Microbial growth in your HVAC system can reduce energy efficiency and contaminate the air in your building. This is a particular risk in hot, humid areas like Houston and along the Texas coast, but it can occur in buildings anywhere. Inside the HVAC system it is often cold, dark, and wet—providing the perfect environment for mold and other microbial organisms to grow.
How you clean and maintain your evaporator coils, and even the filter you use can affect the spread of bacteria, viruses, mildew, and mold in your system. Here are some tips to help eliminate or prevent microbial growth in your HVAC.
Keep Your Coils and Whole System Clean
Routine preventive maintenance is essential for maintaining the cleanliness and efficiency of your air handlers. Heat transfer across the coils is critical to energy efficiency. When there is a buildup of biofilm or other grime on the coils, it will reduce the unit’s efficiency and require more energy to heat and cool the building. This type of growth also harms air quality in the building, especially when it occurs downstream from the filters. Any spores or particles released into the airstream below the filters will go directly into the air you breathe.
Regular HVAC coil cleaning (at least once per year) helps prevent both microbial growth and the buildup of other contaminants that can negatively affect your HVAC system. For example, steam cleaning is effective because it uses heat to kill growth on the evaporator coils.
It’s also important to remember the drain pan under the coils. Condensation and runoff collect under the unit and need to be captured and drained out of the system, but if there is any standing water or residue, it needs to be treated. HVAC pan tablets can be applied based on the tonnage of the unit to prevent algae or other organisms from growing in this area. Without proper treatment, the drain pan can become clogged—potentially leading to spillage that can damage your system and cause microbial growth to spread.
Another good way to kill mold and other contaminants (and prevent them from returning) is to install ultraviolet lights over the coils in your HVAC system. UVC light kills bacteria, viruses, mildew, mold, and other harmful organisms.
Don’t Let Your Filters Provide Food for Bacteria
Changing your filters on a regular schedule is important for maintaining high air quality, but when microbial growth is an issue, you also need to consider the type of filters you use. Many common disposable filters end up becoming food for mold and bacteria because of the materials they’re made with. For example, cotton-blend filters in cardboard frames are very common. Unfortunately, both the filter material and the frames provide sources of food, which can enable rapid microbial growth.
Joe W. Fly Co. often recommends installing permanent frames made of galvanized stainless steel, with synthetic filter media placed inside. This helps prevent growth because microbial organisms cannot feed on these materials. Our frame and media filtration system also helps eliminate air bypass and improve air quality because there are no gaps in the filter. Best of all, this approach can also deliver savings on materials and labor, compared to traditional disposable filters.
Contact the HVAC and Air Filtration Experts
As the largest commercial and industrial HVAC filter distributor in Texas, Joe W. Fly Co. has helped countless businesses improve their indoor air quality and energy efficiency. By recommending the best filters and other products, and providing just-in-time services, our team of experienced technicians helps make the most of every dollar you spend on HVAC. And because we work with a wide variety of manufacturers and base our recommendations solely on what will work best for you, we can often help reduce the cost of maintenance operations.
Microbial growth can degrade the quality of the air you breathe and cause costly damage to your HVAC system. Contact the experts at Joe W. Fly Co. today to learn more and start taking action against mold, bacteria, and other silent threats.
Air is essential for human life, but it’s not just about the quantity. The quality of the air we breathe has a major impact on our health. And because humans today spend 80-90% of their time inside, the indoor air quality (IAQ) in our homes, offices, and other buildings has become an increasingly important public health issue.
Building owners are required by law to provide a healthy indoor environment for their occupants, whether the facility is residential, commercial, industrial, or other. Failure to take reasonable precautions can expose the owner or manager to claims of negligence. In sectors like healthcare or certain kinds of manufacturing, the need to ensure clean air is especially great.
Part of the challenge is that the problem is mostly invisible. Many pollutants are so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye, and a building’s air filters are typically out of sight and out of mind. Today, we’ll examine three of the biggest IAQ risk factors in Texas, and what building owners can do to ensure a clean, safe environment.
