"For a long time, we stopped coming to Casa Nueva in favor of the Red Brick Tavern," she said. "As a nonsmoker, I find it almost impossible to enjoy a drink in a smoky bar."
Thanks to a new ventilation system installed late last summer, Thomas is back with her friends at Casa Nueva. "We can sit for hours without feeling that smoke is spoiling our good time," she said.
"Nonsmoking customers have noticed the improvement in air quality," said co-owner Rex Hartman, who is also the systems and operations developer in charge of building mechanical systems. "Even people passing through the bar on their way to the restaurant are not bothered by the smoke."
Customer Kelly Morris was even more adamant about environmental smoke. "If a bar is smoky, I won't go in. Casa is perfect because the air is clean, even when half the patrons are smoking," she said.
How They Did ItWhen it came to renovating the bar and restaurant last year, management counted on Cooley Enterprises Inc. of southeastern Ohio to supply the solution to the restaurant's ventilation concerns. Management was about to make the biggest improvements in the business's 30-year history, and management wanted it done right the first time around.
Jeff Morris is the co-owner of Cooley Enterprises, an HVAC contractor in Athens. He recommended changes to the heating-ventilation equipment for the 3,000-square-foot restaurant's renovation and expansion. One item he specified was a commercial heat recovery ventilator designed to clear the inside air.
The project was going well until the ERV arrived. The equipment was too large to fit through any of the front doors, and the rear of the building is dramatically perched on a ravine. There are no back doors. Installing the unit on the restaurant's third-story roof was also out of the question.
"I knew I couldn't add to the cost of my bid by modifying the structure itself," said Morris. "I needed to pull a rabbit out of a hat, and fast."
What to do? Ventilation was to be a big part of Casa's upgrade. The owners and the code inspector were expecting 1,750 cfm of ventilation.
Morris hurriedly called Stirling Technology Inc., located in Casa's backyard. He was familiar with the company's UltimateAirâ„¢ products. The manufacturer of residential ERVs informed Morris that a series of its residential RecoupAeratorsÂ® could do the trick.
"They said it was done all the time for restaurants, bars, VFW halls, anywhere that commercial equipment doesn't fit or isn't necessary," Morris said.
Using the planned ducting, Stirling's engineers designed a layout to install multiple 220-cfm residential ERVs in parallel. All eight units were wired to operate from a single wall-mounted controller, giving the restaurant variable air exhaust and delivery options from 600 to 1,750 cfm, depending on occupancy.
Hartman said the selected ERV is a very easy system to work with. "We looked at a three-stage system that used an ionizer, a charcoal filter, and then another filter," he said.
"That unit looked like its maintenance would be over the top. The RecoupAerator design and the installation pattern are great. It's the best we've seen." Supply air comes into the nonsmoking side of the bar. Returns on the smoking side exhaust stale air.
Casa opened its doors on schedule in late summer 2004 for a grand reopening.
All Is WellKim Hall, a four-year employee who often tends Casa's bar, approves of the renovation.
"We've had great feedback from everyone about the new ventilation system," she said, noting that exactly half of the bar's counter space is for smokers and the other half for nonsmokers. "People with young children who come in for a quick snack at the bar's deli are especially happy about the ventilation improvement.
Morris said he is pleased with the exceptional service and quick response from UltimateAir Products. "In the past I've only installed RecoupAerators as residential units, but they're very versatile in the light commercial market as well," he said.
What makes the entire project more satisfying, said Morris, is that his Casa Nueva HVAC renovation came in under budget.
Publication date: 01/17/2005