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How To Stop Your Air Conditioning From Making Your Employees Sick

by Wade Black

You depend on your air conditioning to keep your commercial building cool and your employees comfortable. But in some cases, your air conditioning could be costing you by actually making your employees sick. 

Recent New York-area outbreaks of Legionnaires' disease, a type of pneumonia that can be fatal, have sparked inquiries about how air conditioning can spread microbes throughout a commercial working environment. As many as 50,000 people getting sick each year from just this one type of bacteria.

An Environment for Contaminants

The sad news is that air conditioning systems can recirculate any contaminants that are in the air, whether those are disease-causing bacteria, allergens or mold spores. 

Many surfaces throughout the AC system collect moisture, including cooling coils and drip pans. Cooled air blows right by these areas en route to your employees, and can carry molds and other organisms that cause respiratory issues in some people. 

How to Fix the Problem

Once an air conditioning system is contaminated with mold or bacteria, it can be challenging to eradicate the problem. 

The first step is to have your air conditioning repair technician perform a cleaning of the system. They will replace filters and wipe down problem areas like the coils that can harbor nasty micro-organisms. A couple of other potential solutions may also improve the health of your workers:

  1. UV rays. Some businesses have had success using ultraviolet (UV) radiation to kill airborne molds and pathogens. One study shows that certain types of UV cleaners connected to the AC system can reduce fungal spores by 75 percent and bacteria by 97 percent. Workers' respiratory symptoms can also be minimized by the reduced circulation of micro-organisms. Your HVAC specialist can tell you more about installing a UV device that can help to sterilize the indoor air.
  2. Improved ventilation. Simply adjusting the system to allow more outside air in can have its problems, however. Additional contaminants can be introduced if outside air is not properly filtered. However, the exchange of air is important so that indoor molds and pathogens don't sit within the system. A professional can install additional filtration as needed and adjust ventilation accordingly.
  3. Reduced use of air conditioning. Especially if you are located in a more moderate climate, building owners can look at ways to keep the building cooler that don't require constant running of the AC system. Ideas include making roofs reflective to reduce absorption of the sun's rays. This has an added benefit of reducing your overall energy costs.

Talk to your HVAC specialist about how to repair and maintain your building's air conditioning system so your employees stay as healthy and hard-working as possible. For more information about AC repair, contact a company like Proctor Mechanical Corp.