Healthy Air, your Fan Coil Unit and COVID

March 2021

While “healthy” air has always been important, COVID-19 has given us one more reason to look at how the air we breathe affects our health.  In high-rise communities that means looking at your HVAC system and fan coil unit.

High-rise ventilation systems function by drawing in fresh air from outside, then pushing this air into the corridors of a building.  Pressurized corridors force air under unit doors and out through kitchen and bathroom exhaust systems.  If these systems are not well maintained, and don’t provide sufficient fresh or clean air, there can be air quality problems.

Separate from this, each suite can have one or more fan coil units that control unit air temperature.

Fan Coil Unit

Fan coil units are a type of HVAC system used in most high-rise residential buildings.

The unit includes a coil with hot or cold water for heating, cooling and ventilating the suite, and a fan.

The system draws in air from the suite for cleaning then returns it.  Each suite contains a thermostat for temperature control.  This recycled air can contain organisms that may include droplets from a sneeze or cough with a virus and can recirculate throughout your building.  Filters, which require periodic changing, are used to capture these droplets and viruses so they are not recirculated.  Higher quality filters will capture more droplets and viruses.

Fan coil units are impacted by age, mechanical issues and extreme temperatures.  Regular maintenance can keep them operating until they require replacement.

Poorly maintained and aging fan coil units result in poor air quality which can cause respiratory and health problems.  Symptoms include headaches, colds, sinus problems, asthma and allergic reactions.  Regular assessment and maintenance of your fan coil units help avoid these problems.

Fan Coil Unit Problems

Fan coil units become less efficient as they age.  Problems include mould, rust, slower motor speeds, inconsistent airflow and excessive condensation.

Partial solutions include improving air circulation by running the HVAC system at a higher speed to ensure air is circulated faster, and using quality filters that are changed more frequently.  Another option is to incorporate a fresh air intake connection to each suite’s fan coil unit.

Fan Coil Ownership and Maintenance

The fan coil system in each unit can be owned by the suite owner or the corporation.  If owned by the corporation they would be responsible for replacement and possibly for maintenance.  If owned by the suite owner, they are responsible for maintenance, repairs and replacement.  The corporation may choose to take responsibility for maintenance because of the potential for damage caused by flooding or leaking.

Fan Coil System Retrofits

Older fan coil systems, those over 20 years old, should be assessed.  A retrofit – which includes replacing old components in the fan coil cabinet plus cleaning and disinfecting – improves its operation by dealing with all factors causing the unit to perform inefficiently.

Ensuring the air you breathe at home is clean and safe is an easy way to improve health, comfort and lifestyle.