Room air purifiers instead of cold feet for the children

UlmAIR Managing Director Daniel Ehrhardt speaks plainly on SWR morning radio and calls for planning security for manufacturers

In Rhineland-Palatinate and Baden-Württemberg, the second school semester is currently running under pandemic conditions. This means that distance, masks and tests are compulsory in schools and day-care centres. Above all, however, the windows in the classrooms must be opened every 20 minutes or after the CO2 traffic lights have given a warning, even now on the days when it is still cold. In this way, the rooms are to be sufficiently ventilated, "unless the air exchange takes place exclusively via a suitable room air conditioning system", according to the regulation of the Stuttgart Ministry of Education. UlmAIR managing director Daniel Ehrhardt spoke to SWR Aktuell editor Andreas Böhnisch on SWR morning radio about the topic of virus-free air in classrooms, but also in offices and industrial rooms, as well as about the financing options for air purifiers.

First of all, it became clear in the conversation that the X80 room air purifier, which is most widely used by UlmAIR customers, is better at cleaning the air in classrooms from Munich to Karlsruhe to Berlin than "ripped open windows", because the pupils and teachers do not get cold feet in the process and often have to put on their thick winter jackets. In order to increase the use of the devices, the federal government alone has launched a 200-million-euro funding programme for their purchase. Baden-Württemberg is providing 70 million euros and Rhineland-Palatinate 6 million. However, most of the funds are intended as grants. Municipalities and districts, i.e. the school authorities, have to cover almost half of the costs themselves.

Money for the air purifiers, whether mobile or permanently installed, is available. So the demand must also be corresponding, analysed SWR editor Andreas Böhnisch. The phones at UlmAIR headquarters must still be glowing, especially since X80 & Co. are eligible for funding? "Demand has definitely been high. And it is still at a high level, but decreasing. Because many funding guidelines or funding programmes are now coming to an end," said Daniel Ehrhardt and suspects that the money has not yet run out. In Bavaria, subsidies expire at the end of 2021. UlmAIR has no planning security at the moment because of this situation. No one knows whether there will be money in the future, whether it will be paid later or whether new guidelines will be approved: "That doesn't make it very easy for us as equipment manufacturers. But it's the same for many municipalities that didn't have the opportunity to react quickly enough to get into the first programmes."

Questions about questions about the right equipment

Editor Andreas Böhnisch was surprised because it was reported that of the 200 million euros in federal funds, the federal states had only called up 3.7 million. There must still be money available: "Could it be that the school authorities are a bit sluggish because they hope that the Corona pandemic is now slowly coming to an end and that these air purification systems will no longer be needed? Ehrhardt: "There are many parameters that play a role. One is the question that school officials in the municipalities are asking themselves: which device is the right one for us, which technology is the right one. Are these devices functional at all? The Federal Environment Agency alone only changed its mind in June 2021 and said that these devices are eligible for funding. Then Bavaria came in autumn 2021 and said, yes, we want to promote which devices are eligible." So the Länder want to give money to maintain face-to-face teaching.

Municipalities must not be accused of hesitation

Ehrhardt also said that delays are also caused in the municipalities. Therefore, one should not blame those responsible. It is difficult to issue tenders within three or four months and to determine how many devices with which technology are needed. In addition, the funds needed at the end of the year can only be made available in supplementary budgets, which may take another eight to ten weeks - by which time the subsidies have expired.

The question of the size of the units

UlmAIR builds mobile and permanently installed air purifiers for the different sizes of rooms, for classrooms or meeting rooms. This means they are well equipped for all requests and can set up units for room sizes from 15 to 150 square metres. However, if you want to equip a gymnasium or a larger assembly hall, you cannot set up five to six mobile units. There, a system on the roof makes sense, which also ensures safe and clean air.

Delivery problems for X80 & Co. are not an issue

In the middle of 2021, deliveries of printed circuit boards, and later also of fans, stopped. This also left UlmAIR with a major problem. "Of course, we made massive efforts to procure at that time and quickly found solutions to be able to deliver," Ehrhardt said. Looking back, he explained that the manufacturers received little support from the government in their search for the required circuit boards. Instead, there is now the question of sustainability: What technical regulations will come for the devices that will be installed in schools, in offices and in industry or shops? This makes planning very difficult, and Ehrhardt has made this a "crystal ball issue". He said he does not know what will be demanded in three or four months. This, he said, is also due to the Corona situation and the question of whether a new virus variant will emerge in the autumn. Therefore, he said, the nationwide situation must be clarified and with it the question of whether "really all classrooms will be equipped with the air purifiers, whether they will be installed in administrative buildings. It also has to be clarified perfectly whether the companies will receive aid for the devices. There is a bridging aid 4 for the industry, which says that if they are hard-pressed, they can put the devices on as hygiene measures. These would be subsidised again. Daniel Ehrhardt: "We already have the first enquiries again. And we know that our devices work and clean the air in the rooms. We might have to place more emphasis on that in the future."


When it comes to the perfect room air cleaner and improvements, Daniel Ehrhardt (right) explains this to his employees in the production hall in Ulm-Dornstadt and to the listeners of SWR-Morgenradio.

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