The kitchen is the core of any food establishment. When the kitchen is not running efficiently or safely, it will compromise production, quality, and the diminish revenues. The International Kitchen Exhaust Cleaning Association (IKECA) has created a standard on inspections for grease build-up in a commercial kitchen exhaust hood. The reason why those standards have been implemented is because of the negative and harmful results that commonly occur when they are not followed. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for kitchens to have an air system that is completely out of balance. Routine inspections of the exhaust hoods are just one component to maintaining proper ventilation and airflow within the kitchen walls.
A restaurant kitchen is like an assembly line; and each step effects the next. A typical kitchen ventilation system includes an exhaust hood or canopy, ductwork, fan system, and means of providing adequate make-up air. When one of these components is not working, it will affect the entire ventilation and airflow of the kitchen and its surrounding areas.
Commonly, a swamp cooler is part of the kitchen exhaust system. A swamp cooler provides cool, fresh air back into a hot kitchen. The swamp cooler and exhaust system work together to regulate the cycle of air in the space. When either the swamp cooler or the exhaust system are not functioning properly it creates either positive or negative pressure – throwing the airflow off balance. In some cases, an off-balanced kitchen may be stealing air from other parts of the building exhaust system, which then disturbs the airflow in those areas and creates a much larger ventilation problem.
Signs of Improper Ventilation and Airflow
Here are some signs to determine whether your kitchen exhaust system needs improved ventilation and airflow:
1. Doors slamming – if airflow balance if off, doors will often slam. This is because all the air is coming into the kitchen, but there is nothing to regulate it. It creates a “suction” dynamic in the room.
2. Resistance to opening a door – similar to that of the door slamming, if the balance is off, the kitchen may be lacking enough air, causing doors to be difficult to open (also related to the “suction” dynamic).
3. Too hot/discomfort – the kitchen should never be hot. The swamp cooler should provide cool air to the kitchen at all times. If temperatures are constantly fluctuating throughout the day; it is not being properly regulated.
4. Watch the steam! When food is coming out of the kitchen and you can see steam traveling back towards the kitchen – this could be a sign that the airflow is off balance and the kitchen HVAC system is trying to steal air from the dining area.
5. High employee turnover – if the ventilation and airflow are not balanced, it creates a hot kitchen and uncomfortable work conditions for employees. Working in this type of environment, especially for extended periods of time, is not healthy and creates unhappy employees who eventually move on to a more favorable atmosphere.
6. High utility bills – most establishments will not spend the time or money to determine why their electricity bill is so high; but testing the airflow often reflects that poor HVAC systems are the root of high utility bills.
7.Poor food quality – unbalanced airflow creates uneven cooking surface temperatures, excessive grease accumulations, high velocity over food staging areas, and shortened food life from poor open storage conditions.
8. Loss of business – poor food quality and an uncomfortable dining area means customers will not want to return.
It is a challenge to properly ventilate commercial kitchens, as they require moving large volumes of air through ductwork. According to Contracting Business, “It’s not uncommon to have 12,000 cfm of air moving through a 1,000 square foot restaurant kitchen. Typical makeup air units are short of airflow by 30%, causing the exhaust fan to steal 3,600 cfm from the dining room. You can imagine the effects of this scenario on comfort and energy costs.”
You can calculate the required fresh air needed in your restaurant by doing the following: take the maximum seating capacity, multiply that by 70%, then multiply that number by 20 cfm per person. Once you know how much fresh air should be brought into your kitchen exhaust system, you can calculate the makeup air cfm. Take the hood exhaust cfm, subtract the required fresh air cfm that you calculated, then add bathroom exhaust cfm and about 250 cfm building pressurization airflow for a typical sized restaurant. If this sounds too complex, an easier alternative is to call someone who can make this determination for you: Airtek Indoor Air Solutions.
To achieve proper ventilation and airflow in a commercial kitchen is a vital part to earning business and keeping your restaurant successful. Call 1-877-858-6213 to have Airtek Indoor Air Solutions give you a free estimate on cleaning your kitchen exhaust system components and helping improve your indoor air quality.
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