How Restaurants Can Verify Proper Ventilation for Health & Comfort

If you have owned or operated a restaurant, you are familiar with the challenges of maintaining proper airflow throughout the building. From the kitchen to the front of the house to the back of the house, proper airflow can be challenging to keep in balance. That said, restaurants go out of balance for many reasons, wreaking havoc on a building’s health, comfort, and ventilation.

Does your restaurant look like this?

Restaurant Ventilation Problems

Unfortunately, these types of issues are extremely common in existing restaurants throughout the United States, and, when left unaddressed, can lead to negative building pressure, which causes serious long-term damage, poor indoor air quality, poor energy efficiency and uncomfortable conditions.

What are the industry guidelines for building ventilation?

ASHRAE 62.1 outlines minimum ventilation rates for various types of buildings, as well as other measures to ensure acceptable indoor air quality (IAQ) for human occupants.  In a nutshell, ASHRAE recommends a certain minimum amount of fresh outside air be introduced through the building’s HVAC system.  It also recommends that the proper amount of outside air be verified at least every five years. Without properly setting the outside air intake volume, buildings can experience negative building pressure and exhibit sick building characteristic. The best way to verify outside air is to hire a certified Test & Balance company, such as Melink, which has the proper air measurement instrumentation and years of experience.

How can I tell if my restaurant is properly ventilated?

  1. Observe restaurant conditions and ask staff for a log of comfort issues
  2. Turn on HVAC equipment, “Fan On” mode
  3. Check the front door for signs of negative building pressure
  4. Observe the kitchen hoods for proper smoke capture
  5. Check the restaurant for drafts
  6. Inspect the rooftop equipment to ensure it is in working condition
  7. Ensure your HVAC preventative maintenance services are being performed satisfactorily
  8. Contact Melink for building balance and comfort investigation services

How can I be sure my building stays healthy, comfortable, and properly ventilated for the long-run?

More and more restaurant chains are interested in the idea of “ongoing commissioning.”  With scant facilities budgets and facilities managers stretched ever thinner, it is not feasible to routinely send someone to each facility to verify building health, ventilation, and comfort. Out of this necessity, Melink’s PositiV® Building Health Monitor was born. PositiV is a standalone system that monitors your building’s pressure and remotely tracks building health. Alerts are sent when the system detects anything is out of set parameters. Moreover, PositiV monitors temperature, relative humidity and CO2 so that you gain a full picture of the health of your facility. 

Melink PositiV Building Health Monitor

PositiV is THE solution toward being able to actively monitor restaurant health, comfort and ventilation for the long-haul, and it is the most affordable way for multi-site facility managers to proactively stay ahead of building health issues before they become big facility problems.

Below is a REAL restaurant’s PositiV data. The site is taking action to improve negative pressure and building ventilation issues before they cause building damage, mold and comfort problems.

Restaurant Ventilation Case Study Example

Ensure Your Restaurant’s Ventilation & Air Quality

For further information restaurant ventilation and PositiV (ongoing commissioning), please e-mail [email protected] or call us at 513.965.7300.

Coronavirus & Indoor Air Quality

Now, maybe more than ever, many businesses are concerned about indoor air quality (IAQ) to protect employees and customers from coronavirus. With the current spread of COVID-19 across the globe, it is important that we are all taking the necessary steps to reduce the spread of the virus. As part of this, it is important to recognize how your HVAC system can impact your IAQ during long hours of social distancing, as well as steps that can be taken to limit the spread of the virus in buildings.

In a normal year, the typical American spends 90% of his or her time indoors. With current guidelines about social distancing, this number is expected to increase over the next few months. Prior to recent events, the American Medical Association stated they believe 50% of illnesses are caused, or aggravated, by polluted indoor air. Furthermore, per the EPA, indoor air contains two to five times more pollutants than typical outside air.

Coronavirus
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

So what does this mean for the COVID-19 crisis? Now that we have learned the novel coronavirus can be spread via airborne transmission when in close contact, there is the possibility that the HVAC system could cross-contaminate. That means air from an infected person could recirculate through a facility’s HVAC system and infect another individual. An example of this is how cruise ships experienced severe outbreaks. All cabins share an HVAC system, which is working as a mode of transmission from one individual to another.

While this risk of shared indoor air cannot be completely eliminated, there are a few items that can be addressed to reduce the potential for transmission through the HVAC system including:

  • Enhanced Ventilation & Ventilation Effectiveness
  • Source Separation
  • Air Filtration
  • Operable Windows

First and foremost, facilities should ensure their HVAC equipment is bringing in the correct amount of outside air required by the engineered designed plans, as well as managing the pollution and exhaust from your building properly. To further mitigate this risk, one should attempt to increase the percentage of outside air being brought into a facility to a higher percentage than minimally specified. In doing this, the equipment will reduce the amount of air being recirculated through a building. This will not only reduce “shared air,” but will also decrease levels of CO2 and other indoor air pollutants that can create an uncomfortable, or unhealthy, facility.

For a residential facility, where air source isn’t as easily controlled, it can also be helpful to open windows to bring in fresh air to any given room. In addition, it is worth verifying that any fresh air being brought in is being evenly distributed. If it isn’t, certain rooms may have less air turnover, meaning that the air isn’t circulating in and out of the facility properly.

