Maintaining a cleanroom is an ongoing challenge and requires keeping up-to-date on the best equipment and tools to meet the standards. Contamination can come from a variety of sources ranging from particles entering the room through the air conditioning system to the hair, clothes, skin, and cosmetics from individuals coming in and out of the room.
Whether the cleanroom exists in an organization that focuses on electronics, computers, medical devices, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, aerospace, agriculture, or food, even the smallest misplaced dust particle is considered a contaminant. Cleanrooms require the ultimate amount of care and attention to ensure contamination levels are kept at an acceptable level.
One area that needs close attention is also one of the more complex systems — your HVAC system. By nature, HVAC systems are designed to move air from one location to the next in order to provide climate control. This action can pose unique challenges to maintaining air quality. However, an HVAC system is also comprised of other systems that need to be maintained in order to operate high performance cleanrooms safely and effectively. What steps can you take to keep your HVAC system clean?
Cleanrooms are equipped with multiple filtering system including pre-filters, standard filters, and high efficiency filtering systems to virtually guarantee the airflow remains free of contaminants and particles down to sizes less than .03 microns. Lack of proper maintenance of these filter systems is a major cause of contamination. Plan and implement a filter maintenance program that cleans filters at least every four to eight weeks depending on various factors.
Cleaning your coils is a fundamental maintenance point in a HVAC system. Not only do clean coils keep the system operating at high efficiency levels, but they also mitigate the changes of bacterial growth within the system. Clean regularly at planned system shutdown intervals and treat with EPA-registered mold and mildew inhibitors. Additionally, properly maintained coils can be an important part of managing humidity in a cleanroom environment — a critical concern.
Blowers in air handler units (AHU) can be magnets for dirt and debris. Make sure to properly visually inspect and clean these often overlooked, yet critical, components of the HVAC system. These should be cleaned at regular maintenance intervals.
Duct cleanliness is often overlooked in commercial HVAC systems, and most of the time can be with little ill effect. The opposite is true in cleanrooms. Ductwork should be inspected during routine filter change periods and cleaned if necessary.
Clean other major components
Other major components of HVAC systems can include cooling towers and boilers. Regularly vacuuming your tower and tower fill helps to maintain peak system efficiency and performance. The building occupants will benefit with sustained, comfortable temperatures. A clean system is far less likely to harbor potentially deadly bacteria such as Legionella.
Cleaning your HVAC equipment is extremely
important, but it’s one piece of keeping your equipment running efficiently and effectively. Work with your team to develop an ongoing maintenance program that details when it will take place and what will occur. Training on the equipment used to clean the HVAC system is also critical. Whether it’s a boiler tube cleaner or coil cleaning system, anyone performing the cleaning should receive proper instruction on how to use the product.
Benefits of HVAC maintenance
Routine preventative maintenance and cleaning of your HVAC equipment boasts many benefits for a facility. For cleanroom management, it’s a necessity and not an option. But there are benefits beyond meeting the requirements. A clean HVAC system reduces energy costs, because it doesn’t need to work as hard to keep up as it would if the system was dirty or filled with debris and other contaminants.
It also helps to reduce the potential for your HVAC system to breakdown or need repair. Taking the time to properly clean your system is a lot less time-consuming (and cheaper) than needing to shut down the system for larger repairs or even replacements.
Keeping a cleanroom up to high standards is a demanding task, but taking the appropriate steps to clean your HVAC systems and putting a maintenance plan in place can help ease the mind and provide assurance of the best cleanroom practices.
Frank Intrieri Jr. is Vice President of Sales for Goodway Technologies Corp. of Stamford, Conn. www.goodway.com
This article appeared in the September/October 2015 issue of Controlled Environments.