Air Curtains 101: Everything You Need to Know

What is an Air Curtain?

Air curtains, or air doors, are machines that use a strong stream of air engineered to create an invisible, barrier-free protection over commercial building openings. What is an air curtain benefit in your commercial building operation?

  • Reducing your utility spend by keeping your inside air separated from outside air
  • Stopping dust, dirt, fumes, and flying insects from coming inside
  • Reducing the workload on your HVAC system (so you spend less on maintenance and equipment replacement)
  • Increasing comfort for workers and guests
  • Creating more sustainable operations and contributing to green building/well building initiatives

Duration: 1 minute 47 seconds

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What is the Purpose of an Air Curtain?

The purpose of an air curtain/air door is to protect the interior of a building from the unwanted conditions found outside the building and/or to separate interior spaces inside that may need different conditions. Unwanted exterior conditions include:

  • Air that has not been heated or cooled
  • Air with flying pests, including the pathogens that pests carry
  • Air that carries dirt and debris, often with the force of wind
  • Air that has odor
  • Air that creates uncomfortable conditions for building occupants
  • Air that changes interior building temperatures and causes heating and air conditioning units to work harder or longer (increasing operating costs and shortening equipment lifespan)

How Do Air Curtains Work?

Air curtains work by emitting a flow of air strong enough to form an air barrier across the span of the opening. While not a physical barrier, this invisible air flow barrier is designed by engineers to be sufficient to protect the opening fully and protect the interior from exterior air that can vary in temperature and carry debris, pathogens, and flying insects.

Air doors are the preferred means of protection in commercial settings because they do not create an obstruction that pedestrians and equipment traffic must move around. An obstruction-free solution can mean fewer accidents and less downtime in operations. The lack of barrier also doesn’t diminish visibility that can be a source of accidents.

Mars also carries specialized units that offer enhanced sanitation. These units can include UVC, for germicidal and odor control, and True HEPA filters, which can capture 99.97% of microscopic pollutants and particles.

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What Are Air Curtains Used For?

Air curtains are often used to stop flying pests, dust, debris, and wind from entering a building. Air curtains create an air barrier between the exterior air and the conditioned interior air. By creating an invisible barrier, building owners pay less for utilities because their HVAC system runs less, leaving equipment to rest. The building occupants benefit from more comfortable conditions inside and are more productive when interior temperatures do not fluctuate.

Advancements in air door technology means there are now many other ways in which air curtains support commercial building needs:

  • Cold storage operations
  • Drying of wet, slippery floors
  • Create more sanitary conditions in clean room and healthcare facilities
  • Support precision manufacturing that demands precise temperatures
  • Separate activities in large manufacturing and industrials spaces
  • And more

Do Air Curtains Save Energy?

Yes! Air curtains have the proven ability to save energy and reduce the operation time of heating and cooling systems, which are expensive to operate and maintain. Air curtains can limit the on/off cycling of HVAC equipment struggling to manage internal temperatures. In addition, the relief that air curtains offer to the system will help extend the lifecycle of the equipment. Using a Return on Investment (ROI) calculator, buyers can input specifics about their facility and environmental conditions. The calculator is pre-populated with the utility costs around the United States to give an accurate read on how quickly the air curtain pays for itself in saved utility costs.

Is an Air Curtain an Air Conditioner?

An air curtain is not an air conditioner, although it does serve as a companion to your air conditioner to help it last longer, perform better, and use less energy. It is also true that in protecting openings, air doors halt the infiltration of exterior air that can be humid, hot, and stuffy in summer months. In doing so, air curtains provide support to the air conditioning unit to improve its performance and ability to maintain comfortable internal temperatures.

