Can you Save Money and Energy Reducing HVAC in Cleanrooms?

One of the greatest expenses and energy drains in a cleanroom is the HVAC system. Air change rates, pressurization, temperature, and humidity are all monitored to maintain compliance for cleanroom classification. This accounts for about 80% of the energy used, and about 50% of that comes from that fans alone.

With strict guidelines on air quality and regulation, the HVAC systems are typically left to run at full power all the time. If you can reduce the amount of energy used by the HVAC or even shut the system down while the room is not in use (e.g. evenings and weekends), it would result in a significant cost and energy savings. The question is: is it possible to reduce the air change rates without compromising the microbial growth in a sterile environment?

According to research, yes, it might be possible to cut HVAC usage during periods of inactivity without compromising classification of the room.

Several experiments have been conducted to test this, yielding similar results. However, it is important to note that for your specific cleanroom, you should take this as part of your overall data collection to determine whether your own cleanroom qualifies for turndown or shutoff.

Pharmout.net published some interesting findings in the article “What’s your cleanroom costing you?” by Megan Rutherford. You can read the full details here. To summarize, the experiment took place in an empty Grade C cleanroom that was serviced by an airlock, both with terminal HEPA filtration.

As stated in the article, “A single air handling unit supplied the cleanroom and airlock, providing the cleanroom with up to 45 air changes per hour (AC/H). The system was balanced to provide 15 Pascals positive pressure to the airlock and 30 Pascals positive pressure to the cleanroom, relative to atmospheric pressure.”

What the study concluded was that while there was an increase in non-viable particles during low air change rates, the increase was not significant enough to change classification.

When the air change rate was stopped completely, this experiment found that classification was lost in about twenty minutes. However, depending on the cleanroom, some say you may be able to shut your system down completely on the weekends.

The potential to cut energy usage and accompanying costs by limiting your HVAC system is a game-changer for a lot of companies. The end result is definitely worth your time and resources to find out if this is a possibility for your facility.

For questions or services regarding cleanroom certification or validation, contact Gerbig Engineering Company. We’ve been in this industry for thirty years. 888-628-0056; info@gerbig.com.

5 Things You Never Want to See Inside your Cleanroom

The internal skin of your cleanroom is just as much a barrier from contaminants as are gloves and gowns. Like any barrier, the six sides of your cleanroom are less effective under certain circumstances. Anything that disrupts the smoothness of the surface is a potential contamination hazard. Here are 5 common mistakes people allow inside their cleanrooms.

 

  1. Compromised surface quality. Any bumps, cracks, scratches, holes, sharp corners, or raised surfaces can be a nightmare to clean. This is not only true of the enclosing structure, but also of countertops and other surfaces found within the room. Keep a close eye on the integrity of flat surfaces, and avoid any work that requires drilling or adding dimensions to the walls or ceiling.

 

  1. Rivets. These are used to join panels or keep coving or window frames in place. Rivets are very useful in some circumstances, but they are not always necessary. If they are behind flashing or coving, that is OK so long as they aren’t seen on the internal surface of the cleanroom. You can’t have someone drill a hole into an uncontrolled part of your facility or slop a silicone lump onto your wall that can never be fully cleaned.

 

  1. Mushroom bolts. These hold up a sandwich panel ceiling, and if you already have them in your facility, do not remove them. It isn’t feasible to retrofit a concealed ceiling hanger. However, if you’re starting from scratch, make sure that your contractor is using concealed fixings that don’t break the cleanroom barrier.

 

  1. Electrical conduit long the interior. If you build your cleanroom and have a separate contract for security, for example, you can’t let security start screwing into your walls to run grey electrical conduit. Be sure to specify this before hiring anyone who might be in a position to do so.

 

  1. Pass thru boxes on the wrong side. If you use a pass thru box, one wall will have to have it protruding out. If you pass material from a Grade C room into a Grade B room, the Grade C space should be the one with the protrusion. The Grade B space should be kept as smooth as possible – the two rooms should not each have a partial protrusion.

