In its simplest form, an air curtain creates a seamless barrier between two environments, whether for temperature, insect, or sanitation control. By circulating the available ambient air over the open doorway, a barrier is created that inhibits the flow of air and airborne particles between the two environments.
Contractors, along with architects and engineers, are offering up solutions to customers around the issue of open doorways. And as energy costs continue to rise, serious attention has been given to air curtains and their many applications.
Air curtains are used in a number of food-related environments such as restaurants, supermarkets, cafeterias, and food processing facilities. Not only do air curtains provide energy conservation, they also inhibit airborne contaminants — insects, fumes, dust, and dirt — from entering a facility. This creates a cleaner environment, helping to ensure food safety.
For example, Tyson Foods’ tortilla/taco chip division utilizes air curtains at its dock doors to protect the production facility from flying insects, dirt, and outdoor debris.
In addition, a wide variety of restaurants and food-related establishments utilize air curtains at both the back and front doors along with drive-through windows. In-N-Out, a West Coast burger chain, utilizes Mars’ LoPro Series Air Curtain on all of its drive-through windows to protect the food prep areas from the fumes, dirt, and dust that could potentially infiltrate the building through the service window.
Air curtains can also provide solutions to problems within the confines of a building. This type of installation between internal processing areas is required when protecting one area from another is critical. Whether it is a hospital setting where cleanliness is paramount or a manufacturing facility where precision machining is critical, an air curtain can create the necessary barrier.
Subaru of America’s plant in Lafayette, Ind., requires high-quality finishes for its automobiles, which demands exceptional cleanliness in the paint booths. Subaru installed air curtains along the paint booth entry hallway to give its employees a set of five “air showers” to ensure that they were not carrying any debris on their uniforms into the paint booth. Utilizing air curtains in this specific instance resolved a critical production concern while boosting the quality of finishes for the final product.
Extreme temperature swings can also impede manufacturing and production of sensitive materials. Schrock Cabinetry, located in Illinois, was faced with temperature and humidity swings inside its factory due to inclement seasonal weather. During delivery hours, as many as 12 dock doors had to remain open, permitting the outdoor environment to alter the temperature and humidity levels inside the factory. These environmental adjustments caused the finishing on the company’s products to crack, increasing rejection and return rates. After Schrock installed Mars’ heated air curtains across all of its dock doors, the cabinet maker was able to stabilize the building’s internal environment as well as add a supplemental heat source for the employees working closest to the loading docks.
Not only do air curtains provide solutions for open doorways or environmental separation, they also promote sustainability. While most businesses are working hard to save energy and thereby save money, they are also interested in being socially responsible.
Mars has published ROI studies on how air curtains reduce energy usage and save energy on an ongoing basis once installed. Generally, the payback occurs in two years or less. For more information, go to www.marsair.com/ROI.
Contractors are always looking for innovative ways to solve building environmental and safety issues. The next time that open doors or environmental separation are presented as a concern, consider an air curtain as a viable solution. Installing an air curtain can make the building ventilation system more efficient, and increase the comfort of customers and employees.
Publication date: 04/16/2012