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Time to exceed ventilation standards

David Millward, product manager at Elta Group discusses why commercial kitchen ventilation needs to be a top priority for HVAC contractors and facilities professionals, alongside some of the latest solutions 

As 2020 comes to a close, many food outlets are less able to capitalise on outdoor space for both cooking and hosting. With more operations moving inside, the spotlight on indoor air quality intensifies. 

Social distancing, self-isolation and city-wide lockdowns forced many fixed establishments to shut shop earlier this year, while others adapted to capitalise on the home-delivery market. One thing that’s for certain is that the kitchen will remain the heart of any restaurant that weathers this storm, and will therefore have the greatest need for ventilation. 

In the UK it is all-too-familiar to see ventilation system design quality compromised due to budget restraints. This often poses a number of risks surrounding occupant wellbeing as well as the functionality of the kitchen itself. 

What are the risks? 

1. Health and safety of staff 

If ventilation isn’t optimised to remove harmful pollutants effectively, while bringing in enough airflow for gas combustion, this can have damaging effects on the health and wellbeing of staff. In some cases it can also impact cognitive ability. 

2. Noise pollution

Secondly, if a ventilation solution is not fully optimised in the design stage it can have an impact on the acoustics of a restaurant. If the venue is particularly high-end, this can lead to a damaging effect on reputation. 

3. Increasing energy bills 

Ageing equipment is one of the biggest energy-drainers in a commercial setting. While a ventilation system may have been compliant and optimised at the point of purchase, it could quite possibly be impacting a business’s bottom line by draining resources. As we know all-too-well, now is not the time for wastage, so by allocating capital to improving equipment businesses will see the benefit in the long-run. 

4. Disruption due to breakdowns or fire alarms 

Poorly specified equipment quite often won’t be able to stand the heat. This means it is more prone to failure and breakdown, disrupting service as well as potentially setting off the fire alarm at regular intervals. 

5. Damage to the kitchen  

When cooking with poor ventilation, the air quality is compromised and food particles can be carried around the kitchen. This can not only contaminate surfaces but also damage them. With poor ventilation, users need to clean the kitchen’s surfaces more frequently to avoid contamination and preserve them against the potential of stains and water damage.

Substandard specifications 

Given that there is so much at stake, it’s easy to see why good ventilation is such a vital part of a commercial kitchen. It may not be the most exciting piece of equipment a chef or restaurant manager may purchase, but it certainly plays a pivotal role. However, it’s not uncommon for end-users to want to drive down costs and therefore jeopardise key elements of the specification process. Here are a few of the potential things that could go wrong and worth reiterating to your customers when specifying commercial ventilation this year:

1. Incorrect temperature ratings of fans 

In order to keep costs down on an installation, there is a tendency to install low cost fans that are designed for say 60°C heat, in an environment with cooking materials reaching much higher temperatures, sometimes up to 200°C. 

2. Incorrect air velocity calculations 

One way to remove grease is to position baffle filters on a canopy. These are designed in such a way that the grease will hit a wall, drip down the surface, and then run away. However, if too much air is drawn across the space, it will carry the grease straight through the filtration and into the duct – and that is a serious fire hazard!

3. Omission of accessories

There are many accessories that can help optimise a system but these are often the first thing to get cut out of a quote. Examples could be silencers to reduce noise or controls to improve efficiency levels. 

Potential solutions 

Demand Control Ventilation

Commercial kitchen operators need versatile systems that can balance cost with impact. For example, typical commercial kitchens have various arduous ventilation systems with high resistances against which a fan has to operate. Demand control ventilation is a technology that utilises sensors to manage the levels of smoke, moisture, grease and cooking odours within set levels at all times. Solutions come in the form of: humidity transmitters; PIR sensors; pressure, CO2 and temperature transmitters; and room humidistats. 

Centrifugal box fans 

While space saving is a common goal for many building solutions, social distancing rules are forcing businesses to utilise space more effectively. When it comes to specifying commercial kitchen ventilation, centrifugal box fans provide a potential solution. Take Elta’s Slim Qube for example, it has a slim body shape and lighter weight, which is ideal for restricted spaces. We often see them specified on the roofs of retail units. Not only this, the more efficient backward curve impeller helps businesses significantly drive down energy costs.

What to do next

The impact of COVID19 on the food and beverage sector has moved the goalposts entirely. And, as we move into the colder months, indoor air quality needs to be of utmost importance in settings to protect human health, as well as protect a business’s reputation and overheads. The specification process needs to be an educational one in order to avoid cut corners. It is therefore the role of HVAC contractors and facilities professionals to ensure that ventilation standards are not just adhered to, but exceeded. 

22 December 2020


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