La Soufrière Emergency Update (Barbados) – April 11, 2021. (PMO)

“If you don’t have to turn on your air conditioning, don’t turn it on.”

That’s the advice of Managing Director of Operations at TMR Sales and Services Ltd., Peter Thompson, as he gave his expert advice on how the ash fall being spewed on Barbados from the La Soufriere volcano in St. Vincent and the Grenadines can affect air conditioning systems.

Mr. Thompson, a mechanical engineer, was addressing the La Soufriere Emergency Update held this afternoon by Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley.

He explained that the volcanic ash could wreak havoc on air conditioning systems and compromise indoor air quality and comfort for occupants.

Describing the function of properly designed air conditioning systems, he said they should have some measure of outdoor air going through the system to “freshen” the air in the indoor space, using filtration systems.

“What this ash would present is a dangerous situation as it relates to changing the indoor air environment.  There are filtration systems, but at some point, based on the dense nature of the ash fall that we’re getting at times, those filtration systems are bound to be breached. And we will then be introducing into the indoor space the potential for having ash, which will have very erosive effects, but also their chemical constituents [such as sulphur] that you wouldn’t want to introduce into your indoor space.

Managing Director of Operations at TMR Sales and Services Ltd., Peter Thompson. (PMO)

“So, from an occupancy perspective, we are recommending that if there is no need to be in an office to turn on the air conditioning, don’t do it.  You don’t want to compromise your indoor air quality; you don’t want to compromise the indoor space by introducing ash into the indoor environment,” he advised.

In terms of the air conditioning equipment, Mr. Thompson said that if the ash became wet, it could turn into sludge, which was “very heavy” and could choke the system, causing the components in it to fail.  He pointed out that the ash was very erosive and likened it to someone constantly rubbing a piece of sandpaper over the equipment.

The A/C expert added that the erosive effect of the ash would destroy the fan and coil in the air conditioning system “in no time”.

“So, our recommendation is, unless it is an essential service, and we acknowledge that there are areas that cannot close; I mean, there are medical facilities that still have to operate; you have the data centres and other services… and telecommunication centres, which need to service the island continuously. \In situations like that, our recommendation is to do constant monitoring and constant servicing [of the A/C equipment] because we accept that those have to operate. But in situations where it is not essential, if you don’t have to turn on your air conditioning, don’t turn it on. That would be my advice to the island,” he stated.

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