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Purchasing Considerations for Ventilation Equipment

Key safety components of almost any commercial kitchen, ventilation equipment includes hoods, fire systems, pollution control units, grease extraction devices, controls, exhaust and makeup air systems.

Ventilation systems are custom designed based on the operation, menu, equipment and volume, but federal and local codes also need to be taken into consideration.

Assess the foodservice facility to determine the type and size ventilation system required. How the operation uses the kitchen space and the equipment placement impact the ventilation system design. In terms of location, operators should consider the balance of air and placement of vents as well as ensure there is not too much air blowing on prepared food.

When specifying a ventilation system, consider the cost, energy efficiency and aesthetics. 

Have a comfort strategy in mind when considering the type of unit that best suits the operation. Along these lines, consider how makeup air will enter the facility and how much air the facility will require. Too much or too little air can cause the ventilation system to not draw properly. The kitchen environment is also a factor when deciding on tempered or untempered makeup air, heating and/or cooling. This is a critical design requirement dependent upon climate conditions and local building and health jurisdictions.

Carefully consider current and future needs for fire suppression, airflow and utilities. Not planning for future changes can be costly over the long term.

Before purchasing, operators should consider the foodservice equipment and amount of smoke and grease the ventilation system will need to handle. The menu items culinary staff will prepare will also determine the most appropriate type of ventilation system.

Operators can choose from different hood types and shapes, keeping in mind that some will be more effective than others, depending on the equipment beneath it and the space’s design. Side skirts can be very effective on the ends of hoods, which make for much more efficient capture of effluent.

Consider the equipment arrangement under the hood, positioning higher Btu output items more toward the center.

Operators should work closely with the building’s HVAC engineers to ensure air-handling systems do not interrupt the capture. Be aware that entrances from tempered space into non-tempered space can disrupt airflow and capture, which will impact the effectiveness of the ventilation system.

Rather than looking at only first costs, operators should consider operational/life-cycle costs, including equipment quality, performance, demand control versus constant volume, etc. 

Kitchen ventilation is not covered by the Energy Star program, but there are steps operators can take to increase the energy efficiency of these units. To increase energy efficiency, hood side panels can be added to capture and contain heat and smoke. Also, turn off exhaust hoods when the facility is closed. There are several types of demand control ventilation systems that vary the exhaust volume depending on the cooking activity and ventilation needs. This reduces the system’s operation to the minimum level necessary, which saves energy. Exhaust system costs can be reduced from 30% to 50% with these units, which can be installed on new or existing equipment.