Senior Living healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), such as MRSA, C. diff, influenza and other viruses that cause respiratory infections, impact thousands of Long-Term Care facilities across America every year. With the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need to address pathogen exposure in Long Term Care facilities has become an increasingly urgent need, and many communities are turning to their HVAC systems to address the need. In addition to increasing ventilation and filtration, installing Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization (NPBI™) technology is proven to further enhance an HVAC system and proactively inactivate and reduce pathogens in the air.

Join Direct Supply’s Zane Davis as he sits down for a virtual Q&A with Global Plasma Solutions Founder and CTO Charlie Waddell. He’ll address frequently asked questions surrounding NPBI, including how it works, effects on HVAC efficiency, pathogen inactivation efficacy and comparisons to other competing technologies.

Zane Davis

Business Development Manager,
Direct Supply TELS

Charlie Waddell

Founder & CTO,
Global Plasma Solutions

How does NPBI work?

NPBI technology uses an electronic charge to create a plasma field of both positive and negative ions, which is proven to be more effective than unipolar systems. As the ions travel within the air stream, they attach to pathogens, particles and gas molecules, breaking them down and rendering them ineffective.

Where in an HVAC system does NPBI get installed?

Ideally, it’s installed after the filter and before the cooling coil so the ions can flow through the coil and sanitize it. It can also be mounted on the supplier fan inlet or on the supplier duct, which will increase ionization in building spaces due to its closer proximity.

How do you know you’re getting the correct product for your HVAC system?

NPBI is customizable to any system and can match any system’s CFM, or tonnage. This ensures levels of ionization reach the effective levels they’ve been tested for. In general, that’s 1,500 to 2,000 ions per cubic centimeter.

What maintenance is required?

Very little. The direct current systems have automatic wiper blades built in to clean the brushes every few days. The alternating current system does not have a static charge, and therefore doesn’t require as much cleaning. 

Is NPBI safe?

Yes, two thorough metastudies have assessed the safety of ionization. “Air ions and respiratory function outcomes: a comprehensive review” concludes the reviewed human experimental studies “do not indicate a significant detrimental effect of exposure to positive air ions on respiratory measures. Exposure to negative or positive air ions does not appear to play an appreciable role in respiratory function.” Another comprehensive review, “Negative Air Ions and Their Effects on Human Health and Air Quality Improvement” found “no data showed the harmful effect of negative air ions on humans/animals.” Further, these ions occur naturally, and the goal of NPBI is simply to re-create them where they may otherwise be taken out by mechanical filters. One of the key differences between regular bipolar ionization and Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization is NPBI’s removal of harmful ozone byproducts.

Is NPBI ozone-free?

Yes. NPBI is UL 2998 certified, which means it puts out less than 5 parts per billion of ozone, which is an extremely stringent number. ASHRAE has mandated any commercial buildings with electronic air cleaning technology must be certified to this standard, so if you’re considering the older forms of bipolar ionization, you must ask to see proof of this UL certification, because most will not be able to comply.

What other testing has been done to prove NPBI’s effectiveness, and how new is the technology?

To establish the effectiveness of NPBI, GPS partnered with several third-party labs, including EMSL, ALG and Innovative Bioanalysis. Most GPS testing has been conducted at an ionization level of 3,000 to 5,000 ions per cubic centimeter, which is similar to what will be found in occupied spaces inside buildings where NPBI technology has been properly installed. All tests are conducted against a control group, so comparisons can be made between the natural rate of decay for any pathogen and the improvements stemming from ionization.

It’s not new and has been installed in numerous places, including Starbucks Headquarters, the White House, Johns Hopkins University and many others. It has also been certified to be installed in commercial aviation.

Will this impact the performance of an HVAC system?

It depends on model selected and mounting, but it can actually improve the performance of a system. The GPS iMOD, mounted on the air inlet side of the cooling coil, will actually keep the coil clean, reducing the load on the chiller plant and on the fan, resulting in energy-saving pressure drop. Likewise, independent research has confirmed that NPBI, when combined with a MERV 8 rated filter, will actually increase the effectiveness of that filter to MERV 13.

How does NPBI compare to other forms of bipolar ionization available?

We do have a lot of competitors who offer what I like to call “the best the 1960s had to offer.” It’s an energy inefficient glass/composite tube that is not solid state, so the power level required to break down those tubes is going to create ozone as well, which is a danger and no longer UL 2998 compliant. NPBI is also capable of producing far greater numbers of ions per cubic centimeter than standard corona discharge systems.

How does NPBI compare to UV-C systems?

UV-C generally mounts over the drain pan of the cooling coil to shine on the wet side of the coil where the biofilm or mold grows. They kill what they shine on, but that’s the limitation. The virus has to get to that cooling coil and under the light for it to be inactivated. NPBI is controlling pathogens and particles in building spaces, not just in the ductwork. UV-C also does not address particles or gases.

How can this technology enhance PPE?

Ionization has been found to increase the efficiency of N95 masks and surgical masks, with the largest improvements found in the least-efficient masks. According to a study published in the Invertis Journal of Science & Technology conducted in a controlled environment using manikins, N95 mask effectiveness was increased from 98% effectiveness to almost 100%, and surgical mask effectiveness increased from less than 80% to over 98%, even for the smallest particles. It also neutralizes static electricity. When things become statically charged, they pull the dust out of the air, especially ultrafine particles where SARS-CoV-2 resides, so helping remove that charge from PPE is beneficial.

Learn more about GPS NPBI technology available from Direct Supply and how it can help protect your residents, staff and buildings.