Big City Air and Insulated Buildings
Texas is home to several of the nation’s largest cities: Houston, Austin, Dallas, Ft. Worth, and San Antonio have a collective population of more than 6 million. With so many people living together in such close quarters—and driving cars, running air conditioners, etc.—air pollution is inevitable. To keep pollutants out of our homes and workplaces, we need to control the flow of air and ensure that the air coming inside is properly filtered.
However, as buildings have become more insulated to keep out heat and pollutants, maintaining good IAQ has actually become even more challenging in some ways. Reducing the amount of fresh air coming in from outside means that germs and harmful particles get stuck in the indoor air and can’t get out. As a result, indoor air is often 2-5 times more polluted than outdoor air, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
Pollen and Other Natural Allergens
Not all “pollutants” are man-made. A lot of the particles we want to keep out of our indoor air are natural. Things like pollen and dust can be extremely irritating to the human respiratory system. High concentrations of these natural allergens can keep you from enjoying a good night’s sleep at home or focusing on your projects at work.
We use things like screen doors and windows to keep the big stuff from getting in, but harmful particles such as mold and bacteria are thinner than a human hair—too small to see and definitely small enough to slip in through a screen or a door crack. When you close everything up and turn on the air conditioner, you need effective filters to remove these particles from the air so they don’t just keep circulating and potentially affecting your health.
Heat, Humidity and Moisture
Another big issue in Texas specifically is the high temperatures. And in places along the coast like Houston, humidity and moisture are also major risk factors. Hot, moist air can lead to rapid growth of illness-causing mold and bacteria. The HVAC system in your building can become a hotbed for this growth if it isn’t properly cleaned and maintained on a regular basis.
What You Can Do to Improve IAQ
One of the most important things you need to do is ensure that air filters in your HVAC system are working properly and preventing air bypass. Common problems with HVAC air filters include:
The efficiency of air filters is typically measured according to Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV). When unfiltered air passes through the system, it effectively decreases the MERV level of your filters. A gap as small as 1/8 inch reduces filtration efficiency by an entire MERV point. This can cause a variety of problems, such as increased energy use, filters getting bent or blown through, and accumulation of dust and grimes that can damage coils and feed mold or bacterial growth.
Fortunately, there are options for building owners, managers, and engineers to improve IAQ. Joe W. Fly Co. has been serving Texas’ IAQ needs for more than 50 years. Over that time, we’ve become the largest distributor of air filters in the state, so we’ve seen our share of filtration problems. Some of the things we commonly recommend include:
Air filters seem like a minor thing—a line item in the operating budget that you just want to make as small as possible—but this is not an area where you want to cut corners. Skimping on filters or maintenance can actually end up being extremely costly and have negative impacts on occupant health.
When Joe W. Fly Co. sends our technicians to assess a building, they thoroughly examine the HVAC system to identify any issues that could be negatively affecting operating costs and IAQ. Then they recommend ways to save the customer money and improve their system’s overall performance. Sometimes this requires new filtration products, but in other cases it could just mean minor changes in the way filters are installed or maintained.
No matter what we recommend, the goal is always to deliver a better indoor environment in a way that’s cost-effective for you. Contact us to learn more about how we can help.
The Joe W. Fly Company was founded in 1967 when Joe Fly Sr. (pictured above) started cutting air filters by hand in his living room. Legend has it that one day, Joe cut right through the room’s oriental rug, and his wife, Margaret, told him it was time to get a warehouse. 50 years later, we’re glad he listened.
Today, Joe’s son Joe Fly Jr., grandson Trey Fly, and our entire staff are proud to continue the Joe W. Fly legacy by providing outstanding service to customers and commitment to improving life’s most basic need – clean air.
From that first warehouse in Dallas, Joe W. Fly Co. has grown to eight facilities throughout Texas. Our additional branches in Ft. Worth, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Waco, College Station, and Harlingen have become vital parts of our operation, helping Joe W. Fly become the largest commercial and industrial HVAC filter distributor in Texas.
