Why Commercial Kitchens Need a Specialized HVAC System

February 19, 2021
Written by HVAC Link

he amount of foot traffic, activity, equipment, and heat needed to operate a commercial kitchen make it one of the most challenging environments to work in. Oven, fryers, and dishwashers frequently run simultaneously, causing both heating and cooling systems to work on overdrive. Without proper systems in place to counter these factors, this working environment can significantly impair comfort levels and air quality throughout the building.

In the hospitality industry, comfort is paramount, especially for guests. To offset the challenges of a commercial kitchen and ensure the level of service needed to satisfy clients, restaurants and hotels alike need reliable and efficient HVAC systems.

However, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the problem. HVAC systems must be carefully designed to cater to the specific needs of the kitchen, and the entire building as a whole, effectively in terms of function and cost.

Why You Need a Specialized Commercial Kitchen Ventilation System

Different commercial kitchens have different demands, and your HVAC system must be able to accommodate their unique requirements:

  • A commercial kitchen can get extremely hot

Kitchens can be an uncomfortable environment to work in. Between preparing and cooking food, kitchen temperatures reach extremely high levels for extended periods of time. The heat and humidity combined can be harsh on employees. At the same time, staff coming in and out of the kitchen to the outside can affect the airflow.

To further complicate things, commercial kitchens also often include cold storage areas, like walk-in coolers and freezers. It can be difficult for the cooling equipment to continuously function efficiently if the kitchen is too hot. 

  • Kitchen air is contaminated by grease, dust, and other materials

Kitchen air may carry particles and chemicals that may not only affect productivity but also cause health problems. The smoke, fumes, and grease in the air are often associated with eye irritations and respiratory problems.

A commercial kitchen must have a working and balanced ventilation system to effectively filter irritants while controlling the temperature throughout the kitchen area.

  • The kitchen can have overpowering odours

Kitchen smells are often inviting, aromatic, and mouth-watering. However, kitchens can also give off greasy and stale odours from ingredients like meat and spices. If you have your kitchen has an adjoining dining area, unpleasant smells may overpower the more pleasant ones and repel guests as soon as they walk in.

Odours in a commercial kitchen cannot be completely avoided, but an effective ventilation system can keep them to a minimum. If properly arranged, the system can also keep those smells from escaping into customer areas.

  • Kitchens have varying size and setup of cooking

Some kitchens can be small and detached from the dining area, but there are also kitchens that are large and open for the guests to see, hear, and smell everything cooks are doing. These two varying sizes and setup of commercial kitchen requires two different HVAC solutions as well.

  • Various tasks are being performed in commercial kitchens

Commercial kitchens do not only contain cooking equipment, which emits heat, grease, and odours, they usually have refrigeration and dishwashing areas too. These machines can also produce heat and clouds of steam when in use. As a result, employees also need to deal with high humidity levels.

Generally, different areas need different types of exhaust hoods installed. If your cooking area is near the dishwashing space, the ventilation system must be modified accordingly.

  • The kitchen can produce large amounts of moisture

There are multiple sources of moisture in the kitchen, including boiling water, dishwashers, steam tables, and cleaning materials. Moisture and dampness in a building can cause a wide range of problems. It can serve as a breeding ground for moulds, microbes, and pollutants. Increased risk of sickness has been associated with indoor humidity. Moisture can also cause structural problems and corrosive damage to the building.

Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning components affect how air and moisture flow through the building. These must be designed to control the risk of condensation in different parts of the building.

  • Kitchen workloads can get busy

Kitchen workloads can fluctuate depending on the time of day. Kitchens of fine dining restaurants can get extra busy especially around dinner time. Dishwashers will be constantly operating as well. However, during other times, the kitchen can be quiet, with only one or two people doing prep work. More versatile HVAC systems, preferably with automated controls, must be installed to handle extreme fluctuations in temperature and humidity.

  • Energy consumption can be expensive

Proper kitchen ventilation means completely replacing the kitchen air with clean, fresh air. According to the Natural Resource Canada’s Office of Energy Efficiency, kitchen ventilation is usually the single largest consumer of energy in commercial kitchens. Without careful planning, HVAC equipment will only be wasting energy without effectively exhausting indoor fumes and air. Smoke and heat will continue to envelop the cooking area, putting employees in distress, and driving your energy bills up.

  • Commercial kitchen ventilation systems are highly regulated

Commercial kitchen ventilation systems are highly regulated although rules can differ from one locale to another. The system is generally evaluated based on many factors, including the size, flow rate, positioning, and installation. It must also meet standards for sanitation and hygiene, fire control, indoor and outdoor air quality, and insurance regulation.

Factors That Can Help Commercial Kitchen Ventilation Work Better

When designing or modifying your kitchen ventilation system, these are a few factors you need to consider to allow your system to function well for lesser cost:

  • Use High-Efficiency Filters

Install high-efficiency filters for your ventilation systems. The better your filters, the more effective it is in removing airborne particles and contaminants. This will clear up your ducts and vents and cut the time need for cleaning.

  • Use Demand Ventilation

A demand ventilation system can automatically sense changing levels of heat, fumes, and other matters that need ventilation. This allows the system to only operate when required. This also helps you lower your operating cost and maintain your equipment’s efficiency as it only works at maximum levels when need the most.

  • Integrate HVAC and Kitchen Ventilation Systems

To ensure your system is operating at peak capacity, make sure that you properly integrate your ventilation with your temperature control equipment. This way, each system can efficiently and effectively balance the other. The minute your HVAC system detects a change in temperature, the ventilation system can regulate its gears accordingly to produce the best results.

  • Seal Gaps

Air loss may cause the HVAC system to work unnecessarily to meet the demands of the commercial kitchen. This can raise monthly bills. Improve kitchen ventilation efficiency by sealing ducts, and fixing leaks and poor insulations. Sealing the gaps and leaks can also improve comfort in your kitchen since heated or cooled air can be properly delivered to different locations without escaping through the gaps in the ducts.

Commercial kitchens are vital components in the food industry, so it must be safe and comfortable for the staff and clients to be in. Properly ventilating the area ensures that your kitchen continues to operate without a hitch.

The design of your commercial kitchen’s ventilation system, though, should be particular to your needs. The size, layout, types of food being cooked, the number of busy areas all determine how your equipment must be installed.

Consult a trusted specialist to assess your commercial HVAC needs, call HVAC Link at (416) 567-3498. Let us help you keep your business’s air systems functioning at their best.

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