Antimicrobial Copper Components Being Tested for Air Conditioning
Mold and Odor Prevention
Posted: August 10,
NEW YORK — HVAC units provide dark,
moist environments that can be perfect breeding grounds for
bacteria and fungi leading to foul odors and decreased efficiency.
To combat this heating/cooling bacteria and mold problem, the U.S.
Department of Defense is funding research into antimicrobial
copper components that can control the growth of organisms in HVAC
units. The units are installed at the military barracks at Fort
Jackson in Columbia, S.C.
Charles Feigley, Ph.D., professor of environmental health sciences
at the University of South Carolina, and principal investigator
for the study, explained the need for this research, stating,
“Improvements in building and construction methods have generally
led to increased energy efficiency, but at the same time, these
‘tighter’ building envelopes tend to trap bacteria, leading to
odors. The results of this real-world trial should encourage
advancements in the design of HVAC systems.”
The Fort Jackson trial is comparing the ability of antimicrobial
copper HVAC components with commonly used aluminum components in
controlling the growth of odor-causing bacteria and fungi in HVAC
units. Components being replaced with copper are those in which
microbial contaminants tend to thrive — cooling coils, heat
exchange fins, and drip pans. The trial is designed to test the
effectiveness of copper surfaces in inhibiting the growth of
microbes which are not only the source of foul odors, but can also
build up on heat transfer surfaces and compromise the thermal
efficiency of the unit. In addition to being antimicrobial, the
copper elements are said to be highly recyclable and better
thermal conductors than their aluminum counterparts.
In conjunction with the field trial at Fort Jackson, a controlled
laboratory study is taking place at the University of South
Carolina in the Arnold School of Public Health. In addition to the
trials, the Copper Development Association is pursuing U.S.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) registration of copper
alloys for use in protecting HVAC components.
The copper cooling coils, heat exchange fins, and drip pans were
manufactured by Luvata, a leading metal fabrication and component
For more information, visit the Copper Development Association
Website at www.copper.org.