What Is An Air Balance Report And Why Do I Need One?
What Is An Air Balance Report?
An air balance report is a document that shows recorded airflow testing numbers collected from an air balance procedure. The report is typically formatted in a layout easy for city inspectors to understand. The main purpose of the air balance report is to be given to a city inspector when an air balance is required to be performed, which, is usually required upon installation of new commercial air-moving equipment, such as kitchen exhaust hoods and HVAC systems.
Why Do I Need an Air Balance Report For my Restaurant?
In Southern California, the health department requires new restaurant owners to have their Kitchen exhaust hoods balanced by a certified professional and provide the report given by the air balancer. But why is this needed? To answer that question requires lots of information, which a matter of fact, we strongly feel every restaurant owner should know.
In California, every restaurant has a kitchen hood installed right above its large cooking appliances. The purpose of the exhaust hood sounds simple and it is, it pulls the smoke and heat out so you don't have a smoky restaurant and customers running out to catch a breath and never return. While the hood does wonders, what most people (including most restaurant owners) don't know is that the exhaust hood actually causes more havoc than good in a restaurant! That is because exhausting too much air from a building can cause all sorts of problems.
Why is exhausting too much air a problem? Pulling large amounts of air out from a building can create excessively negative pressures. Negative pressures can create these types of issues.
- Dirt, dust, and grime can get pulled from every crack and crevasse possible including the attic and bathroom leaving a kitchen uncontrollably dirty!
- It can cause terrible odors from sewage smells being pulled right back up and can even make an entrance door so hard to open that you will question your own manliness, or... womanliness.
So to battle these terrible issues the exhaust hood creates, a simple rule was created, "whatever amount of air you pull out, you must bring equally back in". That's when the MAU or "make-up air unit" was brought into action. What is an MAU? Put simply, the MAU is a large fan that brings air into a building to counterbalance an exhaust fan. So if you remove a "massive" amount of air from a kitchen, you must in return bring a "massive" amount back in, to balance the building's pressure, thus, avoiding all the terrible things the exhaust hood is so eager to do to a restaurant. Due to this rule, California law requires there to be a make-up air unit in every commercial kitchen with an exhaust hood installed.
Problem fixed! We just need to slap in a really big MAU to counter the air removed by the exhaust and call it a day! False. There is still one final step to ensure there will be no more issues. Both the exhaust and MAU need to be properly balanced together. Hint hint... by the "air balancer". That is because bringing too much air into a building can create excessively positive pressures, resulting in an entirely new set of problems.
What problems can excessively positive pressures create?
- Overly positive pressures can cause the exhaust hood to ineffectively pull up smoke, allowing it to roll out into the kitchen and the dining areas; making the exhaust fan almost completely redundant.
- Overly positive pressures can make an entrance door slam shut when opened, which, can set a first-time customer's experience off to a very rocky start.
To avoid any issues created by both, overly positive and negative pressures, the city requires the sizing of equipment needed for a restaurant to be engineered along with required airflow specifications. Then shortly after installation, the health department will require new equipment to be properly "air balanced" by a certified air balancing company. (Finally, we get to the point.) The air balance company will then provide a report that is given to the health inspector to sign off on. So in conclusion, opening a restaurant is no fun, takes one crazy determined individual, and also... your kitchen needs an air balance done to ensure it is in safe operating conditions for workers and customers.
Why Is An Air Balance Report Needed For New HVAC Installations?
An air balance report is required for all new commercial HVAC installs for these simple reasons:
- The balance ensures temperatures are equal throughout the building, so there are no hot or cold zones.
- A balance ensures all equipment is operating efficiently and is not going to overconsume energy.
- A balance confirms economizers are functioning properly and bringing in the required outside air into conditioned space. Doing so to control the carbon monoxide levels in the breathing space.
- An air balance also helps to check for any problems missed by contractors and inspectors.
The air balance is considered to be one of the more important steps in the HVAC installation process. It is at times overlooked when it urgently should not be. All these reasons are why an air balance is required by the city to be performed on all new commercial HVAC installations in California and the majority of states in the U.S.