Troops stationed at Fort Jackson in Columbia, S.C., will be among the first to see if treated copper in an HVAC system can prevent mold and bacteria.

The U.S. Department of Defense has installed anti-microbial-coated copper components into the HVAC systems at Fort Jackson’s barracks to see if the treated copper can reduce or eliminate the odors that result from the fungus that typically grows on wet, moist aluminum HVAC equipment.

Instead of aluminum, the barracks’ HVAC systems include copper cooling coils, heat-exchanger fins and drip pans made by Luvata.

The University of Southern Carolina is leading the study. Charles Feigley, Ph.D., a professor of environmental health sciences there, said the energy efficiency of newer structures contributes to the problem.

“Improvements in building and construction methods have generally led to increased energy efficiency, but at the same time, these tighter building ‘envelopes’ tend to trap bacteria, leading to odors,” Feigley said. “The results of this real-world trial should encourage advancements in the design of HVAC systems.”

The Copper Development Association is seeking Environmental Protection Agency approval of copper alloys for use in protecting HVAC components.