April 23, 2013

HEPA Filtration in Hospitals and Health Care FacilitiesIn a health care setting, environmental sterility and effective disinfection are critical to maintaining patient health and reducing the possibility of harm to those whose immune systems are weak and compromised. It's especially important that the indoor air of hospitals and health care facilities be kept clean and free of contaminants. Air that contains particulates can cause or aggravate respiratory conditions and further compromise patient health. Worse, indoor air can transmit infectious diseases, plus bacteria, germs, and viruses, to patients with already delicate health. In hospitals and health care facilities, HEPA filtration is a powerful weapon against the particulates and biological contaminants that can harm or even kill patients.

HEPA stands for high-efficiency particulate air. HEPA filtration systems are extremely effective at capturing and removing airborne particles, microorganisms and other contaminants from a facility's indoor air. In HVAC settings, filters are categorized according to MERV (minimum efficiency reporting value) rating. MERV ratings for standard HVAC systems range from 1 to 16, with higher MERV ratings indicating better filtration. HEPA filtration systems achieve efficiencies of MERV 17 to 20, which means they're extremely efficient at cleaning indoor air.

HEPA filters can remove small particles, such as dust, pollen or fibers, and biological material, such as viruses, bacteria, mold spores, fungi, bioaerosols and other contaminants of 0.3 microns or larger. They're almost 100 percent efficient at this task, reaching efficiency levels of 99.97 percent. In a health care setting, this means that the risk of disease transmission through indoor air is reduced substantially. HEPA filters containing carbon or activated charcoal are also available for filtering out odors, fumes and gases.

An effective HEPA filtration system can remove airborne contaminants from two major sources:

  • Airborne sources: Biological and inorganic contaminants that enter the health care facility through normal doors and windows and through standard HVAC ventilation systems.
  • Endogenous sources: Contaminants that are carried in and transferred to the air by outside visitors, personnel, clothing, fresh fruit or flowers, supplies and packaging.

In a hospital or health care facility, you're likely to find HEPA filtration systems in areas such as:

  • Operating rooms
  • Treatment rooms
  • Areas where critical procedures are performed
  • Testing and research laboratories
  • Equipment rooms
  • Compounding pharmacies
  • Infectious disease areas and isolation rooms

HEPA filtration is most effective if used at both small and large scales.

  • Large-scale HEPA filters are installed within the existing airflow of the facility's air conditioning or heating system. All of the air that flows from the HVAC system also travels through the HEPA unit, where the heated or cooled air is effectively scrubbed of contaminants before it travels further on into the hospital.
  • Smaller-scale HEPA filtration can be achieved using individual standalone units that can be placed in areas where additional air cleaning is needed.

It's extremely important that HEPA filters in a hospital or health care facility be checked and changed frequently to prevent buildup of dirt and contaminants. HEPA filters are very thick, which means they can impede airflow in your HVAC system, potentially causing malfunctions or breakdowns. They will most likely require specialized mounting frames and related components.

Because clean indoor air is so critical in a medical facility, it's vital that your HEPA filtration system be designed, installed and maintained by a qualified and knowledgeable HVAC professional or construction design engineer. The system should be designed to allow easy inspection, testing and repair of gaskets, housings, ductwork and filters. Consult with your trusted HVAC professional for assistance with finding the correct filters for your HEPA air filtration system.

The goal at Sobieski Commercial is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial and Residential settings. For more information about HEPA filtration in hospitals and health care facilities and to view projects we've worked on, visit our website!

Image Credit: Alex E. Proismos

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