Kitchens can be hot, smelly, smoky places to work at times, so specifying an effective ventilation system is as important as getting the cooking suite or refrigeration right. FEJ asked the industry’s top ventilation experts what mistakes buyers and specifiers need to avoid making when it comes to securing the best ventilation solutions for their sites.
1. Don’t look upon ventilation as ‘just a box’
In the grand scheme of a big kitchen build it can be easy to trivialise the role that ventilation plays, but with safety legislation to bear in mind and every operator scrutinising running costs it is about far more than just hanging a stainless steel box from the ceiling these days.
As Pete Tucker, sales director at Exoair, notes: “A correctly designed kitchen ventilation solution will maximise the potential of the cooking equipment that has been specified, provide a comfortable and safe working environment to the kitchen staff, will be economical with regard to the power consumed, will provide minimal nuisance to neighbouring properties and will ensure the operator stays on the right side of legislation and best practice.”
2. Don’t assume all sites are the same
Make sure you understand the technicalities of the proposed site you are specifying the ventilation for, especially when it comes to new developments. It has been well-publicised that a lack of suitable A3 premises available — particularly in built-up urban areas — is currently failing to satisfy the expansion appetite of the high street restaurant chains. This has undoubted implications for the type of potential ventilation systems that can be installed.
“This shortage has meant that some sites are being considered even though the means of providing suitable ventilation is a major problem,” says Ian Osbourne, managing director of Halton Foodservice. The other point here is that an appreciation of space is absolutely critical. “For years, operating equipment has been afforded little space, making it very difficult to sometimes incorporate the necessary units,” says David Collins, managing director of Purified Air. “Specifiers also need to consider positioning of premises and the need to incorporate grease, smoke and odour control equipment. Early consultation with experts in these fields would prevent operators experiencing unnecessary problems.”
3. Don’t ignore your surroundings
The hum of a ventilation system working away in the background provides the soundtrack for many a commercial kitchen across the land, but if it’s a front-of-house solution you require then choose something that isn’t going to spoil the environment. “The fashion for front-of-house cooking appears not to be diminishing and requires careful design when considering such factors as noise levels, which would be perfectly acceptable in the kitchen, but not in the restaurant,” notes Ian Osbourne at Halton.
Fans should be quiet and yet powerful enough, so make sure they are the correct size and easy to access for cleaning. Speed controllers can help to reduce energy consumption. Suppliers predict that 2015 will be a big year for aesthetically-pleasing standalone systems that operate inside the kitchen without needing extraction to the outside.
4. Don’t take the approach that ‘one size fits all’
Take time to understand what makes one brand or one piece of technology different from another and explore the smaller details. And once you have done that, try and keep to the specification to improve the chances of the system delivering the results it promises. “Understand the difference in quality of the product being specified,” says Steve Cheese, UK sales manager at Britannia Kitchen Ventilation. “Large discrepancies in price will often indicate the offering is not like-for-like.”
5. Don’t over-specify
It is absolutely crucial not to over-specify on ventilation. If a system is too powerful it will result in wasted energy and higher running costs. Establish what the system needs to be used for at the outset. “It’s important to consider the size of the outlet and type of equipment that will be used underneath the ventilation, to make sure the chosen system can cope with the amount of air that’s to be extracted,” advises Paul Hickman, development chef at Lincat.
“Look at whether it’s a gas or electric piece of equipment and the level of fumes that will be produced from the unit. More powerful ventilation will be required over items such as chargrills and fryers as compared to induction, as they produce more fumes. You will also need to consider the temperatures that will be produced.”
6. Don’t dismiss the finer details
There is a science to ventilation and getting the formula right at the design stage will increase the chances of the system doing what it is meant to. Balance of air within a kitchen area is fundamental, especially with C02 fumes from gas apliances to consider. “It is therefore important to put back into the kitchen the correct amount of supply air as it is to calculate the volume of air that is needed to extract,” says Steve Cheese at Britannia. Even things like the type of filters used to reduce grease carry-over are important to bear in mind, while it is essential to make sure supply air vents are fitted and don’t get blocked.
Nicola Pedrette, designer at Target Catering Equipment, claims mesh and baffle filters are only about 40% efficient at removing grease, whereas cyclone cartridge filters are 96% efficient. “We have developed a range of clean air exhaust ventilation systems with built-in disposable grease particulate and odour control filters to be used with our bespoke induction all electric solutions,” she says.
7. Don’t think ventilation systems always lead to big energy bills
The importance of ensuring your kitchen is energy efficient has become a key trend over the last year and with ventilation accounting for up to 15% of electricity costs, it is clearly something that should be at the forefront of every operator’s thinking if it is not already. Ventilation can obviously be switched off when not in use, but advances in areas such as variable speed drives and demand-based controls means system management can be taken care of automatically.
Quintex offers a demand-controlled ventilation system that uses sensor technology to detect cooking activity levels and lower ventilation fan speeds so that extract rates are matched to cooking demands. CEO Simon Jarman says this is a highly effective way of optimising energy use. He comments: “A fan running at 50% of its normal operating speed will only consume 12.5% of the energy required to run the fan at 100% of its operating capacity, resulting in significant carbon emission reductions. As less air is extracted from the kitchen when fan speeds are reduced, the requirement for conditioned supply air is also reduced.”
8. Don’t under-estimate the pace of development
There is considerable emphasis from manufacturers on developing greener ventilation that lowers costs for operators. Keep an eye out for the arrival of newer technologies that improve the filtration process and more efficient classes of fan motors as the year progresses. Andrew Glen, sales and marketing director at Mansfield Pollard, insists plenty of operators are now feeling the benefits of deploying sophisticated systems. “We have seen a significant increase in demand for ventilation solutions which reduce operating costs through either heat recovery or the application of technology which adapts the ventilation to the actual usage requirements in real time.”
9. Don’t forget about maintenance
There are strict regulations governing the cleaning of systems relating to ventilation due to the potential fire risks that arise from fat and grease build-ups. Duct runs should be kept to a minimum where design allows and made as accessible as possible to facilitate periodic cleaning and maintenance. Studies show that the regular cleaning of ventilation units and extractor hood grease filters can increase efficiency by as much as 50% compared with systems that are not maintained.
10. Don’t take legislation and regulation lightly
Forthcoming changes to regulatory guidance, and the impending arrival of a European Kitchen Vnetilation Systems standard, demand that specifiers stay on the ball when it comes to compliance. “The market is being driven by gas regulations for air quality and the need to find an alternative easier solution in kitchens to comply with regulations and be affordable,” says Nicola Pedrette at Target Catering Equipment. “The location of all establishments is key, with gas flues and ducts restricting choice and likely to be considerably more expensive because of air quality demands and fire risk.”