HVAC – A Complete Guide on Specialized HVAC Systems
HVAC systems are essential components in the functionality and appeal of all modern buildings. Well-designed and efficient HVAC systems go well beyond ensuring comfortable temperatures and fresh air for facilities. They also play a key role in the production and testing processes of a broad spectrum of industries.
HVAC systems play a crucial role in pharmaceutical engineering and manufacturing because they have a direct impact on the production environment. Optimized HVAC units can help pharmaceutical companies manage airborne contaminants, pass inspections, and remain CGMP-compliant, and more.
All You Need to Know About HVAC Systems
What is an HVAC System?
The acronym HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. HVAC systems help control a building’s temperature, humidity level, and air quality to ensure that everyone who resides or works within the building stays safe and comfortable.
Types of HVAC Systems
There are a number of different HVAC system designs available in commercial buildings. The three common types of HVAC systems are:
Many consider centralized HVAC systems to be the best option for optimal control and efficient load management. Centralized systems are comprised of consolidated units that utilize water as a cooling medium and provide air delivery and temperature control via a broad network of ducts and vents throughout the building.
Centralized systems offer superior functionality and convenience, but also have two major drawbacks—the initial investment required for setup and installation and more extensive demands with regards to ongoing operation and maintenance.
Packaged HVAC systems, as the name implies, come in packaged units that contain the following elements:
- Air conditioner or heat pump
- The evaporator or fan coil
- A control interface
Some packaged systems also feature accessories that work to improve the building’s air quality, such as air purifiers, cleaners, ultraviolet lamps, or ventilators. Companies often buy packaged units for buildings with space constraints.
Individual HVAC systems are also referred to as decentralized systems. This type of HVAC system is composed of multiple individual units placed throughout various parts of a structure. For instance, individual units may include rooftop HVAC systems, A/C room units, and air heaters such as radiant or space heaters.
While an individual HVAC system generally requires a much lower initial investment in terms of money and time for setup, lack of a single point of control and the potential for multiple simultaneous breakdowns can lead to problems in the long run.
Less common but no less critical, explosion-proof HVAC systems are an essential aspect of many industrial applications. For example, ore mining/processing facilities can make use of these units to prevent an explosion of coal dust particles in the air.
Other industries that utilize explosion-proof HVAC systems include:
- Oil and gas
- Food processing
Nowadays, many off-the-shelf explosion-proof units are available. However, companies that require explosion-proof environmental control units often need to ensure that their HVAC systems supplier has the capability to provide a tailored solution for their particular application.
Industries and Applications
Industries ranging from homeland security to aerospace use specialized HVAC solutions as an essential part of their daily operations. The following are some examples of specific industries and applications that utilize HVAC systems.
Aerospace applications require strict environmental control in everything from research and development to launch areas. At Air Innovations, we’ve supported a variety of unique aerospace projects, such as clean room filtration, environmentally controlled transportation of aerospace components, and strict environmental control of launch areas.
For example, one rocket’s fueling system demanded a dry dew point of -22° C just before launch. Any remaining moisture would condense and transform into ice on the rocket’s piping, creating a dangerous situation. The solution to this quandary was an in-line desiccant dryer surrounded by two tailored environmental control units used to eliminate moisture and maintain tight temperature tolerances.
Durable HVAC units assist in temperature and humidity maintenance at airport terminals, including security checkpoints and baggage claim areas. Additionally, explosives detection devices (EDDs) at airports demand strict internal control of temperature and humidity variables in order to function properly.As such, the Homeland Security Department relies on specialized HVAC units for these applications.
Mining and drilling companies use environmental control units to keep electrical cabinets of centrifuge machines cool. Centrifuges eliminate slurry during drilling operations, and are therefore an indispensable component of the overall extraction process. ECUs that keep their cabinets cool help prevent overheating, fires, explosions, and other dangerous circumstances.
Biotech and pharmaceutical companies frequently employ specialized HVAC units for strict control over temperature, humidity, and dew point, especially when handling sensitive equipment, or performing processes that require certain environmental conditions to succeed.
Computer rooms, laboratories, hospitals, and process isolators often make use of cleanrooms. HVAC units designed for cleanroom use often come with features such as positive/negative pressure control, once-through or recirculating air flow, and alarms triggered by the slightest variance from set tolerances.
The Pharmaceutical Industry and HVAC Systems
The Importance of HVAC Systems for the Pharmaceutical Industry
Why are well-functioning HVAC systems so important to the pharmaceutical industry today? While there are many factors involved, but here are just two of the reasons they are so essential:
- Modern diagnostic machines need to operate within very strict temperature and humidity tolerances so that the integrity of powdered and fluid reagents is not comprised. The consequences of a misdiagnosis or false reading from the introduction of unanticipated moisture, for example, could be serious for both patient and medical provider alike. Customized HVAC units that ensure stable environmental conditions—whether cold, hot, or dry—and integrate well into often limited space, are key pieces of an effective diagnostic process.
- Moisture can be one of the worst enemies of modern medicine production. In every phase of production—from milling to compounding to coating—excess moisture can cause manufacturing inefficiencies, weaken the medicine’s effect, or in the worst-case scenario, completely ruin an entire batch of product. Specialized HVAC units that enforce a specified dew point based on the application all but guarantee that there will be no excess moisture from the air to cause production issues.
There are several design considerations that engineers must apply to HVAC systems intended for pharmaceutical applications. Ideally, architectural components should dovetail with HVAC design factors, such as pressure differential cascades and cross-contamination control. Adequate ventilation and filtration are important considerations for laboratory testing areas and cleanrooms.
Additionally, HVAC engineers must implement systems that ensure strict control over temperature, relative humidity and/or dew point, without interfering with the actual pharmaceutical manufacturing process.
Operational HVAC Optimization in Pharmaceutical Facilities
After HVAC room requirements have been established, there are ways to optimize HVAC system operations to keep costs low and efficiencies high. Some optimization measures could include:
- The reduction of air-change rates
- Optimized temperature and humidity limits
- Improved control sequences for use of floating set-points and dead-band control
- Changeover to a two-port variable volume system
- The addition of airflow meters and air volume control components
Efficient and Custom HVAC Solutions at Air Innovations
Air Innovations provides several HVAC products specifically designed for use in the pharmaceutical industry. These include:
- HEPAir Cleanroom HVAC Units
- ArrayAir portable systems
- Medical Device ECUs
- Medical Environmental Control Systems with Desiccant Humidity Control and Temperature Control
- Customized environmental systems
Some Case Studies
Air Innovations has enjoyed much success in delivering highly specialized HVAC solutions to clients in the pharmaceutical industry.
For example, one customer requested a precision control HVAC system to provide uniform drying for fluid bed dryers used in capsule and pill coating. Air Innovations supplied a pharmaceutical process control unit that provided airflow to the process tools, allowed the client to add or remove humidity, and maintained a steady dew point of 50° F.
In another case, a client needed a chemical process control unit that would hold set temperature and humidity levels in widely varying conditions all over the globe, while also operating on a continuous, year-round basis. Air Innovations provided an HVAC unit that depends on two independent cooling coils, along with process fans that alternate operation time. Various sensor inputs help to manage switch-over intervals. As a result, the cooling coils continue running without defrost interruptions, even in sub-zero temperatures.
HVAC systems are an essential aspect of pharmaceutical manufacturing. If you’d like to learn more about how Air Innovations can provide a workable, highly-customized, and efficient HVAC solution for your manufacturing needs, reach out to us today.