The Right Material is Absolutely Necessary for Work Site Success
Your institution’s critical environment cannot be influenced by any outside factors. It’s the only way to follow highly-controlled processes and protect the safety of the people and assets inside.
When it comes to outfitting your critical environment with air distribution products, your construction project manager must ensure that the material of each HVAC component is appropriate for the setting. A misstep or wrong choice can affect the integrity of your clean room, operating suite, laboratory, and other critical environments.
That’s why high-grade stainless steel components, including stainless steel grilles for air return and distribution are so vitally important.
What is stainless steel?
More generally, steel is an alloy of iron and carbon, containing no more than 2.1 percent carbon. Stainless steels, however, contain additional alloying elements so that it is corrosion-resistant, highly-cleanable, and sturdy.
Even the term “stainless steel” can be quite vague; the term includes about 200 alloys with carbon percentages ranging from 0.03 percent to 1.2 percent.However, it is the chromium content that gives stainless steel its distinctive features. Stainless steel contains a minimum of 10.5 percent chromium, which prevents corrosion and oxidation.
Why do a range of industries use stainless steel in a variety of applications?
Stainless steel is a staple in lots of industries, and can be finished, patterned, or colored to change its appearance to fit with any aesthetic or use. And because it is extremely recyclable, stainless steel is easier on the environment as compared to other materials.
For critical environments, the best type of stainless steel to use is the 300 series, an austenitic stainless steel with alloys of carbon, nickel, and molybdenum. The most common grades are AISI 304, also called 18/8 steel, which is composed of 18 percent chromium and 8 percent nickel, and 316.
What is the difference between 304 and 316 stainless steel?
Type 304 stainless steel is the most versatile of all austenitic stainless steels. These steels are easy to fabricate, clean, and prevent contamination. Type 304 alloys are modifications of the 18 percent chromium, 8 percent nickel alloy.
Type 316 is also an austenitic chromium-nickel stainless with heat-resisting power and is even more resistant to corrosion than other steels, even in brine and sea water. This alloy is a molybdenum-bearing stainless steel, so it is more resistant to chemicals than 304.
Why is stainless steel ideal for critical environments?
There are many reasons why stainless steel is the material of choice for air distribution components in critical environments. Even elements like return grilles work best in critical environments when fabricated from austenitic stainless steel.
- Stainless steel is strong, even at high temperatures, and is fire resistant above 500 degrees Celsius. At extremely low temperatures, austenitic steel remains strong. The range of temperatures that stainless steel can withstand makes it ideal for HVAC applications.
- Austenitic stainless steel is also less conductive than other metals, although it does still conduct electricity to a degree. This protective quality is ideal in critical environments.
- Austenitic stainless steel also is not magnetic.
- Because stainless steel is highly resistant to oxidation, it does not require any protective coatings. Protective coatings on other types of metals will wear off over time, causing flaking, corrosion, and even contamination of your clean room environment.
- Because it is biologically inert, it is the perfect choice for medical-grade equipment.
- Stainless steel is resistant to acids, bases, and organic compounds. Little to no chemical reactions occur, so stainless steel survives the harshest of environments while continuing to look like new with very little upkeep.
- Stainless steel is easy to clean and sanitize, and does not require harsh compounds to do so.
What are the types of grilles for critical work environments?
For your critical environment, you’ll need a variety of stainless steel grilles that all perform different functions for your HVAC and air filtration systems. The most common grilles in critical environments include:
- Return air grilles. These grilles connect to ductwork and help to return air to the HVAC system. The grille’s design obscures the view of the ductwork and can help regulate air flow.
- Supply grilles. A supply grille covers air vents that pump air into your critical environment. Louvered or dampered grilles help to control the air flow.
- Filter grilles. These grilles control the diffusion of returned air and manage the direction and intensity of the air flow. They also help prevent your system’s air filter from becoming clogged.
- Door grilles. Also called privacy grilles, these allow air movement between spaces in your critical environment, while still providing a visual barrier between them.
Your construction project’s engineer and architect will collaborate to determine placement and type of grilles your critical environment will need. You may also want to consider more decorative grilles, if your end-goal includes a certain esthetic to your space.