Tom Prevish, Ph.D., P.E., CEM, President of NorthWest Engineering Service Inc. and UC Davis Western Cooling Efficiency Center’s Research & Development Engineer, Caton Mande have published “Addressing Need for Low-Cost Ventilation Screening Tool in a Pandemic World” with HVAC & Plumbing Product News. This article is an extension of a July 2021 AABC TAB Talk Webinar presented by Caton Mande, UC Davis Western Cooling Efficiency Center.
COVID-19 has permanently or temporarily altered numerous aspects of our lives. As a testing, adjusting and balancing provider, NorthWest Engineering Service, Inc. was one of many entities to immediately recognize the importance of ventilation and ASHRAE recommended air changes per hour in mitigating the effects of coronavirus. In fact, ventilation is arguably one of the more important recommendations being discussed in the first months of the crisis.
It is important to recognize the energy and equipment lifetime impacts that can happen when HVAC systems are called upon to operate beyond design intent.
In the latter months of this past summer, when it became apparent that schools were going to bring students back to classrooms, numerous colleges and schools contacted TAB providers, and they all wanted their entire campus ready for students in September. There weren’t enough TAB professionals, bolometers and man hours in the country to rigorously balance every room in every building.
WCEC has developed the prototype using commercial-grade nondispersive infrared CO2 sensors, with off-the-shelf microcontrollers, that communicate to a central hub through a wireless mesh network with long-range (~1000ft) capability. The screening tool has advantages over existing products because using CO2 as a tracer does not raise any health concerns, it does not require direct access to every grille and it does not assume the ventilation air has been well mixed in the HVAC system.
Additionally, the prototype successfully identified zones with inadequate ventilation or provided quantitative data when data was not available in the building management system.