Image SourceDenver, CA –While commercial kitchens always run hotter than dining areas, in the summertime–restaurant kitchens become can become hazardously hot. Furthermore, restaurant owners find that their energy bills–from cooling, fan use, and unbalanced air, etc.–increase dramatically. This ends up leeching resources from their profits. It also makes summer an ideal time to fine-tune and check your commercial kitchen HVAC system professionally. Here are some common problems that may be plaguing your restaurant in the warmer months:
Cool Air Is Pulled Out Through Exhaust Fan
Is your air conditioning bill incredibly high, while your establishment always seems inadequately cool? What may be happening is that your cold, conditioned air is being circulated out of your exhaust hood due to lack of make-up air. Instead of just doing its job of pulling gasses and hot air from above the stove, the exhaust hood can sometimes suck out the desirable air from inside your building. This often creates a vacuum effect in your entire restaurant, where it become difficult to open doors without them slamming you upon closing. The solution to this problem is as simple as installing a makeup-air unit.This kind of unit in your kitchen will generate much needed negative air pressure that will disallow unpleasant smells from flowing out into your general building, while also not letting your air conditioned air to so easily escaping through the vents.
Grease Filters Making Your Ventilation Ineffective
Image SourceDenver, CO – If you are in the process of building or renovating your restaurant kitchen, many questions are bound to arise about which materials are best to use. It is not just about aesthetic value either, but about fire safety, cleaning efficiency, and ease of repair. Let our experts at APS Hoods advise you on some basic rules of thumb when it comes to commercial kitchen ceilings.Different states have various regulations about which materials are permissible for use in commercial kitchens. However, the general requirements revolve around the material being safe for its use in a kitchen environments.The construction material must be:
Easy to clean/smooth: No textured materials are permitted, as it hard to clean out dust and grime. Vinyl coated tiles are fantastic, and sealed wood or concrete ceilings are acceptable as well.
Non-absorbent: Since steam will rise to the top of your kitchen, an absorbent and porous material will leave your ceiling susceptible to mold. That will present a health hazard and a costly repair in the future.
Other Considerations for Restaurant Ceilings
Ease of Access to Infrastructure: Since you may need to repair above-ceiling pipes or fix electrical wiring, the wisest choice for a ceiling solution is a drop tile grid, not large panels of wood or Sheetrock, This way, all that has to be done for an HVAC or electrician tech to do their inspections or repairs—is popping the individual tile or group of tiles off. Then they can be replaced when the service is over.
Easy Repair: If a part of the ceiling becomes damaged, say—from a leak or fire damage—having a tiled ceiling is a huge advantage, since you only need to replace the section that was damaged.
Image SourceDenver, CO – The same exhaust fans that are keeping your commercial kitchen comfortable and protecting the area from overheating may also be creating air imbalance problems throughout your establishment. Because the size, design, door and window placement of every building varies, the mechanism by which the atmosphere of your restaurant can best be corrected is most accurately established by an HVAC professional. They can provide what is called an air make-up service, which essentially replaces the air lost through hood fans with a special unit, which avoids some of the problems which present themselves when air from other areas of the home or building replace that lost air.
Negative Air Pressure
If the exhaust fan was not installed/incorrectly installed, or simply, if the makeup air from the fans is not enough to replace the air exiting from the stove area, negative air pressure can occur. Negative air pressure creates a sort of vacuum in your space, where windows and doors can shut suddenly, dust particles can settle fast onto surfaces or food, and whistle-like noises can also persist when air is let out or into the space. These are very undesirable conditions for a dining or cooking area because of hygiene reasons as well as the disruption of ambiance this can create.
With negative air pressure sucking everything back into your space, the gasses that are supposed to be going out from your chimney will actually come back in, creating a health hazard. This can set off carbon monoxide detectors and threaten the safety of your patrons and employees.
Inefficiencies in Hoods
The exhaust hood, unaided by the sufficient amount of make-up air, will–in turn–not be able to process the amount of air it was designed to handle. Over time, you will notice a buildup of grease and grime on your kitchen surfaces. Also, unpleasant cooking and other smells will seep into all the space pockets of your building, including the dining areas, where patrons are trying to enjoy their food!