 

Your critical spaces need to be as close to a smooth six-sided box as you can get. This ensures that you’re reducing dead zones, enhancing airflow, and minimizing the small spaces where dust, dirt, and other contaminates can hide. Smooth surfaces are much quicker and easier to clean.

When it’s time for your cleanroom certification or validation, contact Gerbig Engineering Company. Our experts will handle these entire processes with care and precision. We also build cleanrooms and will ensure that your interior is optimal for long-term compliance. Contact us at 888-628-0056 or email info@gerbig.com.

A Commonly and Dangerously Ignored Cleanroom Rule

If you work in a cleanroom, you know it is imperative to follow protocol. To keep contaminates out and protect yourself from toxic substances, you likely use a variety of protective wear like gowns and gloves when you work. Even though gloves provide an excellent barrier between you and what you touch, it is important to take an extra step in safety. Are you washing your hands before and after wearing gloves?

If you’re not, you need to start immediately, and here is why.

Latex gloves are not 100% impenetrable. There is a chance that contaminates from your hands can break the glove barrier. You need clean hands before you even put the gloves on to protect the controlled environment.

Glove residue can break down your tolerance to irritants. Gloves often contain materials that can cause allergies. The allergens rub off on your skin, and if left there, they will gradually increase your sensitivity to them. As a result, you could develop an allergy to the gloves. Hand sanitizer does not remove the substance – you need to use water and soap to remove it completely.

Gloved hands are perfect conditions for bacterial growth. This is a no-brainer; hands inside of gloves are warm and moist. You absolutely need to clean your hands after bacteria have had some time to breed there.

Removing gloves can have a “back spray” effect. When you take your gloves off, it is possible for fluids and/or germs to be snapped back onto your hands, carried with you everywhere until you wash or sanitize them.

For the safety of yourself, your materials, and your colleagues, it is critical that you wash your hands both before and after wearing gloves. If you have any questions about validation or certification of your cleanroom, contact Gerbig Engineering Company. We offer these services along with cleanroom construction. Call us at 888-628-0056 or email info@gerbig.com.

Sustainable Cleanroom Practices: Retrofitting Old Equipment

With the massive amount of energy it takes to power and run a controlled environment, facility managers are scrambling to find ways to make environmentally-friendly choices. We’ve looked at some of the viable options that can make an impact, like recycling, modular cleanrooms, and reusable supplies like sticky mats. When you’re trying to be more green, one of the most obvious places to look is your equipment.

Newer equipment operates more energy-efficiently, but it is also a huge investment. Many facilities simply can’t afford to replace all the old equipment they have. For the equipment that is still fully functional, you may not have to. In many cases, you can retrofit or renovate your equipment to achieve the efficiency of brand new units.

The benefits of upgrading existing equipment are numerous and span far beyond environmental concerns, especially when compared to buying new. Here are a few of the biggest reasons to retrofit:

  • Equipment doesn’t need to be validated. Existing equipment likely won’t need to be revalidated, so you save time and piece of mind over buying new.
  • You won’t be reducing production like you would for new installations. Not only do you avoid slowing production when you retrofit, but also the equipment turnaround times will be faster after the change. Your production will actually increase, giving you a faster ROI.
  • No new training. Your staff already knows how to use the existing equipment and won’t need to take time out to train on a new unit or system.
  • Costs about 90% less than a new system. For example, a new contained tablet press cost over $1.5 million. Retrofitting that same equipment will be about $100,000 to $200,000.

 

Overall, if you want to improve your production and run equipment that is more energy efficient, you don’t have to buy new. There are many advantages to retrofitting, and at such a reduced cost, you can afford to upgrade more equipment.

If you’re considering a modular cleanroom, or if you need cleanroom certification or validation, talk to Gerbig Engineering Company. We have the experience to provide everything you need and answer any questions you have. Contact us at 888-628-0056 or info@gerbig.com.

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