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Indoor Air Quality & Mold Problems – A School District’s Public Relations Nightmare !

What do you think when you see Headlines and Nightly News Stories like this ?

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Seem to be happening more and more these days..





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What if you’re the Director of Facilities for the one of these School Districts ?

or  Worse yet…….  What if your children attend this one of these schools ?

Besides the obvious health concerns for the Students, Teachers, and other school personnel, this is a Public Relations Nightmare for the Entire School District !!

School Closings disrupt lives, causes doubts, fear, and anxiety.  Responding to this type of crisis costs the school district significant time and money. And even when the situation is rectified, some doubt still remains….  Is my child really safe to go back there??  What about the other schools in the district?? …. and the list of doubts and concerns doesn’t stop.  A public relations nightmare !!

So taking simple, cost effective steps (like properly maintaining the Unit Ventilators) which help avoid these situations is crucial.

Are all Indoor Air Quality issues directly related to Unit Ventilator Cleaning……..  of course not !    However, maintaining clean Air Conditioning and Heating equipment is a very important maintenance fundamental to avoiding many Indoor Air Quality issues.

HVAC System Contamination and Condensate Issues commonly lead to Water Damage, Mold Growth and can cause other “Sick Building Syndrome” type complaints.

Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is easily understood by this simple analogy – ” when you are in the building you feel sick, and when you leave the building, you feel better”.  Two very common SBS issues stem from Fungal Contamination (Mold)  and Improper Ventilation (High Carbon Dioxide Levels and Insufficient Fresh Air).

So to recap….

We know dirty Unit Ventilators in classrooms can have severely restricted air flow and cause Improper Ventilation resulting in High CO2 Levels.  We also know that dirty Unit Ventilators clog coils and condensate drains, resulting in water overflow causing water damage and Mold Growth.

A unit ventilator takes about an hour or two to properly clean by an experienced IAQ technician. The cost is less than $200  The savings in energy alone should recoup the cleaning fee very quickly.

There are so many positives from Cleaning Unit Ventilators……

Clean equipment breaks down less, which saves in service repairs.  Clean properly maintained equipment doesn’t leak, which minimizes the potential for Mold growth.  Clean equipment ventilates the classroom properly, brings enough fresh air in to reduce carbon dioxide levels, allowing the Students and Teachers to be more alert with clearer minds to help the learning process. Clean equipment heats and cools the classroom quicker and quieter to increase comfort and cause less of a distraction. Cleaner, more efficient systems use less energy which is even better for our environment !

And Lastly……  Keeping Unit Ventilators Clean can help   KEEP YOUR SCHOOLS OFF THE FRONT PAGE & THE EVENING NEWS !

Unless, of course….      It’s for GOOD NEWS !






Cleaning Classroom Unit Ventilators in Delaware County School District

Benefits of Cleaning of Classroom Unit Ventilators in Schools

Most schools have Air conditioning and Heating units which serve each classroom. These units are called Unit Ventilators, or abbreviated  “Univents”. They are also known as “PTAC” Units, which is an acronym for Packaged Terminal Air Conditioners . Unit ventilators are normally installed along the exterior window wall (as shown),  so that “fresh air” can be drawn into the classroom along with providing heating and cooling to the classroom.

Classroom Unit Ventilator

Unit Ventilator in Middle School Classroom of as Delaware County School.


These units get very dirty over time. Contaminants build up from outside air intakes, dusty school environments, and from students dropping all sorts of things down into the unit through the top grille.  C’mon admit it, you did it too !!!!

Dirty Unit Ventilator Grille

Unit Ventilator Air Supply Grille with heavy debris blocking air flow from unit


Common dust & dirt,  and other contaminants which include mold spore, insects, lint, hair, pencils, leaves, and other debris build up on the grilles, coils, fan blades, motors, condensate pans, fresh air intakes, and also on the unit interior cabinets and insulation.

Unfortunately, this issue is very common and we have found similar or worse conditions in many schools throughout  Delaware County, Chester County, Bucks Co., and Montgomery County School Districts. Most schools do not have a Unit Cleaning Protocol or Maintenance Contract in place for Unit Ventilators, and these units sometimes go for years without proper cleaning.

School maintenance personnel typically change the filters twice a year in these units. However, the typical efficiency of the these air filters is very low, allowing most of the smaller dust particles and contaminants to pass right through the filter and collect on the interior of the unit ventilator. The unit ventilator can also be a damp environment during cooling season, causing common airborne mold spore (seed) to cultivate and grow on the interior surfaces, coils, and condensate pans within the unit.

Dirty Unit Ventilator Fan

Heavy dirt and lint shown clogging the “squirrel cage” fan. Even a small buildup causes a significant reduction in air flow and efficiency.




Dirty Unit Ventilator Coil

Heavy dirt and dust clogging Cooling and Heating Coils also causes a significant reduction of air flow, efficiency,  and thermal transfer.

These conditions are an obvious environmental health issue. They also can have a detrimental impact to the HVAC Maintenance & Repair Budget and Costs. Cleaning also significantly increases the Unit efficiency which reduces energy losses and costs. So, it’s a Win-Win-Win Situation for the Students/Teachers, the School District, and Our Environment. This has become especially important with the growing public awareness of Indoor Air Quality in Schools,  and public interest in promoting “green building operations”.

In our next 2 blogs, we will discuss the Remarkable Benefits of Clean Unit Ventilators, both for the Health & Welfare of Students/Teachers and the School District at large.