HVAC Systems in Columbia Public Schools

  • Summary

    Columbia Public Schools is committed to maintaining our HVAC systems. We proactively perform preventive maintenance checks per manufacturer's recommendations for each individual system, conduct filter changes in more than 6,000 filter applications, and contract with high-quality contractors for work beyond internal resources. 

    The school district uses industrial HVAC systems in its buildings.  The types of systems depend on the building needs.  Each HVAC system is designed to meet the load requirements for square footage and maximum population of the facility. Each design, created by an engineer, meets the regulated and mandated requirements of The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHREA).  System types include ground source, four-pipe systems such as boilers and cooling towers, heat pumps, and residential large and small split systems.

    The district primarily uses MERV 8 filters in its HVAC systems.  MERV means Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value and is a set of filter efficiency ratings determined by ASHREA. MERV 8 filters have 90 percent efficiency on particles that are 3 to 10 micrometers in size catching small particles, such as mold spores, hair spray, dust mites, and animal dander. They are effective at trapping a majority of indoor particulates that could affect those with asthma and allergies, or even cause long-term respiratory problems.

    Current standard operating procedure

    Preventive maintenance checks are conducted based on manufacturer recommendations for the individual system in each building.  Depending on the system in place, those could be conducted monthly, quarterly, semi-annually, or annually.  Schedules are managed through our maintenance work order system, and work is automatically assigned to HVAC technicians.

    When HVAC technicians do preventive maintenance checks, they make repairs on the spot if possible or order needed parts and supplies to complete the repair in the future. When parts and supplies arrive, HVAC technicians return and make repairs.

    For approximately five years, Columbia Public Schools has partnered with a filter supply company to replace and maintain filters districtwide.

    HVAC considerations due to COVID-19

    The district is currently evaluating which HVAC systems can be upgraded to filters with higher MERV ratings. Not all systems can be updated due to design or manufacturing limitations.

    We are evaluating the possibility of increasing the frequency of filter changes.

    We are increasing the daily hours that air exchanger units operate in the "occupied" mode to increase fresh air exchange in buildings.

    We have experienced, and believe we will continue to experience, disruptions in the supply chain to obtain parts for some repairs of HVAC equipment across the district due to related to COVID-19 interruptions.

    We are researching UV and Ionization technologies that could provide additional improvements in air quality.  However, these will be very costly, and some of the products do not yet have a historical track record for durability and maintaining necessary requirements.  Moving to field this type of equipment requires further research and budgetary considerations.