Tempesta di sabbia si abbatte su città

Dust storms and HVAC systems

What is a dust storm?

In this article, we are going to analyze the relationship between dust storms and HVAC systems. A dust storm is a massive cloud of dust and debris propelled into an area by powerful winds originating from thunderstorms. The dust storm’s wall can extend for miles in length and reach heights of several thousand feet. Dust storms are common in specific regions characterized by arid or semi arid climates. Some of the most involved areas in the world are:

  • Sahara Desert and Africa;
  •  Arabian Peninsula (Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran);
  • Arizona and New Mexico;
  • Inner Mongolia, Gobi Desert, Northern and Western China;
  • Australian Outback;
  • Middle East (Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Israel);
  • Central Asia (ex: Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan).

Dust Storms: Effects on HVAC

HVAC systems are designed to maintain indoor air quality and comfort, but they are not equipped to handle dust storms. Consequently, several problems can arise:

  1. air filter clogging;
  2. reduced ventilation system efficiency;
  3. component damage.

It is also very important to know that filters, even if clean and not clogged, are not enough to prevent the dust from getting inside ventilation systems and contaminating them: they are not designed to stop the dust. 

Air conditioning systems normally get contaminated with time, but dust storms, which carry many pollutants within them, can speed the process and foster the development of viruses, fungi and bacteria, leading to poor indoor air quality. As previously mentioned, another problem is that dust damages HVAC systems, shortening their lifespan and increasing maintenance requirements, which can be very expensive. Moreover, it may be necessary to shut down the system for a period of time to prevent further damage, causing discomfort for building occupants, especially in facilites like hospitals and industrial processes where optimal air exchange is required. 
A huge sand storm engulfs the Saudi capital of Riyadh.
A huge sand storm in the Saudi capital of Riyadh, 2009.

Effects of Dust Storms on Human Health

Considering the premises, dust storm undoubtely have a negative impact on air ventilation systems and human health and safety, which also means reduced productivity. Health effects range from the discomfort caused by Sick Building Syndrome (read our article here), to more severe conditions that need prolonged recovery: Building Related Illnesses (have a look at our article here). A few examples include Legionellosis, Tuberculosis, Asthma, Urticaria and Pneumonitis. Is is worth risking your health because you don’t take care of air quality? We bet the answer is a resounding no!

How to Manage HVAC Hygiene After a Dust Storm

Typical HVAC maintenance protocols involve regular inspections and, if necessary, sanitation procedures (preventive maintenance). However, when dealing with potential dust storm-related damage to HVAC systems, the most effective approach is predictive maintenance. This involves the installation of a comprehensive system equipped with cameras and sensors capable of monitoring and assessing contamination levels within the air ducts, AHUs, and all HVAC components. This kind of next-generation systems ensure continuous monitoring of ventilation system’s cleanliness, making it possible to take immediate action in response to any contamination, without the need to wait for the next annual inspection (which might happen too late to avoid HVAC damage and health issues).

HVAC Monitoring with Remotair

The most advanced HVAC hygiene monitoring system is Remotair, which doesn’t only detect contamination, but also sends notifications to schedule sanitation activities. With Remotair, you won’t have to worry about people’s health and safety in your building anymore: indoor air quality will always be optimal!

In conclusion, dust storms negative effects on indoor air quality bring to serious health concerns too. SBS and BRI-relted absenteeism, decreased productivity and increased healthcare costs have a bad economic impact on businesses and organizations. HVAC continous monitoring systems like Remotair are the key to reverse the trend! Want to learn more about dust storms? Click on the button below!

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