As the world transitions from a pandemic posture more to something that resembles “normalcy”, there are many learnings and takeaways each of us have obtained both personally and professionally. I hope that one consistent lesson we will all agree on is the need for increased emphasis on air quality in the spaces we live and work in.
The World Health Organization estimates that 99 percent of the world’s population is breathing air that exceeds their latest recommendations and recent surveys consistently place clean air as an important consideration about where to work or returning to the office. With humans spending an estimated 90 percent of their time indoors, the data is clear that we need to reimagine our approach to clean air. Regardless, if airborne contaminants are dust particles, chemicals or pathogens the negative effect to health, productivity, machine reliability and our environment are apparent. The good news is that advancements in clean air technology have made achieving safer, more productive and sustainable factories achievable. Let’s review several advancements in clean air technologies that may begin to change the way we consider or emphasize investments in this area.
Clean air technology has become smarter with Connected Filters
Even simple industrial filtration solutions are generally not well understood by the operators and as a result tend to be neglected or maintained less than optimally. This lack of knowledge and experience has worsened due to skilled worker shortages and regular employee turnover. Like other modern devices and machinery, filtration systems are becoming connected, IIoT enabled devices outfitted with sensors tracking key performance metrics and equipping users with dashboards and data that can help optimize the operation.
Connected filtration systems that monitor performance in real time are able alert you of maintenance needs or even prevent catastrophic failures of key components minimizing costly downtime and loss of productivity. Avoiding downtime means clean air is delivered consistently and in a way that allows customers to stay focused on their core business. As businesses consider investments in filtration equipment, evaluate smart technology that prepare your operations for a connected future and emphasize the importance in maintaining the equipment effectively.
"Investing in systems with energy efficient technology offer significant energy savings of up to 70 percent versus a conventional, manually controlled system." - Travis Haynam, VP Segments Configured Solutions, Nederman
Optimized filter technology
Filter media technology has improved significantly over the last 10 years and there is a good chance that these advancements provide an opportunity to upgrade and improve performance in your operation. Filter performance covers a wide range of parameters but a good, general definition is the balance of efficiency (ability to remove particles from the airstream) and energy required (often measured as pressure loss) to move air through them. Historically, higher efficiency equated to more energy leading many customers to choose lower efficiency in order to reduce initial investment and operating cost. Or after the initial investment, when time to replace the filters, they choose a low performance, low cost alternative assuming that all filters are equal. Both approaches sacrifice air quality and likely cost the customer more in the long run.
Advanced filter media technologies have now come along that no longer require customers to make this sacrifice. Two examples of innovative medias are Nanofiber and ePTFE (expanded Polytetrafluoroethylene) membranes are able to collect high percentages of harmful, fine particles (less than 1 μm in diameter) without paying a significant energy penalty. Filters are now also constructed in ways that create more usable area, decrease pressure and clean more effectively thus lasting longer, lowering energy consumption and reducing waste. All of these factors lead to less time spent on maintenance, lower emissions and cleaner air for your factory. So next time you are looking to order filters, talk to a professional about these new technologies and how choices can improve safety while saving money.
Energy efficient approach with new clean air technology
There is no way around the fact that it takes energy to clean air so ensuring that the approach and equipment selected are the most energy efficient possible is critically important to keep minimize operating costs and achieve sustainability goals. The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that 70 percent of energy consumed in industry is from electric motors which are typical to fans used on industrial filtration systems meaning that energy efficiency needs be a top consideration in air filtration.
Investing in systems with energy efficient technologies, including variable frequency drives (VFDs), efficient filter medias and smart ventilation control systems where you capture air based on actual machine demand or air quality measurements offer significant energy savings of up to 70 percent versus a conventional, manually controlled system. As companies seek to offset rising energy prices and achieve sustainability goals, revisiting their filtration and ventilation systems should be given priority.
Change is in the air - are you committed to the new clean air technology?
The air we breathe and the filtration systems we depend upon cannot be taken for granted. By acknowledging the importance of clean air in worker health and safety, productivity and sustainability, we begin to understand how important our investments and maintenance in industrial systems are to our businesses. The data is clear that more attention needs to be given to this area in order to protect our workers and environment from the harmful effects of air pollution. Change is in the air and begins with each of us committing to a renewed emphasis on clean air within our factories and considering new technologies that enable a cleaner future.
This article is published in Manufacturing Technology Insights: Change is in the Air (manufacturingtechnologyinsights.com)