One Engineer's Opinion graphic

One Engineer’s Opinion: Money is Not Everything

December 03, 2018

By Bruce Longino

I have written in the past about the benefits of bi-polar ionization units installed in our HVAC systems. Bi-polar means there are positive and negative ions. Ions are atoms or molecules that have one too many electrons [negative] or one too few electrons [positive]. Specifically in the application I am discussing, the water molecule (H2O) is split into a positive hydrogen atom +H and a negative hydroxide molecule –OH (H2O → +H and -OH).

Bruce Longino, PE, LEED AP
Bruce Longino, PE, LEED AP

These ions are created in nature by ocean wave action, water fall spray and elevated solar radiation high in the mountains. If you will think back to times when you were in these locations, you will remember how fresh the air smelled. This is because the ions created, killed mold, killed bacteria, killed viruses and reduced odors. That is why ions are called “nature’s sanitizers.”

Einstein was actually the first to make an ion generator. His sister had TB so she went to a mountain clinic and got better. Einstein new that the density of ions was greater in the mountains. Therefore he set out to artificially create ions. Unfortunately his device also created ozone or O3. Ozone is bad to breathe because O3 wants to be the more stable O2. To do this ozone oxidizes your lung tissue. Today, unfortunately some ion generator also produce too much ozone. However, needlepoint ion generators have been shown to only produce 1/7 of the EPA allowable ozone levels when operated in a stagnate box of air. If instead needlepoint ion generators are installed in a moving stream of air, the ozone present will be less.

Therefore, to my knowledge, needlepoint ion generation, is the only technology shown to pass the UL 867 Ozone Test.

And so you should specify this requirement to safely use this technology.

Bi-polar ionization does many wonderful things. Some of these are:

  • Kill bacteria on surfaces and in the air.
  • Kill mold on surfaces and in the air.
  • Kill viruses on surfaces and in the air.
  • Reduce odors.
  • Reduce Volatile Organic Compounds.
  • Reduce static electricity.
  • Reduce particulates in the building air.

Because bi-polar ionization cleans the building air so well, HVAC designers can reduce the amount of outside air based on ASHRAE 62.1 Indoor Air Quality procedure.

ASHRAE 62.1 is the standard for how much ventilation air (outside air) must be introduced through the HVAC system into Commercial buildings. There are two ways to comply:

  1. Ventilation Rate Procedure – Add the required CFM per person to the required CFM per square foot. Typically 15 CFM per student in schools and 20 CFM per person in office buildings.
  2. Indoor Air Quality Procedure – The HVAC designer may reduce the CFM per person to 5, if an air cleaning system is installed that keeps the Contaminants of Concern below a certain concentration level.

By utilizing the ASHRAE 62.1 IAQ procedure, school designers can reduce the outside air CFM per student from 15 to 5. This allows the following savings, even after the needlepoint bi-polar ionization system is paid for:

  • Atlanta Area Schools (120,000 ft²)
  • Typical First Cost Savings = $300,000 to $400,000 or $2.50/ft²
  • Typical Annual Energy Savings = $36,000 or $0.30/ft².

Ionization Adds VALUE Not Cost!

Because of these huge savings, almost every school system in Georgia utilizes this technology.

I named this article “Money is Not Everything,” because saving money is not the most important thing about this technology.

About ten months ago this technology was installed in a downtown Atlanta homeless shelter operated by The Salvation Army. This shelter provides a wonderful Christian based service to the homeless of Atlanta. Every night the shelter allows up to 340 homeless people in. They are fed, allowed to shower and given a place to sleep. In the morning they are fed and all able-bodied non-veteran men must leave to find work. To help them find work, they are counseled on how to interview, etc., by The Salvation Army staff.

I attended an open house at this Salvation Army shelter. The Director of the shelter approached me. She exclaimed that they love the system. She said the odor in the building was gone. With 340 homeless people you can imagine the odor she was referring to. More importantly, was what she said about the flu season. In the past, because of the close quarters, almost everyone would get the flu. She said last flu season they only had a couple of cases. If you will remember, the flu last season was particularly deadly. Because the homeless probably have an immune system that is compromised, the bi-polar ionization may have saved lives.

You may wonder which pathogens the ionization system kills. These are “third party” test results:

Then you may wonder how ions kill pathogens. Here is a graphic of how:

You may ask how ions kill pathogens. Here is how:

“When these ions are injuected into the air stream they break down passing pollutants and gases into harmless compounds like: oxygen, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water vapor. When these ions come into contact with harmful pathogens such as virus, bacteria, or mold, they steal away hydrogen molecules from the pathogens. Without hydrogen, the pathogens are left without any source of energy to carry on and they die. Unlike air purification technology which relies on ultraviolet light, the ions produced by GPS’ technology can travel long distances within the air stream, cleaning the air far from the physical location of the plasma generator.” Source: GPS Engineering Air for a Better World.

Bi-polar ionization technology is amazing. That is why I wrote this article. Hopefully you will find applications like this homeless shelter where this technology can do the most good.

Please help The Salvation Army to continue their wonderful mission by contributing household products. i.e. furniture and clothing, as well as money.

W. Bruce Longino, P.E., LEED AP, may be reached by email at