In any building, it is pointless installing an efficient system if you do not protect its weak points: the doorways. Air curtains can stop the expensively heated or chilled air escaping, writes Phil Chilton of Dimplex
Air curtains do not have to provide a source of heat, although most models can contribute to the heating system. Their primary function is to force air at high speed across the complete doorway, to prevent air movement between the internal and external environments, keeping treated air in and fumes, chills, heat and dust out. This helps to minimise energy costs and reduce carbon emissions, a hot topic in today's commercial world.
Air curtain models are available for every application, from retail premises, restaurants, offices and hotels, through to industrial applications where the most powerful units are used to protect doors up to 6m high, such as large warehouses, factories and distribution centres.
But, with so many makes and models on the market, what should you look for in an air curtain to incorporate in an air treatment system? Products that offer energy efficiency and flexible installation from manufacturers with high levels of customer service are a must.
To keep running costs down for the user, the air curtains you select should feature advanced control systems. For example, when a door is closed, the air curtain should not continue to expend energy by continuing to function at full output.
You should expect, as standard, an electronic energy saving feature that will work with a compatible door sensor, allowing the air curtain to reduce its heat and airflow on a stepped basis as the door remains closed, eventually going into a dormant state until it is triggered into life again by the door being opened.
Air curtains should also be compatible with timers and door sensors for additional control, and should have a built-in Building Energy Management System (BEMS) interface as standard. This enables them to operate as part of an integrated energy management system. Controlling the air curtains via a BEMS system gives a greater level of energy management for the user and therefore reduces running costs.
For doorways up to 4m in height, function does not need to take precedence over form. Look for a manufacturer that can supply product in a wider choice of colours than just white. Dimplex, for example, offers a bespoke powder coating service to all customers, with surface-mounted units available fully coloured and recessed models supplied with coloured grilles. Your customer might be surprised to learn that the air curtains can be supplied to fit in with any company livery or interior design, and with no minimum order quantity, individual units are no problem.
One recent installation took place at a new branch of the Giraffe restaurant chain in Milton Keynes. The architect had specified that the air curtain unit should fit in with the distinctive giraffe-styled interior design. So, as well as requiring a powerful output to protect the entrance, the unit needed to be custom-coloured.
To meet this requirement, an air curtain unit was bespoke powder coated to a giraffe beige colour, so it not only gives the necessary high performance, but is also aesthetically pleasing and complements the overall look and feel of the restaurant.
The service can match absolutely any shade: another recent installation saw a unit coloured cerise for an Ann Summers store.
Look also for products that offer flexibility in installation when providing air curtain coverage for larger doorways. All Dimplex air curtain ranges are modular, so a tailor-made, individual design is possible, almost regardless of the size or shape of the area. For wider spans, up to 10 units can be linked together using an optional kit to provide gap-free coverage across the entire door width.
As well as flexibility in system design, the installer sometimes needs to keep options open when it comes to the unit itself. Some of Dimplex's models, for example, offer the choice of being fitted either surface mounted or recessed, using an optional kit.
An installation, during the Christmas shopping season, at a shoe shop in London benefited from this freedom of choice, when time and flexibility were of the essence. The product had to be installed overnight.
The contractor had no idea until arrival on site for the overnight work what space - recessed or surface - would be available for the air curtain. A Dimplex unit was selected and was installed surface mounted.
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