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Formerly Silver Bullet Water Treatment Company is now a part of Clear Comfort.
Silver Bullet Water Treatment Company is now a part of Clear Comfort.
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Clearing the Air: The Secret to Better Air Quality at Aquatics Facilities

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Known as the father of hygiene, Max Joseph von Pettenkofer once said, “If there is a pile of manure in a space, do not try to remove the odor by ventilation. Remove the pile of manure.” Aquatics facilities wrestle with this problem in the form of air quality everyday.  Instead of removing the “pile of manure” or the source of bad air quality, many aquatic operators try to move, circulate and exchange the air in their facilities. However, today’s top aquatics facilities are taking advantage of new, direct and preventative methods to improve air quality. 

The Challenge: Aquatic Facility Air Quality 

Keeping air quality fresh and healthy odor is a top challenge for aquatic operators. The “pool” odor that lurks into lobbies and locker rooms isn’t only unpleasant, but toxic to inhale. Many assume that “pool” odor is from chlorine; however, it’s chloramines, the disinfection by-product (DBP) of chlorine reacting to organic material, like lotions, sweat and urine in the water. Also known as combined chlorine, chloramines can cause red eyes, skin irritation, asthma, allergies, “Lifeguard Lung” and other respiratory health issues.

The Solutions: Top 3 Approaches to Air Quality 

To combat poor air quality from chloramines, aquatics facilities generally have three solutions:  Typically, using one of these approaches alone isn’t sufficient for controlling indoor air quality. With the right combination of targeted solutions, aquatic facilities can dramatically improve air quality with very little operational costs and complexity.

The Most Common Approach: Air Dilution 

When dealing with air quality challenges, most aquatic operators first try to dilute their facility’s air with ventilation. A certain amount of ventilation is necessary for aquatics facilities, because swapping inside air for outside air has many health benefits. Health codes also require a certain ventilation rate for indoor aquatics facilities. According to the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), the acceptable minimum ventilation rate for breathing zones in indoor swimming pools and deck areas is 0.48 cfm/ft² (cubic feet per minute per square feet).  The ASHRAE standard may be a good rule of thumb, but there are a number of factors that this formula does not consider. Bather loading, natatorium size, facility type, air distribution, spray water features and more must all be factored into ventilation rates. Increasing ventilation air to remedy air quality issues is extremely energy inefficient and can create new problems of its own. More ventilation air leads to greater energy costs because fresh intake air must be heated while exhaust air carries the heat away. Added ventilation results in more evaporation, which in turn requires more fill water that needs more chemicals and more heating.  Air dilution is necessary and has benefits, but does nothing to address the underlying causes of bad air quality. Ventilation will not prevent chloramines and other DBPs from forming in the water and will not reduce their presence once they have formed. Merely following the accepted standards for ventilation is not enough to achieve healthy air quality in aquatics facilities. Introducing more ventilation air may help address the symptoms of poor air quality, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem.

The More Direct Approach: Targeted Air Treatment

Another option aquatics facilities have to combat poor air quality is targeted air treatment. Targeted air treatment allows facilities to selectively remove the bad air without removing the clean air, which is more effective than air dilution alone and requires less energy. Modern technology, such as Paddock’s Evacuator, detects the weight of heavier, chloramine-dense air, and removes that bad air rather than diluting it. The Evacuator system is designed to target and remove chloramine-filled air just above the water surface of the pool, which is the worst air in an aquatic facility. Treating the air in this way is more efficient than air dilution, and improves air quality while reducing energy consumption and corrosion of pool surfaces. Targeted air treatment combined with ventilation is more efficient and more effective than air dilution alone, but it still does not address the source of the problem by preventing chloramine production to begin with.

The Preventative Approach: Supplemental Sanitation

Similar to the preventative trends for health, wellness and “anti-aging” skin care – preventative pool water care is also on the rise. Rather than waiting for the symptoms of poor air quality, aquatics facilities can use supplemental or secondary sanitation systems to prevent chloramines from forming. The top supplemental and secondary sanitation methods include Hydroxyl-Based AOP pool systems, UV pool systems, ozone pool systems and ozone + UV AOP pool systems.  Supplemental or secondary sanitation is added to an aquatic facility’s primary chlorine or bromine disinfection. In short, supplemental and secondary sanitizers work by protecting against things that chlorine and/or bromine alone can’t. Additionally, supplemental and secondary systems protect against chlorine-resistant recreational water illness (RWI), like Cryptosporidium, Legionnaires’ disease, etc.  Powered by the leading and patented preventative sanitation method, Hydroxyl-Based AOP pool systems from Clear Comfort work by directly injecting treated air into a pool’s mainline to create high concentrations of hydroxyl radicals. These radicals are the most powerful oxidative compounds available for recreational water treatment, surpassing the potency of chlorine, bromine and ozone. With this powerful and patented oxidation method, Hydroxyl-Based AOP pool sanitation destroys the toughest contaminants on contact before they get a chance to combine with chlorine to make chloramines. This level of protection lessens the need for natatoriums to dilute air or use targeted air treatment, because the source of poor air quality is diminished. 

To see how a YMCA aquatics facility reduced up to 90% of combined chlorine (chloramines) and other disinfection by-products (DBPs), download the case study here.

Additionally, supplemental sanitation methods like Hydroxyl-Based AOP are more energy-efficient than air dilution and even other UV pool systems. Energy companies have provided aquatics facilities with grant money to cover the purchase and installation of AOP systems due to the energy saved from reducing air ventilation. However, supplemental and secondary sanitation systems do not eliminate the need for air dilution and targeted air treatment entirely, as they don’t remove existing toxins in the air.

A Comprehensive Strategy: Combining Multiple Solutions

For aquatics facilities who want the best possible air quality at all times, the right solution may be to combine the three methods: air dilution, targeted air treatment and water treatment. Combining all three methods together creates a complete solution that attacks bad air from all angles. For example, installing an AOP supplemental sanitation system and a targeted Evacuator system with standard ventilation will efficiently remove and prevent poor air quality in natatoriums of all sizes. With smart, modern and preventive air quality solutions, aquatics operators can deliver healthier, more enjoyable and sustainable swimming environments for patrons and staff.   

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