Supplement Feature - February 2015
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Change Is in the Air

Managing Healthy Air & Water in Your Aquatic Facility

By Kelli Ra Anderson

Up in the Air

The latest air handling systems in newer indoor facilities certainly reflect this symbiotic reality and typically use larger fans for better circulation, direct the flow of air across pool surfaces and have systems to purge and use fresh-sourced air as part of the necessary process to maintain healthy water quality.

"We no longer look at the issue in isolation," explained Shawn DeRosa, director of aquatics at Penn State University, CPO and former regional director for the National Recreation and Park Association. "We better understand how bather controls, chemical treatment, supplemental sanitation and air handling all work together to create a healthy pool environment."

Achieving healthier indoor air is affected by several factors: outdoor air ventilation, exhaust air, air change rates and water chemistry. Good designers know that properly spaced and adequately sized venting systems and good filtration are a necessary part of creating healthier water, as well as helping to reduce costs associated with damaging chloramine corrosion and its related health risks to patrons.

Greener ventilation designs are certainly another way to reduce long-term energy costs (although usually requiring more upfront) while improving water quality and keeping damaging, costly chloramines at bay.

Savvy management systems can also kill two birds with one stone, saving money while improving air quality at the same time. After swim meets, for example, DeRosa suggests using the following down time to extend purge time and to thereby require a lesser amount of fresh outdoor air. Another energy-saving ventilation trend has been capturing heat from the air before contaminated air is exhausted from a facility.

"The solution is not always to throw more money at a facility. Facility management should budget to convert to variable speed bumps, LED lighting, pool covers—even indoors—and other energy-saving measures," said Thomas M. Lachocki, CEO of the National Swimming Pool Foundation. "When you save energy, you save money. Then, those savings can be reinvested into ways to improve demand and improve water and air quality."

Saving money in one area to put money toward the purchase of newer systems, training and equipment needed to improve air and water quality is often a must-do for facilities whose budgets typically don't make room for such improvements.

Improving air and water is also about improving practices. Having qualified air conditioning and heating professionals regularly review current air handling to check for compliance with current ASHRAE standards will help ensure air exchange and flow is at its greatest efficiency and energy-saving optimum. Knowing when something needs to be replaced, too, before it can cause unnecessary damage is also an investment worth making. Installing monitoring devices, for example, to measure pressure differentials, can help indicate when it's time for a filter replacement.

The Third Pillar: Supplemental Disinfectant

No matter how well air is vented, heated and replaced, water chemistry is an essential part of the aquatic environmental equation. "Reducing the amount of contaminants in the water is critical to maintaining healthy water quality, which then affects air quality," DeRosa said.

In the old days, chlorine was pretty much considered the answer to everything, but today's professionals know better. "We are entering a time where aquatic facilities have moved away from two treatment systems: disinfection and filtration," Lachocki observed, noting that enhanced filtration is still a major factor in removing dangerous contaminants like Cryptosporidium. "Today and into the future, a third system, a supplemental disinfectant like ultraviolet (UV) light or ozone will be used to improve water and air quality."

Recognizing such systems' powerful role in reducing airborne chloramines, some health codes now require supplemental or secondary sanitizers like ultraviolet light and ozone as standard, not optional equipment. However, a common problem with this relatively new technology is improper understanding and measure of their effectiveness in various applications. For example, in UV applications, if poorly installed or badly explained, pool operators may miss a key concept that flow rate must be correct if disinfection systems are to work at the proper rate or else jeopardize efficiency.

"Too many times I will see a cookie-cutter install used on multiple jobs, regardless of the application," Lebron explained. "I recommend the use of a seasoned installer to handle the equipment room portion of the job separately. The pool builder may not prioritize sanitation options and techniques the way a specialist would, although it is becoming more and more common for savvy pool builders to hire specialists to upsell the equipment aspect of the job, which adds value and ensures that water and air quality are shown to be a priority to the client."