You know the old saying – if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen! While its meaning may ring true, in the modern world of safe working environments and occupational health and safety, and overheating kitchen can be a sign that all is not as it should be.
If you’ve ever walked into a restaurant, café or take away food outlet and been hit by the horrible aroma of dirty grease rather than the alluring smell of your favourite food, then I hope you’ve walked straight back out the door and into another establishment. Because that smell can only mean one thing – someone is not doing their job and the kitchen’s exhaust system is in serious need of a good clean, and perhaps, overhaul. Furthermore, the kitchen may be a high fire risk and a not so safe environment for both staff and patrons. It’s a subject many kitchen owners don’t seem to fully appreciate. And because kitchen exhaust systems are largely out of view from the general public – like so many other HVAC&R services – their cleanliness and safety is often taken for granted. Kitchen exhaust systems play an incredibly important
role in the commercial kitchen. Not only do they remove heat, odours and grease from the kitchen environment. They also remove some very serious gases, including carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide; which may be produced while the kitchen cooking equipment is in use. While good design, equipment selection and installation all remain important pieces of the puzzle, the real key is regular maintenance – which takes time and money – and unfortunately for some, goes on the back burner (excuse the pun!). Maintaining a healthy system A typical kitchen ventilation system has four main components – a range hood canopy located above the cooking equipment (grill, hot plate, gas burners, fryers etc); filters installed within the range hood; ductwork connecting the range hood to the exhaust fan; and the exhaust fan itself. These all work together to extract any polluted air out of a busy kitchen, allowing fresh air to replace it. But when one thing breaks down, inevitably the rest tends to follow. As such, each component requires a degree of maintenance to ensure they operate as required, and on the frontline of the system are the range hood and filters which require the most maintenance. “Filtering plays a very important function in removing fatty vapours from the extracted air above the cooking appliances and preventing vapours being deposited within the ducts and to a lesser extent, to the atmosphere the ductwork are a serious fire risk,” .