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4 Ways Energy Recovery Ventilation Can Improve Your Building's Indoor Environment

People are the backbone of any business and are ultimately responsible for the success and development of the organization. A recent EPA study states that a healthy, productive workforce is an essential component to a successful business, so therefore, creating a healthy work environment for people must be a primary focus of building owners and facility managers. 

The indoor environment is comprised of many elements, from lighting to layout, design to decor, and thermal comfort to indoor air quality (IAQ); they all play an instrumental role in facilitating a fruitful work environment.

Fresh air plays a vital role in maintaining healthy and comfortable indoor environments. Building codes require a frequent exchange of stale indoor air with fresh outdoor air to lower the level of all indoor pollutants. Without a constant exchange of air, indoor pollutants such as formaldehyde, airborne viruses, humidity, and other chemicals build to unhealthy levels that can trigger asthma, headaches, fatigue, and general discomfort. 

In the past, building owners and facilities managers reduced fresh air levels to save on energy costs at the expense of health. This reduction is no longer necessary due to the increased availability and code requirements for Energy Recovery Ventilation (ERV). ERVs reduce fresh air ventilation costs by up to 80% by using recycled energy from building exhaust air. In addition to lowering operating expenses, ERVs help control humidity and often pay for themselves by lowering heating and air conditioning capital equipment costs.

Without an energy recovery solution in place, air that is treated for temperature and humidity will simply leave a building. The work that has already been done to heat, cool, humidify or dehumidify the space will need to be repeated for the incoming fresh air multiple times per hour. Implementing an ERV solution helps building owners meet ventilation code, lower operating costs, and improve indoor air quality. 

When looking to maintain or improve a buildings’ indoor environment with an ERV, keep these benefits in mind:

1) Humidity – On warm humid days, humidity contained in fresh outdoor air often overpowers the air conditioning system and creates a challenge for facility managers to keep tenants comfortable. If humidity is a concern, select an ERV that utilizes an enthalpy transfer device, such as an energy recovery wheel, to overcome his challenge. Energy recovery wheels remove up to 80 percent of the humidity from the fresh air before it contacts the air conditioning coil; the result is air that is cool, comfortably dry, and does not contribute to the formation of mold and mildew.

2) Productivity – According to the EPA, a school’s indoor environment can have a significant impact on children’s learning and productivity. Studies have shown links between poor IAQ and children’s health problems, reduced performance scores and increased absenteeism. Similarly, the productivity of a company’s workforce is dramatically impacted when forced to work in a less-than-ideal environment. ERVs deliver affordable fresh air to ensure a healthy and productive environment without the energy penalty historically attributed to fresh air.

3) Health – With half of all illnesses attributable to indoor airborne contaminants, the EPA has declared IAQ a public health priority. Federal, state, and local building codes have followed suit in mandating minimum outdoor air ventilation rates based upon the size and function of buildings. ERV is the only ventilation strategy that can simultaneously reduce the levels of all indoor pollutants for health and reduce the size and operating cost of the HVAC system.

4) Cost savings – It is important to note that including an ERV in your HVAC design provides substantial savings, both up front and over time. A facility manager can expect minimal or no added first cost to installing an ERV in a retrofit or new construction project. Additionally, first cost may be offset with energy recovery incentives offered by many utilities and local, state, and federal governments. 

Kenneth Paul Drews is the marketing communications manager at Airxchange. He can be reached at KennethDrews@airxchange.com.

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