Four Burning Questions / Answered!
Should you include needlepoint Bipolar ionization (“NPBI”) in your commercial HVAC design toolbox? Savvy business owners are often wary of air purification claims, as air purification technologies usually lack data and are often backed only by anecdotal evidence. That said, NBPI by Globals Plasma Solutions has cemented a foothold in HVAC design — as it can minimize project installation costs and energy consumption while improving indoor air quality (IAQ).
Q1. What is Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization?
Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization is a commercially accessible technology from Global Plasma Solutions that produces a stream of ions capable of capturing airborne gaseous pollutants and volatile organics. When electricity is applied to a cathode-ray tube with two electrodes, negative and positive ions are produced, which react with the water vapor and oxygen in the air to create free radicals. Free radicals can effectively eliminate microbial growth and break down odors, thereby improving the IAQ in your commercial facility.
Typically, a module is installed near the fan inlet of an HVAC system — specifically an air handling unit (AHU). It is still necessary to filter out numerous tiny organic materials in a process called media filtration. By eliminating gasses, vapors, and particulate matter at their source, you can realize cost and energy savings through reduced outside air ventilation rates.
Q2. How to reduce outside air ventilation rates and still meet the code?
The IAQ Procedure in the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Standard 62.1 allows the use of engineered air purification systems in conjunction with reduced outdoor air ventilation rates. Therefore, the equipment can be sized smaller, which results in lower initial costs, reduced energy consumption, cleaner evaporator coils, and improved temperature and humidity control while maintaining acceptable IAQ levels.
Rather than relying on brute force dilution of contaminants by adding more fresh air to indoor spaces, required outside airflow rates can be lowered by tackling the contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) directly. Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization breaks down harmful volatile organic compounds (VOC), kills viruses, bacteria, and mold, increases the efficiency and efficacy of filtration by particle aggregation, and oxidizes odorous compounds in gasses. For example, recent research published in the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics revealed that nonthermal plasma (also called cold or non-equilibrium plasma) effectively eliminated 99.9% of airborne viruses.
The acceptable amount of concentration for the CEC design is “equal to or less than” the concentration obtained using the “ventilation rate procedure” (section 6.2) in ASHRAE standard 62.1. Concentration targets should be included in design documents.
Q3. How about lowering CO2 levels?
While Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization enhances indoor air quality by removing CECs, it results in higher carbon dioxide (CO2) levels than the ventilation rate procedure. CO2 is not classified as a CEC by ASHRAE. However, it has historically been used as an easy-to-measure proxy for IAQ — as a higher CO2 level often signals a higher concentration of other airborne contaminants.
ASHRAE does not recommend a specific CO2 level — just that very high CO2 concentrations (e.g., higher than 5000 parts per million or ppm) might represent a health risk. Additionally, ASHRAE notes that CO2 concentration is not a good marker of the concentration and occupant acceptance of other indoor air pollutants, such as VOCs released by building materials and furnishings. Therefore, CO2 concentration is not a reliable indicator of the overall IAQ in your commercial facility.
Nonetheless, we recommend taking a careful approach when designing to a significantly higher CO2 level since future studies may reveal more definitive data on CO2’s influence on IAQ.
Q4. What about harmful levels of ozone?
Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization has been around for quite a while. The earlier generation of generators relied on perishable glass tubes and produced potentially hazardous ozone (O3) in the process. However, Global Plasma Solutions’ needlepoint modules, developed in the mid-2000s, do not generate dangerous ozone levels. They are certified to the Revised Standard for UL 867 – Electrostatic Air Cleaners, limiting ozone to 0.05 ppm by volume.
While improving indoor air quality has always been important, there has never been a better time to invest in IAQ solutions than now. By installing a Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization system from Global Plasma Solutions, you can help prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses and enhance the health of your facility.
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