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Are Air Curtains Effective?

Admin on October 17, 2022

To understand how air curtains are effective, we need to understand what is the purpose of an air curtain? We also need to understand what we are asking a commercial air curtain to do.

Air doors are an important piece of commercial equipment in any effective air management system or for anyone wanting to reduce the utility spend to operate their building infrastructure. There are dozens of industries that use air curtains to solve their industry-specific challenges for air quality management. Many use an air door to reduce their building operating expenses (which increases profitability) and create more pleasant interior environments. Below we will look at the common ways companies use commercial air doors and how we know they are effective.

What is the Purpose of the Air Curtain: Save Energy + More

The largest expense for a building is very often the utility bill and real estate taxes. One of these you can control (utility bills!). Taxes, as we know, are harder to impact.

Air curtains have always been known to reduce a building’s energy bill. They also play an important feature in any indoor air quality management system. Keeping out the undesirable exterior elements makes all the interior air quality management systems you have in place work less. With less damaging airborne debris coming in, your filtration system works less, your HVAC system runs less frequently, and you have less of the toxins to manage and filter.

Using air curtains over openings that lead to the outside (windows and doors) is a very economical means of spending less to heat or cool your building interior. When the air curtain stops the transfer of outside air and inside air, no air that has been treated by your HVAC system goes to waste. The air door costs very little in relation to the savings the building operator will achieve using a relatively low-cost air door.

Because of the energy savings created by the air curtain, building operators do not spend as much on their utility bill. For example, if you spend $350 on an air curtain and you then start to save $45 on your utility bill every month, the air curtains pays for itself in the savings in only 7.7 months. Then all the energy savings after that is just reduced operating costs and money in your budget. An ROI calculator can provide your space-specific savings.

Note in the illustration below the science proves the extensive protection you can expect with an air curtain.

Benefits - Thermal Separation
Computational Fluid Dynamics is a software that visualizes how air flows. In these images, the building on the left shows the green which is the air of a different temperature coming inside when there is no air curtain stopping its migration. The building image on the right shows that there is no color change inside the building because the air curtain is on and stopping the flow of air. This keeps the inside air that has been heated or cooled protected from outside changes.

What is the Purpose of the Air Curtain: Keep Exterior Airborne Debris Out of the Building

Stopping the incursions of flies was probably the original use for the air curtain and the one still very widely understood. Flies bring in bacteria, virus, pathogens and extensive annoyances. They are a bother to your customers and your workers. Air curtains are proven to stop flying pests in their tracks. Flying pests, including flies, wasps, bees, and other types cannot penetrate past the stream of air. No additional flying pest control measures are needed with air curtains at the entry. There is noticeable improvement in the building interior for every type of flying insect when an air curtain is used.

But to be clear, the air curtain has so many other benefits that it is a disadvantage to the facility operator to not understand all that the air curtain can do.

What is the Purpose of the Air Curtain: Create Comfortable Interiors for Guests and Workers

The outside air temperature is usually a different temperature than the indoor temperatures. In summer it is hotter outside and in cooler months it is colder outside. A big benefit of the air curtain is thermal separation which describes the barrier the air provides to separate the two different “climates”. Air curtains can be heated or non-heated. In cooler months when the exterior air is cold and doors or pass-thru windows open (usually repeatedly) the air curtains don’t block anything but serve to keep the outside air from coming in and making people colder than they want to be.

Studies prove that when people are hotter or colder than their preference their work effort suffers. This work effort, which is productivity, makes a difference in how customers are treated, in how much work gets done, in the quality of the work and in their overall contentment with their job. Air curtains allow managers to control how much the exterior temps influence the indoor air and keep staff and customers inside the building much more comfortable – neither too hot nor too cold.

motorcycle retail store
Retail operations, like this motorcycle retail store, have to keep temperatures comfortable for the people who work there and the customers who spend time shopping. And when large roll-up doors are used to entice foot traffic, air curtains make sure the outside air and flying pests don’t enter too.

What is the Purpose of the Air Curtain: Fix Moisture Issues

A variety of industries have issues with moisture that can harm their products, cause dangerous slippery conditions, diminish the performance of equipment and create uncomfortable interior conditions. And, moisture inside commercial buildings can encourage the development of mold and other microbial growth that affects human health.

Examples of moisture issues include things like:

Air curtains can be used for all of these challenges and perform with very light energy use. A ROI calculator can show how much energy is saved and then calculate the purchase price contrasted with energy savings which tells us how fast the commercial air curtain pays for itself.

What is the Purpose of the Air Curtain: Sanitation for What You Produce and The People Who Produce It

Air curtains work to stop outside air that brings in leaves, dust, flying pests, small dirt particulates, larger pieces of debris and particulates from vehicle emissions. This makes whatever is being produced in the facility, like a manufacturing center, cleaner and less impacted by outside pollution. Air curtains also keep the people who work inside more comfortable and eliminate the flying insects that are annoying and make a space feel dirty. Many manufacturing environments can have products that are substandard if they are affected by dust (like commercial painting activities or sensitive manufacturing). Air curtains are highly effective at stopping this debris because it cannot pass through the stream of air.

What is the Purpose of the Air Curtain: Eliminate Smells and Odors

Some more technically advanced air curtains include a UVC bulb to improve and add to what the air curtain already does. UVC is a radiation method that uses UV wavelengths to neutralize microorganisms which have odor. It also deactivates the DNA of the virus and/or bacteria so it cannot replicate and continue to make people sick. UVC is scientifically proven to be effective in study after study and air curtains with UVC are enhancing what the air curtain already does to help keep things clean.

Air Curtains Are Recognized Alternatives to Vestibules

As further evidence of the effectiveness of air curtains, know this – the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) passed standard 90.1-2019, and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) building code which now allows AMCA-certified air curtains as alternatives to vestibules. This means that the expense of designing and constructing a vestibule is eliminated and the floorspace used for the vestibule can be used for a commercial benefit.

In this instance air curtains are well established as a mechanism for keeping exterior air out and utility bills low.

Final words

An air curtain is one of the most effective and energy-efficient solutions for maintaining a safe, hygienic, and comfortable indoor environment. Whether specified at building design or easily retrofitted to an existing structure, air curtains are highly versatile products that benefit occupants in real-time and benefit the sustainability of the facility. They require very little maintenance and also extend the lifespan of your HVAC system when they reduce the work the system must perform (the HVAC systems cycles on and off less with air curtains at entries).

However, all air curtains aren’t created equally; there are several important factors to consider before you make your choice. The Mars Product Selector is a handy tool that can guide you through your selection process in just a few clicks. If you need more help or information to find an air curtain that best suits your business needs, contact us today.