Image SourceOrange County, CA – The ventilation system in your commercial kitchen or food prep facility can prevent the air from becoming polluted and can also prevent fires. If you have recently installed your vent hoods or it’s been a couple years, replacement isn’t likely. Even in the busiest of kitchens, these components are designed to last years into the future, and many come with warranties that protect against the risk of fan breakdowns and other anomalies.
Yet if you have had your vent hood system for fifteen years or more, you may want to consider a replacement. Here are the signs to look for when you’re wondering if a new vent system may be worthy of your investment.
Signs to Replace Your Vent Hoods
Tons of Grease Buildup
If anything will catch on fire quickly, it’s a grease-laden vent system. When grease gets caked into your fans and vents and throughout the various components that comprise your system, the slightest spark can create a dangerous situation you won’t want to encounter.
To save your employees, equipment, building, and customers, keep your ventilation system free of grease at every turn. While some buildup is normal during the average shift, too much is a hazard. Use a heavy duty cleaner nightly and schedule regular vent hood cleaning and maintenance to keep your equipment grease-free.
If the grease builds up over a long period of time, it can turn into an uncleanable mess, and replacement might be your best and least-costly option in the long run.
Working Too Hard
If your vent system is huffing and puffing and yet seems to be pushing even less air through than before, that’s a good sign that your vent system needs to be overhauled or replaced. In some cases, a simple fan replacement can do wonders, but only a professional ventilation hood expert should make that call.
Scheduling regular maintenance can keep the problem of not enough airflow in check, but outdated systems may be helpless and replacement may be your only recourse.
Changes in Production
If you have recently changed your menu or if you are suddenly producing more volume in your kitchen, your old vent hood system may not be able to keep up. This isn’t something you want to find out weeks into the new way of doing business.
It’s far better to schedule a maintenance and cleaning call if you do suspect that your equipment isn’t in the best working order before things get out of hand. New and energy-efficient vent hoods by top manufacturers will keep production ramping up without sacrificing quality, and you’ll even save on energy costs.
Changing Your Vent Hood Filter
Of course, some ventilation systems can seem to be malfunctional when changing your filter is all the situation calls for. Make sure you are changing or at least cleaning your hood filters regularly to prevent grease buildup and other problems. And, of course, to keep your ventilation system operating like new.
Image SourceOrange County, CA – The cost of food, equipment, and overhead is enough to cripple many food establishments unless precautions are taken. Restaurant managers should prioritize the lowering of energy costs if the business hopes to remain solvent long into the future. Here are the steps to follow when you want to minimize your energy bills to maximize the success of your commercial kitchen.
Operational Changes: Keep track of business day-to-day and look for any lulls where you can turn off equipment, such as keeping one oven operational as opposed to all three, for example. The smallest actions can lead to major savings when it comes time to receive the energy bill.
Low-Cost Retrofits: Vent hood professionals can examine your ventilation system to determine if any parts can be retrofitted for major savings. Going off-brand or refurbished can produce the same efficiency as a brand-new name-brand but get a professional’s opinion before any parts are switched out. This isn’t something you want to “wing,” after all.
HVAC Maintenance: Your HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system accounts for nearly 30% of your overall energy expenses. For that reason, you will want to ensure that all of your system’s components are operating as they should. Regular ventilation cleaning and maintenance can keep your energy costs down and the risk of fire at bay.
Short Pre-Heats: Many kitchen managers feel that it’s better to pre-heat early, but this can lead to exorbitant natural gas expenditures. Steam tables, grills, and broilers shouldn’t need to be pre-heated much or at all, and ovens should only need 15 minutes tops, depending on the appliance make, model, and age.
Newer Equipment: While the thought of purchasing all new equipment can fill frugal restaurant managers with dread, those appliances will soon pay for themselves. When you consider that most major commercial food equipment is designed to be Energy Star rated, you can save loads by giving those energy-hog components the old heave-ho. The ventilation and commercial kitchen professionals can help you choose the ideal components for the lowest energy fees possible.
Precook Foods: Potatoes, chicken, for example, can be cooked in a steamer before they are fried. Steamers are more efficient than fryers, and soon you’ll see the difference on your electric bill.
Proper Kitchen Layout: Believe it or not, the way you arrange your kitchen can lead to more significant energy costs. If your ovens are places directly next to your refrigerators, your fridges may have to work twice as hard. For best results and lower energy fees, place all your cooking equipment under a single vent hood and away from all cooling equipment.