Determining the impact of air-side cleaning for heat exchangers in ventilation systems

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cleaning coils can be an efficient way to reduce the need for reparations and maintain the functionality of a ventilation system. This study builds upon existing knowledge concerning the contamination of heat exchangers. Through field measurements on coils and heat-recovery units, a laboratory experiment on a coil, and a generic calculation example, this study determines the impact of sustained contamination on heat-recovery units with regards to energy use. Field measurements made before and after cleaning of heat exchangers show an average increase in the pressure drop by 12% and decrease in the thermal exchange efficiency by 8.1% due to mass deposited on the surface of the heat exchangers. Results from a laboratory test show a correlation between the mass deposited on a coil and (1) the increase in pressure drop over the coil, as well as (2) a diminishing heat exchange. Accumulating contamination on heat-recovery units in residential and commercial buildings (over time) is then linked to increasing pressure drop and diminishing thermal efficiency. With models based on these links, energy loss over time is calculated based on a generic calculation example in a realistic scenario. Practical application : The results from this study emphasize the need for maintenance of buildings with ventilation systems with coils, but more so those with heat-recovery units. The presented field measurements and laboratory study correlate energy loss with sustained accumulation of contaminants on coils and heat-recovery units. These results should serve as a recommendation to property owners considering maintenance of such units in their buildings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-59
Number of pages14
JournalBuilding Services Engineering Research & Technology
Issue number1
Early online date2019 May 12
Publication statusPublished - 2020 Jan 1

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Building Technologies

Free keywords

  • cleaning
  • energy use
  • heat exchanger
  • pressure drop
  • Ventilation


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