As a business owner, you probably don’t have “Improve air quality” at the top of your list. But, maybe it should at least be in your top ten. It affects your health, your employees’ health, and yes: Your bottom line.
Consider this: According to the Environmental Protection Agency, people spend 90 percent of their time indoors. And, a lot of that time is at work.
Your average office or commercial space doesn’t have natural air flow. Most office buildings don’t even let you open the windows. That puts you in charge of the air people are breathing.
When the air in a commercial space isn’t clean, people experience:
- Dry and irritated eyes, noses, and skin
- Headaches, nausea, and dizziness
- Coughing, sneezing, and congestion
Employees aren’t as productive and are more likely to call out sick. In fact, some studies show that you can improve productivity by eight percent if you improve the air you and your people breathe.
Here at Bovio, we’ve helped businesses all across South Jersey find out how good – or bad – their air is, and how to improve it.
It’s something to consider if you own a business on the main street in a town like Haddonfield or Millville. Or, if you’re set up in one of the office parks in Cherry Hill or West Berlin. Or, anything in between.
Let’s look at how to do it.
Make it a team effort
You don’t need to start off with a big investment. Cleaner air can be as simple as:
- Getting rid of waste properly
- Keeping food sealed
- Keeping vents and ducts clear
- Working with your building manager
Some of these are all small things where everyone can — and should — pitch in. Encourage your employees not to leave food out and keep the refrigerator and sinks clean. That’s an easy way to avoid mold and other airborne toxins.
Next, consider air circulation when you’re planning your layout or moving things around. Sometimes it’s tempting to block a vent or duct to get the copier or printer in the best spot for everyone. But, this causes problems down the line.
Those ducts and vents do more than provide heat or air conditioning. They’re also circulating the air and helping keep it clean. We’ll look into that a little more in a moment.
But, when you block vents, you’re making it a lot harder for them to do their job. That messes with the temperature. And, particles in the air won’t get filtered out. Instead, they’ll hang around and irritate people.
Finally, make sure you’re on good terms with your building manager. Or, if that’s you, keep open lines with your tenants. It can be tough to pinpoint what’s causing a problem.
This is where a test can go a long way. But, you’ll also want to be sure people are doing their part to keep the place clean and the air circulating. Finally, communication is key as you monitor symptoms and try different solutions.
If everyone’s on the same team, it’s easier to find and solve the problem.
Improve commercial air quality with filters and air purifiers
The HVAC system in your building can be a cause of, and solution to, your problems. You can improve commercial air quality in your office using:
- Stronger air filters
- Air purifiers
Let’s look at filters and air purifiers first. In some ways, these do the same thing: They block and trap small particles from circulating through the building and hanging in the air.
Every HVAC system has filters. And, just like at home, you should change them regularly. But, if employees show signs of irritation from allergens or other airborne particles, you may need something stronger.
That’s when you’ll look into purifiers and filters with MERV or HEPA ratings. Alphabet soup aside for a moment, those acronyms tell you what kinds of particles they’ll trap.
MERV stands for “Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value.” That probably didn’t help. At any rate, it’s a rating system. The higher the rating, the more, and smaller particles, the filter will trap.
Your average filter traps “larger” particles like dust mites and pollen. But, you’d need a higher MERV rating to catch smaller allergens and other problem-causers.
HEPA, or “High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance” filters, block virtually everything from getting through. That’s on down to germs and residuals from cigarette smoke.
So, why not just go right to the strongest filter? Well, the cost for one. Those start to get expensive, especially for large commercial buildings. And, then there’s air pressure.
A filter weakens the air pressure in your system by adding resistance. It also prevents air from flowing through as it blocks those particles. The stronger the filter, the more resistance.
In fact, most HEPA filters are only used in places such as hospital “clean rooms,” where you need a completely sterile environment. At that point, you also need an HVAC system strong enough to maintain airflow.
How do you know what’s right for your building? Again, testing will tell you what you’re dealing with. Then, you need to consider your system’s strength. A professional can help you weigh these factors and make the right choice.
Humidity plays a role
Finally, let’s look at humidity. Too much or too little are both problems. And, this gets tricky as the seasons change.
Warmer air is naturally more humid than colder air. It can hold more moisture. That’s why it gets muggy in the summertime.
It’s also why you’ll notice more static electricity in the winter. The air is dryer, which makes it a better conductor.
Now, let’s go a little deeper. Too much moisture makes your office a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Those spores circulate in the air. The same goes for other allergens and irritants.
Meanwhile, low humidity is a wintertime problem. Since it’s cold outside, there’s less water vapor in the air than in the summer.
Next, your HVAC system is heating the air. But, it doesn’t add moisture. That makes it feel even drier. And, it starts to affect people’s health.
You’ll notice some people getting nosebleeds because the membranes in their noses are dried out and cracking. That makes people get sick easier. The body can’t keep germs out.
Add that to extra junk in the air, and you’ve got people calling out sick left and right. Or, they’re hacking and sneezing all over the place, spreading more germs and yucky stuff in the air.
Summer’s not as bad for this. After all, your air conditioner also removes moisture from the air to make it feel cooler. But, you can add a dehumidifier if that’s not enough. Ultimately, you want to keep your relative humidity between 30 and 60 percent.
How do you know where you stand? A humidistat for starters. From there, a qualified HVAC tech can help you determine if you need to add more or less moisture to the air.
Does your office or commercial space suffer from poor indoor air quality? Contact us, and we’ll help you find the problem and solve it.
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