Having facilities throughout the state hasn’t only helped grow our business—it’s improved our ability to provide reliable service all of our customers. When we had to build a brand new facility in Dallas after the original warehouse suffered a late-night electrical fire, our other branches stepped up so that we didn’t miss a day of work.
Although we’ve grown to more than 120 employees, we’re still a family company. These values have shaped our company’s work atmosphere and continue to guide our approach to every customer engagement. When you partner with us, we treat you like part of the Joe W. Fly family.
Joe W. Fly Co’s Dallas Warehouse
The products, materials, and technology involved in air filtration and surface cleaning have come a long way since the ‘60s. As a company, we’ve not only adapted to grow in a changing industry, but also strived to bring useful new solutions to the marketplace for our customers. And we work with a wide range of manufacturers and suppliers to ensure that we can always recommend the best products for every customer.
Today we offer an increasingly wide range of cleaning, disinfection, and other environmental services. In addition to serving our core commercial and industrial customers, we’ve increasingly partnered with schools to support wellness in the learning environment, because air purification and surface disinfection are among the first lines of defense against the spread of illness.
That said, we’re still an air filter company at heart, and we keep working to make air filtration as effective as possible in the facilities we serve. Joe W. Fly was the first company to start providing synthetic air filters in Texas, and we started building custom metal filter frames about 30 years ago as a way to lower material costs for our customers. Over time, the ability to supply custom frames for every air handler in customers’ facilities became a major distinction for Joe W. Fly compared to other air filter suppliers.
In addition to saving on materials, our custom frame and media systems help customers eliminate air bypass, resulting in more effective filtration and more efficient energy use. This is an important area for finding savings because of the shift from constant volume drives to variable frequency drives in air handlers. The pressure drop caused by air filters in your HVAC system is a key factor in determining how much energy fans need to use to achieve the necessary air flow.
We’re proud of the work we’ve done helping organizations improve their indoor air quality over the last 50 years. And we’re excited for the innovations in air purification, surface disinfection, and environmental services that will happen in the next 50 years.
We hope you’ll contact us to learn more about how our industry knowledge, family values, and commitment to customer service can benefit you.
Hurricane Harvey approaches Texas on August 24, 2017
Image via NASA/NOAA GOES Project
Two weeks have passed since Hurricane Harvey, the once-in-a-lifetime storm, crashed into the Texas coast, devastating homes, businesses, property and lives. Parts of southeast Texas got as much rain in one weekend as would normally fall all year as Harvey dumped 19 trillion gallons of water across the greater Houston area. The numbers are staggering and we’re only starting the process of assessing the destruction.
Our Houston office sustained minimal damage during the storm but three of our employees have suffered total or near-total loss of their homes. After Harvey, we donated food, clothing and water to our employees. Additionally, we are donating 15 new mattresses to Houston shelters so that those affected can have a clean, dry bed.
The cleanup and rebuilding process has begun, but Houston still needs help. The following organizations are accepting donations that will benefit those in need:
The quality of indoor air and cleanliness of frequently touched surfaces are critical issues for all educational facilities, from the smallest K-12 schools to the largest universities. Unsanitary conditions can lead to the spread of germs and illness among students and teachers. This has multiple negative effects on a school and can even cause costly major outbreaks.
Schools have a difficult mission dedicating the necessary resources to maintenance and janitorial functions at a time when public budgets are tight and competition is increasing in the academic world. However, investing in cleaner facilities can create substantial value for schools—without requiring a large increase in operational costs.
Funding for all public schools is affected by student attendance, although several different methods are used to determine the impact. Texas and many other states use average daily attendance as a factor in determining funding for local school districts. Under this formula, each student absence results in the loss of a certain amount of state funding.
Although health is only one of many reasons that students miss school, illness is a major contributor to absenteeism. Germs can spread rapidly in schools when the proper cleaning and disinfection practices are not followed. The cost of lost funding can add up just as rapidly.
