Antimicrobial copper could improve HVAC

Research into copper HVAC units may improve indoor air quality and efficiency.


The U.S. Dept. of Defense is funding research into antimicrobial copper components that can control the growth of organisms in HVAC units, according to a Copper Development Assoc. press release . The units are being studied under controlled laboratory conditions at the University of South Carolina, and units are installed for a field trial at the Fort Jackson military barracks in Columbia, S.C.

HVAC units provide dark, moist environments that are the perfect breeding grounds for the bacteria and fungi that are associated with foul odors and poor air quality . The microbes can also build up on heat-transfer surfaces and compromise the thermal efficiency of the unit. Components being replaced with copper in the studies are cooling coils, heat-exchange fins, and drip pans, which tend to allow microbial contaminants to thrive. In addition to being antimicrobial, the copper elements are highly recyclable and are better thermal conductors than their aluminum counterparts.

"Improvements in building and construction methods have generally led to increased energy efficiency, but at the same time, these 'tighter' building envelopes tend to trap bacteria, leading to odors," said Charles Feigley, principal investigator for the study. "The results of this real-world trial should encourage advancements in the design of HVAC systems."

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