Science & Technology essential for better Indoor Air Quality

Richard Bishop
Richard Bishop

Richard Bishop, UK and Ireland Head of Marketing at Panasonic, explains the need for raising awareness around Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) and Air Conditioning Solutions and why science and technology must collaborate to deliver healthier air.

To keep our minds sharp and our bodies healthy, we need to breathe in approximately 18kg of air a day. This is a lot of air, especially when you consider that we eat just 1.3kg of food and drink 1.4kg of water per day. A large proportion of this air is consumed within buildings that we live, work and sleep in, in fact, a report from the European Commission indicates that Europeans now spend up to 90% of their time inside.

 What Are We Breathing?

As we have seen during the pandemic, scientific research suggests that indoor air can be significantly more polluted than outdoor air, with a higher concentration of potentially harmful bacteria, viruses, and particles polluting our indoor air. As we strive to make buildings more air-tight to keep in cool or warm air, there is a greater chance that pollutants and harmful bacteria will accumulate, which can have a negative impact on our overall wellbeing.

There are lots of airborne factors that can diminish the quality of the air we breathe - mould, pollen, viruses and smells, for example, can all contribute to an unpleasant environment. More importantly these factors can trigger health issues such as the spread of viruses such as COVID 19, asthma and allergies. If left unaddressed, pollutants become more concentrated and bacteria can grow – creating a potentially harmful indoor atmosphere.

Indoor air pollution can be particularly difficult to protect ourselves against as it comes from many sources and is often hard to see. The World Health Organisation categorises the most relevant IAQ issues for public health as biological air pollutants (dampness and mould), chemical pollution (can include everyday cleaning products and Volatile Organic Compounds in building products) and pollutants from indoor combustion of fuels.

So, how do we negate the situation and move towards healthier air? There are several everyday changes that we can all make immediately, such as using eco-friendly cleaning products and moving towards hard or wooden flooring that won’t trap bacteria, dirt and dust mites.

Another approach to lowering the concentrations of air pollutants in your home or business premises is to increase the amount of outdoor air coming indoors through mechanical means, such as ventilation and air conditioning systems. While this can increase comfort and disperse the concentration of pollutants, it isn’t enough to remove harmful bacteria.

Regulators such as The European Commission progressively build a holistic approach for the built environment, which includes science-based policies, technological solutions, appropriate interventions and investing in science and technology.

 Science and Technology = Healthy Air for Life

Panasonic recently introduced a ground-breaking solution, discovered by their R&D team of scientists and technology experts, nanoe™ X, a perfect marriage of science and technology that forms a building block of the future for healthier indoor air quality and is incorporated as standard into many of our Air Conditioning range of units.

The solution is a cost-effective way to improve air hygiene by preventing the transmission of airborne pathogens. The technology collects invisible moisture in the air and applies a high voltage to it to generate hydroxyl radicals contained in water. Hydroxyl radicals, abundant in nature, inhibit the growth of certain viruses, bacteria, and allergens. Contained in tiny water particles, this will generate particles that have a long lifespan and can spread over long distances.

Recent, independent testing verifies this can inhibit certain types of bacteria and viruses, including SARS-CoV-2, meaning the air conditioning systems that incorporate this technology can help bring these incredible benefits indoors so that hard surfaces, soft furnishings, and the indoor environment can be a cleaner and more pleasant place to be.

It works independently from the heating and cooling operation and uses minimal energy and requires no maintenance. The solutions particles are released even in “fan mode only” using only 25W of power to help improve protection 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

By bringing physical science and technologies together we can fight indoor pollutants at their source, paving the way for a cost-effective solution that could bring healthier air to people worldwide.  This collaboration of chemistry and technology changes the properties of indoor air, making it safer and healthier to breathe. To protect our collective health, science-led solutions need to become an integral feature in every home, business, and public building – as fundamental as hot water and internet access.

Better Remote Access

Historically, control functionality has been an issue for heating and hot water systems. Setting up and programming heating, cooling, and hot water schedules have often proven difficult for end users, and many people struggle to adjust their schedules once they have set them up. Typically, control systems are also only accessible from a fixed point in the home or commercial space, and the interface can be difficult for users without technical experience in heating and cooling systems to operate.

It is crucial for installers offering smart control systems that the interface enables users to adapt and optimise their heating and cooling systems to suit their specific requirements. End users who want to control their heating and cooling through an interface that replicates the intuitive services they use on the web or in apps on their smartphones. Smart Controllers enable users to manage and monitor their heating, cooling, and hot water with an easy-to-use interface that can be accessed via any web-enabled device, including Android and iOS applications and Internet browsers. Users can easily adjust the temperature in two different zones and view the current room temperature in that zone. This enables users to eliminate unnecessary heating when a zone is unoccupied and therefore reduce energy consumption. Additionally, it is possible to change the temperature of the hot water supplied by their system from their remote device.

Using technology that intelligent room controllers are able to offer, users can access a detailed breakdown of the system’s energy consumption on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis. This can help end users compare space utilisation and adjust the system to turn off during quiet periods, so that energy is not wasted heating the home or office space when it is unoccupied. It is crucial for installers to draw attention to this added value that a smart control system can offer, if their businesses are to benefit from the IoT revolution.

Remote access will also enable installers to offer ongoing maintenance contracts to their customers from a remote location. Maintenance teams can be engaged in predictive fine-tuning which keeps the heating, cooling, and hot water system operating at its optimum level for longer. This minimises the likelihood of a system breakdown by anticipating maintenance and means a longer lifespan for the system. Installers will also be able to respond more quickly to faults and issues, keeping the end user completely satisfied with their heating systems.

The Future

We are only beginning to see what is possible with innovative heating, cooling, hot water control, and air quality innovations. Throughout 2022 and beyond, the industry is set to see new services added to this type of intelligent control system making them even more attractive to end users. The aim is to provide end users with an environmentally friendly, comfortable, efficient, and intuitive comfort control solution. Breakthrough innovations and industry partnerships are examples of the steps being taken toward reaching this aim.

The future is to ensure personal health, technology, and the environment are at the forefront of innovations, to create technologies that contribute to its philosophy of a better life, a better world.

Richard Bishop is UK and Ireland Head of Marketing at Panasonic

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