The next few months may be difficult with longer hours than normal spent indoors. It is important that we are all taking steps to minimize the spread of coronavirus and other airborne illnesses both now and in the future. Melink offers products and services specifically designed to track, trend, and improve indoor air quality. Click to learn more about our HVAC test and balance services or PositiV® building health monitor, or contact us today. Our techs are the certified pros in indoor air quality — let us help you mitigate your risk while protecting employee and customer wellness.

How Do Seasonal Changes Affect Building Health?

As we transition from dry, cool winter months to hot, humid summer months, you may be saying to yourself, “Woohoo! Bring on the heat!” However, seasonal changes can affect building health. Specifically, the summer season can present major problems for facility managers and building owners as their buildings’ HVAC systems struggle to keep up with increasing cooling loads and extremely humid outdoor air.

Just as spring plant life sprouts, HVAC mechanical issues can pop up with warmer temperatures. Poor indoor conditions such as high indoor relative humidity, negative building pressure, CO2 buildup, or drastic temperature fluctuations are just a few examples.

Staying ahead of these issues before they become noticeable, costly problems is crucial when considering the overall health of your building and its HVAC systems.

Humidity: A Common Seasonal Issue

At various facilities, a common issue that comes with changing seasons is humidity. Specifically, humidity can be difficult to maintain at a comfortable level.

Condensation on building window, a seasonal building health issue.
Condensation in office building

In the winter, the heating mode on air handling equipment can heat or evaporate the existing moisture in the air to reduce the overall relative humidity as outdoor air is brought into the building. However, in the summer, the opposite occurs: the air handling equipment cools the building space and doesn’t heat or evaporate the moisture out of incoming air. This combination of high relative humidity and indoor dew point ultimately creates conditions that promote condensation or organic growth within the facility.

A Year-Round Solution for Indoor Building Health

The most cost-effective solution to verifying and ensuring long-term indoor building health is with a sensor capable of measuring key building health metrics like differential pressure, relative humidity, dew point, temperature, and CO2.

Components of building health

By gathering data on these building health metrics, the facility manager, operator, and/or building owner can quickly verify on-site conditions in real-time, while also gaining peace of mind in knowing their buildings are meeting engineering specifications per design as seasons change. In addition to these benefits, sensors’ data gathering gives users the ability to track and trend building health over a long-term period.

Using Data to Plan for Seasonal Building Health Changes

Getting and staying ahead of maintenance doesn’t need to start with expensive truck rolls and frequent site visits. Instead, sensor solutions provide an inexpensive, effective avenue to implement a proactive mindset. The collected data can be aggregated to an easy-to-use online portal capable of summarizing, visualizing, and diagnosing issues on site, while also granting users the ability to trend and predict HVAC performance for a lasting solution.

Get ahead of the changing seasons by verifying your building is healthy today!

How Indoor Air Quality Influences Wellness

Indoor air quality (IAQ) can influence the cold/flu season. According to the American Medical Association, 50% of illnesses are caused or aggravated by polluted indoor air. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes this is because indoor air contains two to five times more pollutants compared to typical outside air.

While the average person spends 90% of their time indoors, many groups of people considered to be “high risk” spend even more time indoors. These populations include but are not limited to babies, the elderly, and those with health conditions. So when you consider the ample amount of time people are spending indoors with potentially polluted air, it is easy to understand how IAQ can be linked to sickness. In fact, IAQ poses such a large risk to human health globally that the EPA recognizes it as one of its top 5 health hazards.

Sick building showing indoor air quality

While most people think that poor IAQ is easily noticeable because they can sense it through vision or smell, this is not normally the case. Many times, the IAQ in a facility may be poor because the CO2 level is far higher than recommended. Typically, a “safe” level of CO2 is between 400-1,000ppm, but levels can reach as high as 2,000ppm. At this high level, occupants can experience headaches, sleepiness, decreased cognitive function, and increased heart rates.

To ensure that CO2 levels are kept in check, it is best to have a building health monitor (such as PositiV) installed to examine these levels. If the CO2 level is above the 1,000ppm mark, it is best to examine the outside air intake on the air conditioning equipment to ensure the facility is receiving the proper air changes per hour and enough fresh air is entering the facility.

PositiV and Test and Balance: A one-two punch to sick building syndrome

Sick building syndrome is a condition that affects a building’s occupant due to unhealthy factors in the work environment primarily associated with poor ventilation and airflow in the facility. Per the EPA, symptoms of Sick Building syndrome include acute discomfort such as headaches, dry skin, coughing, dizziness, and nausea. Despite all these symptoms Sick Building syndrome can go undetected for years as the symptoms are all relatively minor and occur over multiple years.

With the release of Melink PositiV™ earlier this year, facility managers can now remotely diagnose and asses 4 of the key building metrics that contribute to building health. These include CO2, relative humidity, building pressure, and temperature. By ensuring these 4-building metrics are within acceptable ranges facility managers can sleep well knowing that they will be able to monitor and track if their facility is showing early signs of sick building syndrome. This can empower the end user to act and stop the early patterns that can lead to numerous issues down the road.

You know it is time to act when one of the 4 measurements are outside of the recommended limits. A primary way of attempting to correct any of these issues in a facility is to have a test and balance to reset airflow to the engineered design plans. During a test and balance, existing issues are identified and corrected to allow for proper airflow into the space. Through this process the technician should be examining and resetting the outside air dampers at the facility to allow the building to receive the correct amount of fresh air. The combination of monitoring and acting on the data allows end-users to ensure comfortable, healthy and energy efficient facilities.