It is widely known that people can develop allergy, asthma and other symptoms from air conditioning, but many people do not realize that mold growth in the cooling coil in the heart of the A/C system is the culprit. Mold buildup within A/C systems, including the fan coil units found in condominiums and apartments, is a universal occurrence that is not limited to hot and humid climates.
To make sure mold did not become a problem for its 2000 residents, the Condominium Board of Number One York Quay (Toronto) proactively found an effective and affordable solution: They retrofitted the systems with germicidal “UVC Emitters™” manufactured by Steril-Aire, Inc. to stop the growth and spread of mold and mold spores, viruses and bacteria. Board president Ken Wigley reports: “The UVC Emitters have improved indoor air quality and system cleanliness at a fraction the cost of alternative strategies.” The installation, which includes 1,240 fan coils as well as the make-up air units that serve the building, is believed to be the largest of its type.
The search for solutions
The fan coil units in Number One York Quay’s two 40-story towers had been operating for nearly 20 years and were showing their age. Determined to refurbish the units and eliminate existing mold, the Board did extensive research in concert with onsite property manager Brookfield Residential Services Ltd., Toronto. They looked into removing moldy insulation lining the inside of the fan coils and replacing it with new insulation and coils, but the cost would have been prohibitive (about $2.5 million); and the solution would have been temporary, as mold would be certain to return in time. They investigated a number of sprays and coatings, but none offered a practical solution.
After further research, the Board learned of a device that uses the “C” wavelength of the ultraviolet spectrum (UVC) to target the DNA of mold, bacteria and viruses, killing the cells or making replication impossible. Installed in A/C systems opposite the coil, UVC is proven in scientific studies to have a dramatic impact on mold proliferation, reducing the formation of mold colonies by well over 99 percent. Unlike other remedial methods, whose effects are only temporary, UVC attacks mold at its source, the cooling coil – bathing the coil continuously in germicidal energy to ensure that mold will not return.
The Board brought in the UVC industry leader, Steril-Aire, Inc., to work with them on a solution. The first step was to install the devices in a dozen fan coils to test their effectiveness. The make-up air units serving the two towers were also equipped with UVC at that time to ensure that the air entering from the rooftop intakes would be as clean as possible.
“Before” and “after” Petri dish sampling measured 99+ percent reductions in mold counts on the test units. Photographs provided further visual evidence of the improvement, as coils were now noticeably cleaner and free of mold and organic buildup that had been present prior to UVC.
Audit, final planning
“By the conclusion of the test period, we were convinced that UVC lights were an excellent solution, but we also believed that the lights could only perform at their best if the fan coils were in proper working order,” says Wigley. The Board brought in Climanetics, Inc. (Vaughan, Ontario), an HVAC service company specializing in high-rise condominiums, to perform a complete audit of the project. This audit included detailed study and photo documentation of all 1,240 fan coils, as well as an evaluation of what had to be done to restore each unit to good operating condition.
“The audit provided us with a detailed roadmap of the required work and the projected costs,” Wigley reports. “Using this information, the Board voted to approve the retrofit project for the 2008 financial year. We were able to use monies from the reserve fund to finance the work, an important point since it allowed us to make the necessary improvements without raising maintenance fees.”
Climanetics began installing the UVC devices in February 2008 and completed the installation and other remedial tasks about eight weeks later.
“We have been very pleased with the performance of the Steril-Aire UVC devices and with the work done by Climanetics,” Board president Wigley states. “The Board has received many positive comments on the air quality, particularly among residents with asthmatic children. We have heard reports of reduced allergy and asthma symptoms from several sources.”
The Board recognizes that mould abatement is just one benefit. UVC also prevents harmful viruses and bacteria from recirculating through the air, for a cleaner and safer indoor environment. UVC energy is safe to use, is chemical-free, and does not produce ozone, a problem associated with some other air purification devices.
As a bonus, UVC is proving to be a useful marketing tool for owners who wish to re-sell or lease their suites. “Lots of places offer fitness clubs and pools, but the use of UVC to enhance air quality is fairly novel and appeals to a certain type of buyer. It also shows that the Board and residents here take a proactive approach,” Wigley notes. “Recognizing this, some of the sellers in the complex are mentioning it in their advertisements.”
Number One York Quay
Located on Toronto’s waterfront in the Harbourfront Centre District, Number One York Quay is one of the city’s most prestigious condominium developments. The complex includes more than 800 luxury suites from 600 – 2,000 sq ft, with some units as large as 4,000 sq ft. Amenities include indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a fitness center, private restaurant and lounge, sauna and steam rooms, billiard room, squash and basketball facilities and 24-hour concierge.