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air distribution system

What is an air distribution system and how to manage maintenance

An air distribution system is a system that aims to ensure a healthy indoor environment through air management and purification within ventilation ducts. Learn more in this blog article.

Air distribution systems play a crucial role in climate control and maintaining indoor air quality.

They are systems designed for air treatment and control, encompassing a wide range of devices and components aimed at ensuring optimal thermo-hygrometric comfort.

In this article, we delve into the details of this type of system to better understand how it works and how to design it with BIM software for MEP systems.

We will also discuss the importance of maintenance and how to manage everything through a facility management software.

Aeraulic system managed with system design software

Aeraulic system managed with system design software

What is an air distribution system and how does it work?

Air distribution systems are mechanical systems that use compressed air or other gases as a means of transportation. They can be used for heating, cooling, ventilating, dehumidifying, or sanitizing any type of environment, whether residential, commercial, or industrial. These systems can be designed to provide fresh, clean, and controlled air in places that require specific environmental conditions.

Their main objective is to treat the air inside buildings, ensuring that it is clean and free from pollutants. The air entering the building is filtered and treated by the air distribution system, which is responsible for removing any pollutants through the ducts responsible for transporting treated and purified air to different building areas.

When the natural air recirculation system is insufficient, it is legally required to equip the system with a controlled mechanical ventilation system (CMV), which ensures adequate air exchange in indoor environments, further contributing to maintaining indoor air quality.

Finally, it is important to emphasize that accurate design and proper installation of air distribution systems are essential to ensure efficient and reliable long-term operation.

Types of air distribution systems

Air distribution systems comprise a wide range of systems designed for the distribution and treatment of air inside buildings to ensure a comfortable, healthy, and safe environment for occupants. There are different types of air distribution systems, each with specific features and functions. In this article, we will explore the main types of air distribution systems and their applications.

HVAC Systems

HVAC systems are designed to control temperature, humidity, and air quality inside buildings. They can be used for heating, cooling, and ventilating an environment, depending on the requirements. HVAC systems can be divided into two main categories:

  • Air HVAC systems: These systems include heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems, as well as dehumidification and filtration systems;
  • Water HVAC systems: These systems use water as a medium for heat transfer, cooling or heating the air inside the environment.

Ventilation Systems

Ventilation systems are designed to ensure adequate ventilation of indoor spaces, both for hygiene reasons and for air exchange within the building. The main types of ventilation systems include:

  • Natural and forced ventilation: These systems can consist of openings such as windows, doors, skylights, and roof vents, or mechanical devices such as fans, centrifugal fans, and gas turbines;
  • Controlled Mechanical Ventilation (CMV): These devices provide controlled ventilation that regulates humidity and temperature inside the building, contributing to occupants’ comfort.

Heating and Cooling Systems

Heating systems are used to heat indoor spaces during colder months, while cooling systems are used to cool indoor spaces during warmer months. The main types of heating and cooling systems include:

  • Radiant heating: This system uses radiant surfaces such as floors, walls, or ceilings to radiate heat into the spaces;
  • Air cooling systems: These systems use air conditioners, fans, or heat pumps to cool indoor spaces.

Air Sanitization Systems

Sanitization systems are designed to ensure a healthy environment inside buildings by eliminating pathogens and improving air quality. The main sanitization technologies include:

  • Air filtration: Use of filters to capture suspended particles in the air;
  • UV-C lamp disinfection: Use of UV-C lamps to destroy bacteria, viruses, and other pathogens present in the air;
  • Advanced technologies for pathogen control: Use of innovative technologies to monitor and control the presence of pathogens in the air, ensuring a safe and healthy environment for building occupants.

Elements of an air distribution system

The elements that make up an air distribution system vary depending on the specific needs of the building’s occupants and the type of operation required. However, in general, an air distribution system includes the following main elements:

  1. Air Handling Units (AHUs): These units are responsible for air treatment, including heating, cooling, filtration, and humidity control. AHUs can be located inside or outside the building, depending on design requirements;
  2. Fans: Fans are used to move air through the distribution system and ensure proper air exchange in indoor spaces;
  3. Ductwork: Ductwork are conduits that carry treated air from AHUs and fans to the spaces to be conditioned or ventilated. They can be made of various materials, such as galvanized sheet metal, PVC, or aluminum, and must be properly sized to ensure adequate airflow;
  4. Grilles and diffusers: These components are positioned at the ends of ductwork and allow distribution of treated air in spaces. Grilles can be fixed or adjustable to allow precise airflow control;
  5. Flow regulators: These devices are used to regulate airflow within the air distribution system, allowing for balancing airflow distribution according to the specific needs of each space;
  6. Air filters: Filters are installed inside AHUs to remove impurities and particles from the air, thereby improving indoor air quality;
  7. Control and automation devices: These devices include sensors, thermostats, valves, and regulators that allow automated control of the air distribution system based on environmental conditions and desired settings;
  8. Heat recovery units: In some air distribution systems, heat recovery units are installed to recover heat from exhaust air to reuse it to heat incoming fresh air, thus contributing to energy savings.

These are just some of the main elements that may be present in an air distribution system. The design of an effective air distribution system requires a detailed assessment of the specific needs of the building and careful selection of appropriate components.

Management of plant maintenance

Plant maintenance management

Managing an air distribution system

Managing an air distribution system requires a series of activities aimed at ensuring its proper operation, maximum energy efficiency, and the safety of building occupants. Below are additional details regarding controls and maintenance activities to be performed on specific sections of the system:

  1. Filters – Air filters must undergo constant monitoring to ensure their efficiency. It is essential to periodically check the status of the filters through differential pressure measurements and visual inspection. Regular replacement of filters according to the manufacturer’s instructions is recommended to maintain indoor air quality and reduce the risk of malfunctions;
  2. Heat exchange coils – Heat exchange coils must undergo periodic cleaning and disinfection of condensate collection trays and finned surfaces. This ensures optimal system efficiency and prevents the risk of microbiological contamination;
  3. Ambient air humidifiers and adiabatic humidifiers – It is important to ensure that ambient air humidifiers do not cause condensation during operation. Parts in contact with water must be regularly cleaned and, if necessary, disinfected to prevent bacterial proliferation. For adiabatic humidifiers, it is essential to check the quality of the water used and regularly sanitize the humidification circuit to avoid the risk of microbiological contamination;
  4. System sanitization – Air handling units must undergo periodic cleaning using appropriate methods such as high-pressure air lances, steam systems, non-aggressive detergents, and disinfectants. This ensures that the air treated by the system is clean and free of contaminants harmful to the health of building occupants;
  5. Legionella prevention guidelines – It is important to strictly follow guidelines for the prevention and control of Legionella during air distribution system management and maintenance activities. This includes thorough cleaning of the filter section, regular sanitization of adiabatic humidifiers, and disinfection of ductwork in centralized systems to prevent the spread of pathogenic bacteria.

To optimize the process, it is recommended to use a tool for facility management of systems maintenance, allowing you to:

  • Create cloud-based equipment records rich in information accessible at any time and from anywhere thanks to cloud technology;
  • Geolocate equipment with simplified ticketing for service requests and call center service;
  • Plan maintenance to effectively manage company systems and avoid all maintenance costs due to sudden failures;
  • Generate automatic reports on equipment performance to quickly analyze equipment, assets, technicians’ performance, and help you make strategic decisions.

Designing an air distribution system

Below is a video showing you how to best utilize a tool for designing an air distribution system.

Managing an air distribution system

This video shows how to easily manage the air distribution system with a tool for system maintenance management.