Medical Grade Air Purifiers: What You Need to Know

May 20, 2022 Jesse Sheppard 0 Comments

Insights from the Team at Commercial Filter Sales & Service

If you’re responsible for the internal air quality (IAQ) of a medical or healthcare facility, you’re likely facing increased scrutiny about the effectiveness of the current ventilation system. Managers of commercial and education buildings also have heightened IAQ concerns. Understanding air purification and the differences between standard and medical grade systems is essential to making the right choice of solution for your organization.

Air Purification vs Air Filtration

Improving IAQ can include cleaning and purifying the air. Although the terms seem synonymous, the activities are distinct in heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC) systems.  

  • Air cleaning or filtration removes particles with a size of 0.3 microns (µm) from the air before it enters your facility. Debris cleaned with air filtration includes dust, hair, spores, pollen, visible smoke, and bacteria.
    • One measure of an air filtration system is the clean air delivery rate (CADR), a number that indicates the frequency of air exchanges per hour in your facility.  In general, the CADR tests for pollutants that make people sneeze.
  • Air purification sanitizes the air using various techniques such as heat, ultraviolet light, ozone, or negative ions. Air purifiers kill pathogens linked to allergies and illness.
    • An air purification system’s mission is to remove odors, infectious contaminants, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. In a medical facility, air purification is vital to safe IAQ.

Differences Between Medical Grade and Standard Air Purification Systems

Within the HVAC marketplace, you’ll find many solutions for purifying the air in your facility. Commonalities of all air purification systems include:

  • The ability to filter contaminants and allergens that can spread disease or illness
  • Delivery of safe IAQ for people with weakened immune systems
  • Removal of harmful fumes, gases, and particles 

Medical grade air purification systems raise IAQ’s standard by combining a robust filtration system that provides a high air change per hour rate (ACH) with purifying technologies. 

  • Filtration in medical-grade systems removes almost all airborne particulates.
  • The system changes the air quickly to minimize the risk of exposure to airborne viruses.
  • Top-notch medical facilities strive for an ACH rate of 15, meaning clean air enters your space every 4 minutes. 

You can customize the design of your medical-grade air purification system to address the unique IAQ issues in your facility.

Components of Medical Grade Air Purification Systems

Elements of medical-grade air purification systems include filtration, ultraviolet light, coil cleaning, and final filters.

  • HEPA Filtration 

High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters meet U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) standards. The filter’s pleated mechanical structure can remove 99.97 percent of airborne particles 0.3 microns (µm) as the worst-case scenario. A HEPA filter will effectively capture particulates that are larger (or smaller).  

  • UV-C Air Purifiers

Short-wave ultraviolet light (UV-C) inactivates airborne microorganisms and pathogens such as bacteria, mold, and viruses. Air passes UV lamps that use germicidal irradiation to disinfect the air. In medical grade systems, UV-C air purifiers are linked with a HEPA filtration system since a stand-alone UV-C air purifier can’t trap or remove particulates. When incorporating UV-C air purification into your medical-grade system, a key design consideration is determining the effectiveness achieved in each air pass.

  • Coil Cleaning Process

UV-C light installed by professionals in an HVAC unit breaks down mold, hair, and notably, the biofilm that can adhere to HVAC coils. Biofilms are sticky bacteria and fungi that can grow on many surfaces in a medical or healthcare facility, causing a significant number of infections among staff and patients. In addition to preventing infectious disease spread, coil cleaning reduces energy and maintenance costs by eliminating airflow blocks and pressure drops.  

  • Typically, the UV-C system is downstream of the cooling coil. The UV-C light deactivates the biofilm’s ability to reproduce, preventing the growth of bacteria and mold on the coils and drain pans.  By keeping the UV-C lights on continuously, the system can deliver a significant dosage with relatively low (and cost-effective) irradiance. In a medical-grade system, 50 to 100 microwatts/cm2 is a standard level.  
  • When properly designed with appropriate wattages, the UV-C system for cooling coil cleaning may also provide air disinfection benefits. 
  • High-Efficiency Final Filtration

A medical-grade air purification system will include two filter components: one before the blower and coils and the second downstream from the coils.  

  • The first filter protects the HVAC equipment from dirt and contaminants in the air.
  • The second filter captures any particulates that escaped the first filter or debris from the HVAC components.
    • If, for example, the coils had mold or bacteria, the high-efficiency final filter would capture them before the air enters the healthcare area. 

Does Your Facility Need a Medical Grade Air Purification System?

The benefits of adding air purification to an HVAC filtration system are clear for hospitals and healthcare facilities. 

  • The medical-grade systems control the pathogens brought in by visitors and mitigate the risk to patients with compromised immune systems. Technologies offer safe, clean air for staff, visitors, and clients.

With heightened concerns about IAQ, medical-grade air purification systems may also have value for:

  • Educational facilities, especially for children with developing immune systems.
  • Commercial buildings, where improved IAQ delivers peace of mind to teams and increased productivity
  • Fitness centers and gyms, since health is a primary goal, and air can contain dust, carbon dioxide, and contaminants like formaldehyde from equipment. 

For more information about medical-grade air purification systems, contact our team. We’ll discuss your needs and design a system that meets government guidelines and keeps your business, staff, and clients safe.