Editor’s note: FM Perspectives are industry op-eds. The views expressed are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect those of Facilities Management Advisor.
For children, Christmas is a time for a break from school and a time for opening presents. For K-12 school leaders, Christmas break is an opportunity to service HVAC units that will soon be running regularly, ensuring optimal performance as temperatures gradually decline in the coming months.
According to insights shared in a 2022 article by The Refrigeration School, approximately 41% of public school districts are due for HVAC updates or replacements. With units running regularly during the winter months, there is a greater chance for malfunctions or complete system failures if the units are not serviced and maintained. In addition, this can also result in poor indoor air quality (IAQ).
With students being out of school for over a week, Christmas break serves as the optimal time to assess your HVAC solutions and perform maintenance tasks that can optimize the unit for the next several months.
When it comes to maintaining K-12 HVAC solutions, there is no better place to start than maintenance agreements. These agreements can help facilities managers guarantee the HVAC solutions are being kept in optimal condition well ahead of the winter months. Regular inspections are included in maintenance agreements, which help ensure no filter, belt, or pulley is left unchecked. Some of the key aspects of an inspection include:
- Installing new filters,
- Cleaning external surfaces,
- Checking and recording operational data for cooling and/or heating operations,
- Checking all electrical connections and mechanical connections,
- Brushing and vacuuming all coils,
- Cleaning and vacuuming inside the cabinet,
- Checking the condensate drain line on high efficiency units,
- And much more.
If you don’t have a maintenance agreement in place, it’s recommended that you contact a trusted, certified professional to perform an inspection during the Christmas break. This will help keep your unit running at maximum capacity and alert you to any outstanding repairs that need to be addressed prior to the children returning to school.
While an inspection ensures your school’s air filters are clean and working properly, it’s important to consider ways to enhance your unit’s filtration system. The flu and other airborne pathogens spread at a high rate during the cold months. According to Verywell Health, 6.2% of specimens tested in November 2023 by U.S. clinical laboratories returned a positive result. So, it’s paramount that facilities managers consider upgrades for their schools. While the installation process will likely take place well after winter break, taking the time to research and find the right filtration upgrades or additions is a terrific first step.
One upgrade that will provide an extra layer of defense against airborne pathogens is air disinfection systems. These products can be installed to assist your current HVAC system and often combine an ultraviolet germicidal irradiation (UVGI) chamber and air-circulating fans to neutralize viruses, bacteria, and fungi. This can help minimize the threat of airborne pathogens from spreading throughout the facility.
This is just one filtration accessory that facilities managers can consider during Christmas break. If air disinfection systems are the right option for your facility, consider developing a plan to have those installed sooner rather than later.
The Spirit of Giving
Year-end holidays and festivities tend to put people in a spirit of giving. As a facilities manager at a K-12 school, giving your students the gift of clean air is one of the best presents out there. To do that, you must have an HVAC unit that is working properly. While Christmas break is a time to relax for students, facilities managers should maximize the time by scheduling an inspection for their HVAC systems to ensure it’s working properly and at maximum capacity. In addition, this is also a great time to assess potential filtration upgrades or additions that can better equip the school to combat airborne pathogens.
So, give students the gift that keeps on giving this season by taking the proper steps to deliver clean air during the colder months.
Peter Snow is the aftermarket sales manager for the IAQ division of Modine Manufacturing Co., a global thermal management solutions provider headquarter in Racine, Wis.