Hospital HVAC Systems

crawfordmech May 10, 2022

A heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system moves air between indoor and outdoor areas and can heat or cool rooms and entire buildings. These systems keep patients comfortable, control humidity and create a clean environment to prevent disease spread.

Beyond keeping everyone comfortable, HVAC systems maintain a consistent temperature in the hospital that allows equipment and machinery to run correctly.

Above all, an HVAC system reduces the chance of exposure to harmful bacteria and viruses. Proper ventilation allows the air to be directed outside and removes harmful particles that can impede health and safety.

Hospital HVAC Requirements

To meet standard requirements, you need to keep your patients comfortable and ensure the environment is clean so workers, patients and visitors are not exposed to bacteria or viruses that can cause infection.

Healthcare facilities must meet HVAC requirements, including:

  • Air pressure: The air pressure of a room has a relationship with the rooms adjacent. Positive pressure helps protect patients and equipment, while negative pressure can cause contaminated air to move into clean rooms. Without the proper pressure, the system can pull bacteria and viruses from adjacent spaces into otherwise safe rooms.
  • Minimum outdoor ACH: Measuring the air changes per hour (ACH) is vital to ensuring rooms receive proper ventilation. The less outside air comes in, the less energy is needed to condition the air supply.
  • Minimum total ACH: Ventilation is essential for indoor air quality. The total ACH reflects the recycled air that circulates in a room.
  • Direct exhaust outside: Direct exhaust outside improves the ventilation in a room by removing contaminants.
  • Room unit recirculation: Limiting air recirculation reduces the chances that harmful germs transfer from one room to another.
  • Unoccupied turndown: To save energy on heating and cooling, a system that permits unoccupied turndown allows you to lower the airflow and maintain relaxed temperatures when spaces are not in use.
  • Minimum filter efficiency: The filters should be able to trap large and small particles while allowing for a flow of clean air.
  • Relative humidity: Dry air can increase respiratory issues and affect the mouth, skin, nose and eyes, while excessively humid air can cause mold growth.
  • Temperature: Most patients in the facility should be comfortable in their rooms. In areas where patients require more comfort, you should keep the temperature warmer. You can often keep rooms that require clean equipment, such as operating rooms, at a lower temperature.

Hospital HVAC System Design

With so many necessary and precise controls, contractors must install an HVAC system in perfect condition. The HVAC design for hospitals and other medical facilities needs the appropriate infrastructure and components to support isolation spaces for airborne pathogens and promote the well-being of patients. Here are some factors to consider for your HVAC design:

Smart Hospital Design

Hospitals benefit from a special HVAC system design that integrates with other systems. For example, you can use smart technology to connect lighting with the HVAC system.

Lighting control could capture occupancy and communicate the information to the HVAC system or vice versa. This would allow for intelligent patient rooms and provide the system with valuable information about when it needs to maintain specific temperatures and keep a regular airflow.

VRF in Patient Care Rooms

Variable refrigerant flow (VRF) HVAC systems cool and heat individual zones through piping that connects multiple indoor units to the outdoor units. They have become popular due to their zoning ability, limiting energy use in empty spaces. 

Hospitals that want individual zones for patient rooms or nurses’ stations can utilize these systems to make everyone in the hospital comfortable with the appropriate temperature and humidity levels. VRF tends to be an affordable option, making it a viable hospital solution. Furthermore, these systems do not require the facility to shut down for installation, and the existing system can operate while the new system is installed. 

Negative Pressure Environment Recommendations

Air naturally flows from areas of high pressure to areas of low pressure. An HVAC with proper pressure ventilation keeps clean rooms, such as operating rooms, at a higher pressure than public areas that don’t need to be as clean. Likewise, keeping a room at a lower pressure than the rest of the facility prevents contaminated air from reaching other areas.

Door seals and sweeps are necessary to maintain the pressure, and you have to consider wall penetrations to implement this system. Although you can transform an existing standard room into a pressurized room, construction elements that you cannot change easily can cause the pressure differential to be different than what you expected. You should not expect to change a negative pressure room to positive pressure once you’ve implemented the design but should keep the room at negative pressure. 

Return Air and Exhaust Air Recommendations

The system should direct all return air outside. It’s best to place return air grills above a patient’s bed in isolation rooms or the headwall of other locations. Air that passes through a sterile zone and exits through the exhaust in a single pass is ideal to avoid recirculation in spaces such as operating rooms. 

Operating HVAC systems without an exhaust could bring in unconditioned, moist air that can condense on cool surfaces. Furthermore, equipment placement and consistent opening and closing of doors can obstruct airflow and room returns. 

Increased Filtration

Sick patients occupying hospital rooms have a weakened immune system. To avoid exposing patients to bacteria, airborne infections or viruses, the HVAC must have a filtration system to capture these infectious particles.

You will need to check and change the filters regularly and can expect to maintain the system frequently or risk facing commercial HVAC problems. The filters should always be clean and kept in good condition to ensure the system operates well. Noting the expected lifetime of essential pieces is vital to providing safe and clean operation. If the filters are dirty or the system is not maintained, pockets of infection can occur and harm sensitive patients. 

Choosing an HVAC System

To implement the best HVAC system, you need to find a trusted contractor with large-scale industrial experience and knowledge of health systems. If you need construction services, you’ll want to evaluate the contractor’s capabilities to ensure they’re fully prepared for the design and installation.

Finding a vertically integrated contractor can help ensure your project is completed on time since having a single source for everything can streamline the process. Assessing certifications, experience, services and HVAC capabilities is always a good idea when choosing a contractor.

Crawford Mechanical Services, Inc. serves the Columbus, Ohio, area and can install your HVAC system. Our experts also provide service visits and service plans to commercial businesses around Ohio to ensure your system works properly and improve indoor air quality.

Reliable HVAC Installation

Crawford Mechanical Services, Inc. has over 25 years of servicing in Columbus, Ohio. Our team is experienced and knowledgeable about installing HVAC systems in commercial and industrial settings. Our services can equip you with heating, cooling and a team you can rely on. 

We believe in building long-term relationships with partners and suppliers to bring value and quality to each of our services. Our business practices are environmentally safe because we value our community. 

Contact Crawford Mechanical Services, Inc. for HVAC installation. Our expert team can answer any questions you may have to ensure you receive the best service at an affordable cost.