Schools in the Central Texas region lose almost $100 million annually due to student absenteeism, according to an analysis of local data by the E3 Alliance. The group examined 35 school districts and 15 charter schools in Central Texas and found that the region’s 307,000 students accrued 2.4 million absences during a single school year—causing more than $91 million in lost funding at an average cost of $38 per student absence.
The Austin Independent School District, which lost $45 for each absence in the E3 analysis, saved about $2 million by increasing student attendance less than 1%. If the district achieved perfect attendance, its annual funding would increase by at least $50 million.
In the event of a major school-based disease outbreak, schools can incur significant additional costs for clean-up. A recent outbreak of norovirus caused hundreds of student absences at a single Texas elementary school, and at least nine schools in the state were closed for cleaning due to influenza outbreaks earlier in the year.
Closing schools for disinfection after an outbreak is far more disruptive and expensive than taking preventive measures to reduce the risk. For example, a 2015 norovirus outbreak that affected nearly 2,000 students and staff at 19 schools in Washoe County, Nevada resulted in approximately $180,000 in excess cleaning costs.
“Cleaning” doesn’t necessarily always mean the same thing as “disinfecting” or “sanitizing”—and the difference is significant when you’re talking about a classroom or cafeteria that is used hundreds or thousands of students every day. What we all think of as conventional cleaning methods—mopping the floors, washing surfaces with soap and water—are important, but they’re also very labor intensive and can leave germs behind.
Schools can take additional steps to prevent illness, such as implementing a surface disinfection system, without significantly increasing their operating costs. Without the right technology, most districts simply don’t have sufficient janitorial resources to disinfect all of the surfaces in their schools on a regular basis.
There also other smart preventive measures administrators can use to reduce the cost of keeping facilities cleaner. For example, proper air filtration is essential to preventing contaminants from spreading in schools.
The EPA offers tips, resources, and other “Tools for Schools” to improve indoor air quality. The agency recommends using filters with a MERV rating in the 8-13 range. The Texas Department of State Health Services recommends MERV 9 or higher as part of its Building Operation and Maintenance Guidelines (§297.5. of the Voluntary Indoor Air Quality Guidelines for Government Buildings).
The National Air Filtration Association recommends that schools aim higher and use filters rated at least MERV 13—both to protect student health and to prevent costly HVAC maintenance issues. It’s also important to note that a filter’s MERV rating is only one factor that affects its efficiency. Filters are only fully effective when they are the right quantity and size, and when they are properly installed and sealed to prevent air bypass.
Joe W. Fly Co. uses a two-pronged approach to supporting healthy schools: improving indoor air quality with filtration systems and providing electrostatic surface disinfection targeting critical “touch points” such as desks, doors, and tables.
The experts at Joe W. Fly Co. frequently recommend improvements that increase filtration efficiency while saving labor and material costs. Our frame and media system is highly efficient for schools’ maintenance or janitorial teams, and helps guard against dangerous mold growth. Mold thrives in dark, damp conditions whenever it has a food source—which makes disposable filters with cardboard frames highly vulnerable.
Our galvanized steel frames and completely synthetic filters are hydrophobic and antimicrobial—making it extremely difficult for mold to grow. We also offer just-in-time delivery of pre-cut filter media to minimize the amount of labor related to changing out air filters in schools.
We are excited to announce the launch of our new air purification product. Contact us to get yours today!
Our sales meeting this year was a great way to kick off 2015! We fit a lot in this year in a short amount of time while still managing to have a blast. We introduced some new EXCITING products with training as well as some new sales incentives. We also introduced two new sales members to the Joe Fly team , and we are thrilled about the growth of the company. 2015 is going to be a great year!
Tired of selling for a huge corporation without any personal recognition? Sick of overbearing managers focused on cold calls and quotas? Need a fun and friendly workplace? Do you feel like you have the potential to grow a territory with huge potential in a thriving market to extraordinary levels? If you said yes, yes, yes, then this may be the opportunity you are seeking. Our company is growing rapidly through our reputation for quality and customer service and we might need you to help us get to the next level!