  • Last longer: When commercial air conditioners do not have to cycle on as much as they would without an air curtain, they require less maintenance and increase the lifespan of the equipment.
  • Perform better: In assisting with maintaining climatized air conditions, air curtains help the air conditioner provide a more comfortable interior that is proven to increase the productivity of occupants.
  • Use less energy: When air curtains reduce the burden on the air conditioning unit, they reduce the cost to climatize the interior air. Energy savings vary depending upon where the air curtains are placed and can be assessed using the ROI calculator.

How Much Do Air Curtains Cost?

The cost of an air curtain depends upon the size of the unit and the needs of the application. Air curtains are precision-engineered to solve specific operational challenges in commercial buildings. Your air curtain will be selected for the application, environmental conditions, and desired solution. Air curtain selection tools enable buyers to input the height and width of the entryway, and to note other considerations that are needed for an appropriate unit recommendation. In select regions, rebates are available from utility providers. Applications include:

  • Pass-thru windows
  • Man doors
  • Dock doors
  • Cold storage entryways
  • Receiving doors
  • Clean rooms and space separators
  • In addition to other less common applications

Other considerations that may affect the cost of your air curtain is whether a ceiling-recessed unit is desired, if enhanced sanitation is needed with UVC or True HEPA filters, or if an architecturally-enhanced unit is needed.

  • Restaurant & Foodservice
  • Manufacturing & Distribution
  • Refrigeration & Cold Storage

Who Uses Air Curtains?

Air curtains solve the challenges of almost every industry, including restaurants, high-tech assembly, manufacturing centers, and healthcare facilities. HVACR, refrigeration, and cold storage have the unique considerations of temperature separation, which air curtains address. Air curtains support facility management to increase performance while lowering operational costs.

Do Air Curtains Keep Flies Out?

Air curtains keep flies out and perform very well at this function. You can have confidence that the air door will keep out flying pests, wind gusts, debris, and dust – the kind of contaminants that can negatively impact your operations and performance. In addition to flying pest control, air curtains pay for themselves in the energy they save.

Where Do You Put Air Curtains?

Air curtains should always be placed at man doors, receiving doors, dock doors, and any other entryway for people or equipment. Air curtains are also placed at pass-thru windows (drive-thrus), concession stand openings, walk-in cooler entryways, separations in manufacturing centers, and in cleanroom settings. An air curtain can also be effective in specialized settings, such as a butterfly aviary to allow people access while keeping butterflies inside.

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Do Air Curtains Run

Air curtains have settings to allow for continuous operation when desired, or they can be accessorized with a switch, control panels, or solid-state panels. These enables the air curtain to be activated and deactivated as the doors open and close, or according to conditions set by the operator. In a continuous run operation mode, the air curtain can be used to dry floors, address condensation and moisture, and be used in other conditions that dictate ongoing use.

How Much Energy Does an Air Curtain Use?

Air curtains save more energy than they use and create facility energy efficiencies. Air curtains are extremely energy efficient and low-cost to operate. Return on Investment (ROI) calculators take into consideration your energy cost, opening size, and other variables to give close estimates as to how quickly the air curtains will pay for themselves by saving on whole building energy costs.

Do Air Curtains Have Filters?

Air curtains use washable aluminum filters with superior dust and debris holding capacity. Air curtains also can accommodate pleated disposable filters designed to meet MERV 8 standards with a low resistance to airflow. Higher MERV-rated filters can be also be used. Specialized units with True HEPA filters are also available which can capture 99.97% of microscopic pollutants and particulates as small as 0.3 microns. Filter replacement schedules will be determined by your setting and environmental conditions.

Are Air Curtains Expensive to Run?

Air curtains are not expensive to run because they have been designed to save energy. Air curtains or air doors operate very efficiently and are used to save the energy expenditure of the whole facility (a net saver of energy). Air curtains are less costly than a vestibule (which can carry construction costs up to $10,000) and are allowed by code to replace a vestibule. It is widely reported that air curtains reduce the cost of heating and air conditioning by 30%.

How Do I Choose an Air Curtain?

We know picking the right air curtain can be overwheling. So we created a tool to make it easy.