Today’s trends in indoor air pollution from H&V

Mike Clark, division president of High Efficiency and Specialty Filtration at Hollingsworth & Vose.
Mike Clark, division president of High Efficiency and Specialty Filtration at Hollingsworth & Vose.

Indoor air pollution is probably receiving more attention than ever. Here Mike Clark, division president of High Efficiency and Specialty Filtration at Hollingsworth & Vose discusses some of the key issues surrounding air pollution and filtration today. 

At last year’s FILTECH show in Cologne, Germany Mike Clark agreed to answer a series of questions related to the importance of Air Filtration. Topics included methods of selecting the right solution, how can filter media contribute to energy savings and trends and important future developments in the Air Filtration Segment. The questions began with people’s awareness of air pollution itself

Q: The topic of Indoor Air Pollution is getting more and more attention. Given that we spend more than 80% of our time indoors, it is easy to see why we should be more concerned over indoor than outdoor pollution.  What would you say, are we at a point where there is enough awareness of the issue?

Mike Clark (MC): That is a good question and I would say absolutely not. We have just started at a point where we are appreciating outdoor air quality. You can see outdoor air quality for example being monitored and reported with the weather reports. You can also see it, feel it, sometimes even taste it. 

Indoors though, it doesn’t get the same attention. Typically, indoor air quality is worse than the outdoor air quality, since it is outdoor air quality plus the pollutants that are created from indoor sources. This is why indoor air quality deserves more focus than it is getting today.

Q: After sitting in a meeting for a few hours people start to feel tired and stuffy, some will get a headache. We have all experienced that. In your opinion, is there enough awareness on the topic of Air Pollution at workplaces? Why should organizations worry about this?

MC: Indoor air quality at workplaces is particularly important because of all the time we spend there. Typically, people are spending around 40 hours a week, or more, at work and that is a lot of time to spend in one place. 

Especially if you do not know what the air quality is. So, I think a lot more efforts shout be put into caring for your employees. It has an immediate payback in productivity and people feeling better about themselves and the environment they work in.

Q: Let us go one step back and talk about Indoor Air Quality at schools, preschools and kindergartens. There is an even higher risk for children, as their developing bodies are at a greater risk and more susceptible to air pollutants. How do we protect them? MC: Well like in the workplaces, the air quality in schools is a particularly emotional topic because most people obviously care more than anything in the world about their kids. You want the air quality to be good there. 

There are many strange illnesses that we see at schools now. Increase in asthma is a big topic. We don’t have this correlation directly to air quality, but we really assume it is something related to it where this is coming from. We should be doing all that we can to control the air quality in schools. It is really money well spent.

Q: There is a lot of scientific information out there on the topic of IAQ. In addition, there are numerous standards recommending the right filter performance or filter class. That means that a decision maker, let’s say an HVAC planner, or a facility manager, needs to look at a lot of information.  Is there a simple way to select the right filtration solution?

MC: Filtration is somewhat complicated. Of course, within the filtration industry, everything is quite technical; there are many standards driving it. We need those standards to make sure that we design the right products to have the right indoor air quality. I think the best way to choose the right air filters is with one of these application guides judging by the type of building it is, the type of use it is. There are some general guidelines, which are really helpful. 

Beyond that though, you want a high efficiency filtration system but also one that has a low pressure drop, and therefore low energy usage, which means that you are not going to contribute back into the pollution cycle by wasting energy.

Q: Decision makers are also often facing increased cost pressure, making them decide to install a low-cost filtration solution. Can you explain why choosing a low-cost solution sometimes means much higher overall lifecycle costs of both the filter and the HVAC unit?

MC: The additional cost of a filter is really a small proportion to the total cost of ownership of using a filter. We know that energy cost outweighs the cost of the initial filter by far. Typically, you can pay off the initial filter cost in a matter of months if you have the proper filter. I really think that you must look into the total operating cost, not just that initial filter cost. If you have one that has half the energy use of the other, that would pay for itself in a very short time.

Q: Statistics says that in Europe as much as 40% of the total energy is consumed in buildings. The cleanest and most sustainable way to meet this energy requirement is energy efficiency. Why is energy efficiency so important and how can filter media contribute to energy savings?

MC: It seems counterintuitive, but the filter has a big impact on the energy usage of a building. True, most of the energy goes into the heating and cooling system. However, a great deal of energy is going into pushing the airstream across the filter. 

So if you can provide a filter that has a lower pressure drop, particularly a significantly lower pressure drop, talking 25, 30 or 40% lower pressure drop that is 25, 30 or 40% less energy you are using to push that airstream across the filter and that ends up to real money. In a very large building such as an airport terminal that can end up to be in an order of a US $100.000 a year.

Q: Hollingsworth & Vose advanced materials contribute to a cleaner world through their use in products that provide clean air, clean liquids and energy storage. As part of H&V’s Leadership, can you explain how people at H&V connect the work they do with a larger vision that improves the world itself?

MC: I really like this topic a lot. Advanced materials for a cleaner world, that is really H&V’s mission. I think we all want to go to work and given all the time that we spend there, we want to feel good about what we are doing, feel that we are making a positive contribution to the world. I think we really do that in a small but significant way with the filtration products that we have. 

Our products are helping clean the air, provide healthier environments for people to live in, work in, play in and grow up in. I think that really is important. You look at what we can do for people’s health, what we can do in terms of energy consumption and the prevention of pollution in the world. We can have a real impact on that. In our own way, even as a small company by providing great filtration solutions.

Q: What do you see as trends and ­important future developments in the air filtration segment? 

MC: I think this really comes back full circle to where we started the conversation on the awareness of indoor air quality. People need to have a better way to understand what the air quality is all about. With new technologies, we have seen sensors deployed within buildings where you can measure the air quality. Once you have that information you can decide to do something about it, and we have great solutions that enable you to do that. 

The filtration system of a building would be able to continuously monitor the filtration and the air quality in the building and come on and off as necessary. I think that is going to be the biggest trend. That would really drive awareness and would drive the industry towards increasing efficiency standards. But most importantly increasing filtration efficiency standards would lower energy consumption, so that we are not contributing back to the ­pollution problem.