Making Calgary’s offices safer during COVID

Ventilation and routine air changes are vital to keeping building occupants safe in the pandemic era.  Servicing your make up air unit and other ventilation equipment will give peace of mind to all that are breathing the indoor air.  In some cases, complete overhaul or retrofit of a ventilation system is needed JDC Mechanical specializes in these projects.

Air handling unit

Makeup air unit vs air handling unit

The two different names for these pieces of mechanical equipment can be used interchangeably though a makeup air unit is usually meant to handle larger volumes of air.   In some geographic areas makeup air unit will be more common and air handling unit in others.  Basic understanding both pieces of equipment can be helpful for property owners when creating equipment inventories and setting up service calls.  For instance, equipment may be labelled AHU which would be short for air handling unit or MUA which is short for makeup air.  If your equipment is not labelled, we can attend your property in the Calgary area and assist with identification.

How does COVID impact air handling unit design and implementation?

COVID-19 has impacted building occupancy rates all while focus must be kept on keeping fresh air concentrations optimal to reduce any risk of infection.  Usually with fewer occupants, air exchange rates can be decreased but to safeguard against COVID-19 more exchanges are required.

A fresh air handling unit programmed to provide more fresh air and more exchanges of air in combination with HEPA filtration has long been the standard for office spaces.  The design of the air handling unit itself will not change due to COVID-19 but the frequency that monitoring and service should take place, will.   Existing automation and mechanical equipment configurations may need to be re-evaluated for the highest level of protection.  With COVID workplace guidelines rapidly changing it’s also best practice to check with your local health protection office to meet or exceed newly created regulations.

How does an air handling unit work?

Air handling units have a variety of settings which can either blend air from the indoor space with fresh air, totally purge the indoor air and replace with fresh air only or finally re-circulate the indoor air (usually through a series of filters to capture particulate and other irritants).  On top of all these points air handling units must also heat or cool the air before release into the occupied space.

Do air handling units have refrigerant?

Yes, in some cases air handling units will have refrigerants or chilled water for cooling purposes when ambient temperatures require cooling.  This is why only a certified HVAC equipment contractor should take on the job, here at JDC Mechanical we are fully red seal certified and hold a number of refrigerant handling qualifications.

What about heating from a make-up air or air handling unit?

Most often, natural gas is used to heat the air before it’s blended or re-circulated. One common issue with heating in air handling units is that the combustion of natural gas is incomplete and the combustion rate has not been optimized, there will be a very slight odour of natural gas in these cases.  If you notice this, contact us to have your equipment assessed as soon as possible.  When routine service and maintenance of air handling units is neglected this outcome can increase operating costs and put anyone in the area in danger.

How often should an air handling unit be serviced?

Always follow your equipment manufacture specifications for service to avoid costly breakdowns and interrupted air exchanges.  Do not rely on service date stickers from past HVAC contractors unless you have a relationship with this contractor.  Sometimes information can get lost in translation when this happens and, after all this equipment is crucial to your building operations and paying attention to these small details could add assurance that the equipment is running optimally. Most of our customers elect for annual or bi-annual service for economical operation and worry-free air quality.