The COVID-19 pandemic cast a spotlight on pathogen control, spurring thousands of companies and organizations to seek out air purification systems for their community spaces. The primary goal? Protecting occupants’ health. But cleaner, safer air became a critical concern long before the coronavirus rocked the global landscape.

Though often invisible to the naked eye, particles such as dust, dander, pollen, smoke, odors and pathogens (including viruses, mold and bacteria) fill the air around us. These air contaminants diminish indoor air quality (IAQ) and make the space less comfortable for people. They can even make healthy people sick or aggravate chronic conditions such as asthma.

“This is why we go outside to get fresh air,” said President Jim Mangini of Hoffman & Hoffman, an HVAC system design, building automation and service company. “It’s critical for our customers to think about indoor air quality as a specific problem, versus something more indefinite.”

Now, here’s the good news: Your customers’ existing HVAC systems can provide a platform for needlepoint bipolar ionization (NPBI®) technology that safely cleans the air, bringing outdoor freshness into their industrial, commercial and residential buildings.

A New Way of Looking at Indoor Air Quality

Today, experts are still learning how COVID-19 spreads and affects people and communities. However, the pandemic has unquestionably changed how the world views IAQ as a whole. Where previously problems such as odor-causing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and high energy usage drove customer demand, those issues have taken at least a temporary back seat to pathogen reduction and overall safety.

“We may never look at the inside of a building in the same way,” said David Schurk, director of business development at Global Plasma Solutions (GPS). “We’ll be wearing masks, sanitizing and social distancing for a long time. And now that we know airborne transmission is possible with COVID-19, HVAC systems are an important step toward enhanced safety measures.

“Indoor air quality has finally risen to the top. It’s an issue that has everyone’s attention.”

According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, IAQ references air quality inside and around buildings and structures and, in particular, its effects on the health and comfort of the people in those spaces. Health effects related to IAQ can develop shortly after exposure as well as years later, but addressing pollutants and pathogens can help reduce this risk. (EPA)

“To a consulting engineer, IAQ encompasses extremely technical aspects like temperature, humidity, particles and pathogens,” Mangini said. “But it’s important to remember that, for building owners, it boils down to this: ‘My people have clean air to breathe. The space is comfortable. My employees or residents are happy.’ That, to me, really gets at the heart of the need for products that can safely improve IAQ.”

An Engineered Solution for Cleaner, Safer Indoor Air

HVAC systems provide a built-in platform for solutions designed to have a real, measurable impact on indoor air.

An engineered solution such as GPS patented NPBI® technology leverages ionization technology via a building’s HVAC system, improving indoor air by reducing airborne particulates, odors and pathogens. This, in turn, can help your customers improve their IAQ by tackling key influencers including humidity, temperature and pathogen control. Meanwhile, GPS products net up to 30% energy savings while lowering a building’s carbon footprint.

How does NPBI work?

The core concept is quite simple: NPBI cleans indoor air by introducing a high concentration of positive and negative ions into the space via the ventilation system’s airflow. Within the airstream, ions attach to particles, combine and become larger, rendering them more easily filtered from the air. In addition, when ions come into contact with pathogens, such as the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19, they disrupt the pathogens’ surface proteins. This, in turn, renders them inactive.

NPBI is a flexible solution for a broad range of applications. The air purification technology products can be added to a broad range of HVAC systems and buildings.

Is it effective?

GPS engages independent laboratories to run performance validation experiments. The rigorous process includes sensitivity testing, simulation testing, specialty testing and field testing. Results show the company’s NPBI technology is highly effective at reducing a broad range of air pollutants and pathogens including the virus that causes COVID-19.

Unlike other air purification systems, GPS NPBI technology is auto-cleaning — a requirement for optimal performance on a long-term basis.

“The worst thing that can happen is installing a product you believe is keeping you safe, but it’s not,” David Archer, GPS vice president of sales, said. “Our customers can rest assured that the performance of these products won’t degrade over time.”

Is it safe?

GPS NPBI technology is certified by UL 867 and UL 2998, meaning it delivers indoor air that’s free of ozone and other harmful byproducts. This sets it apart from other ionization technologies that are known to produce ozone, making them unsafe for occupied spaces.

Is it enough?

Though a proven tool in the fight against COVID-19, NPBI is just one critical measure in a comprehensive approach to improving IAQ and providing cleaner, safer indoor air.

“It gives our customers peace of mind that they’re doing all they can to make their building safer,” Mangini said. “It’s one important step toward going above and beyond to protect people.”

That’s an auspicious statement at a time when coronavirus cases continue to climb across the United States and beyond. But cleaner, safer indoor air should be a permanent ambition.

“We’re seeing unprecedented interest in improving IAQ,” Archer said. “But this is a story that far outruns the pandemic.”