HEPA filtration has its own independence fan.

[00:14:37] So what it’s doing is it’s constantly changing that air over the entire time. People are in the room, so you can make sure that. You know, it’s HEPA filtration. So it’s 99.9% efficient for very small particulates, including viruses. So it’s constantly turning that air over and in cleaning the air. There’s even some devices that not only has the HEPA filtration, but they also have a UV light as well.

[00:15:07] So it’s doing. Filtration and sterilization constantly so opens up not only in isolation room, but you know, you can even do a, an activity room as well. If you’re limiting. People coming together because of a safeguard, you can have those devices in place and you’re constantly cleaning and sterilizing that air in the space.

Hanh Brown: [00:15:32] Great information. So I understand there are even portable isolation solutions that can be wheel from room to room. So I think these will be very useful in long-term care situations where residents are often confined in their room. Well, can you tell us a little bit about how these machines would work?

Cliff Ewing: [00:15:53] I was explaining before the, instead of relying on the HVC system. Because all of these devices require them to at least the fan to be running for that air to move in. Either active purification devices are being sent to the space, or if it’s passive, that air needs to go back to the device. So, so you must have that HPAC system running with the mobile devices since they are independent and they have their own span.

[00:16:25] Those can be. Like you said, wheeled into the space is simply plugged in and that is constantly changing that arrow over and either trapping it in the filter or trapping it in the filter and killing it with UV light. So that adds that benefit. And we’ve seen some success with equipment like that in even schools as well.

[00:16:51] So there’s a great benefit to it. When you know, you can’t change the HPAC system either. It is the filters can’t even be upgraded. This is a good option where you can target specific locations in a building and allow those loved ones to spend time with their family.

Hanh Brown: [00:17:11] Now what long-term impact do you think the pandemic will have on the HVC system and specifically the senior living focus HVC industry?

Cliff Ewing: [00:17:22] I think some of the long-term impacts is we’re going to have to look at overall system design. When we think about. Minimum outside air that was really pushed by an energy initiative to bring down the total energy usage of the building. I don’t see that going away, but I do see the design is going to have to get more strategic when it comes to how you’re returning air back to the system.

[00:17:52] Because a lot of times we’ll have a single air return. And now we need to distribute that out more evenly across the building because returning that air to the HPAC system is going to be important for not only the technologies, but we don’t want that air path to move in just one location. When you have infectious diseases.

[00:18:13] And hopefully we won’t have any more pandemics in the near future, but you need to make sure that air path isn’t just going across one area of the room. You want to divide it up. So it’s, that return is more spread out in that it’s diluting that path of pathogens going back to the equipment.

Hanh Brown: [00:18:33]All right.

[00:18:33] So we talked a lot about the impact of the pandemic. What are some of the benefits of. Increase air quality in general.

Cliff Ewing: [00:18:42] Well, in general, there’s a reduction in molds and mildews, you can help with VOC. All of those things are irritants and they also really are beneficial when it comes to just the overall happiness and healthiness of the occupants in the building.

[00:19:04] If you don’t have the opportunity to bring in the fresh air, But if you can have fresher air, that’s being constantly research-related in your building. It’s like the same thing as having that fresh outside air introduced into your building. And one thing I would hate to see with indoor air quality in general is that once the pandemic is over, I would hate to see that these technologies are pushed by the wayside.

[00:19:29] Once it’s, it’s not a one-time fix, it really does help the health and the happiness of the occupants in the building.

Hanh Brown: [00:19:37] Absolutely. And then again, we never plan whenever new, the pandemic would be this size and that it would come, you know, to this magnitude. So it’s always good to take these lessons learned and incorporate that from the get-go.

Cliff Ewing: [00:19:52] Absolutely. We know we will get on the other side of this, but we want to make sure that. Some of the benefits that we get from adding more ventilation, adding these devices. We don’t want to just put those on the chopping block when the next time we need to look at the budget and figure out what, how we can save money.

[00:20:13] We just really need to evaluate. How this device is helping with the, not only just the occupants, but it actually keeps the equipment cleaner and running in a more efficient manner as well.

Hanh Brown: [00:20:26] So, now you mentioned the benefits of increased air quality overall in general. So do these benefits have disproportionately positive impact on aging adults or have a weaker immune system?

Cliff Ewing: [00:20:40] Well, certainly as you get older, the immune system isn’t as strong as it was once before. And so improving the air quality is always going to be at the most benefit for those, with the lower immune response, anyone who has respiratory issues, improving the indoor air and getting rid of those fine particulates.

[00:21:04] It’s going to improve the quality of life molds and those sorts of things. Any respiratory irritant, most of these indoor air quality devices will assist with that and make quality of life sense.

Hanh Brown: [00:21:19] So do you have any other thoughts that you would like to share with the listeners?

Cliff Ewing: [00:21:24] Well, the last thing is assisted living facilities and they’re caring for some of our greatest assets in this country.

[00:21:31] People that we’ve. Learned from we love. And we want to make sure that we can take care of them. The best that we can. And indoor air quality will really improve the quality of life for these great people that we love and care about.

Hanh Brown: [00:21:48] Yeah. Thank you for what you’re doing. Offering technologies for better air quality, improving yours and mine, regardless of any age, but since the older adults are more vulnerable and hopefully all of the.

[00:22:01] Technology you describe or cost effective so that we can incorporate them from the get-go and perhaps make some modifications on the existing design.

Cliff Ewing: [00:22:09] Absolutely.

Hanh Brown: [00:22:11] Well, I appreciate your time.

Cliff Ewing: [00:22:13] Thank you again for the opportunity to speak on the topic, and I’m happy to answer any more questions that you have.

Hanh Brown: [00:22:20] Awesome. Good talking to you. We’ll stay in touch.

Cliff Ewing: [00:22:23] Sounds great. Thank you, hanh.

Hanh Brown: [00:22:26] Thank you so much.

Cliff’s LinkedIn Profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/cliff-ewing/

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