As the pandemic continues to fluctuate in severity and ever-changing guidelines, the operation of restaurants remains significantly impacted. For numerous restaurant owners reopening and staying open with increased health and safety guidelines has proved challenging.
Concerns about employee health and ensuring customers a safe indoor dining experience are taxing the day-to-day operations of these establishments. That's why restaurant owners are now turning towards indoor air quality (IAQ) solutions to help alleviate these concerns and reduce the biological aerosol transmission of COVID-19.
For restaurants, bars, grilles, and even cafes, the tried and true solution for improving IAQ is portable air purification. In every way, these mechanical and electronic air cleaners reduce harmful airborne contaminants while providing continuous air exchanges.
Even if your restaurant has adequate ventilation systems or exhaust, air purifiers take IAQ improvements a step further. These portable systems can be placed throughout the restaurant, enhancing the dining areas and backrooms with continuous clean air. Read on to learn everything you need to know about air purifiers and indoor air quality within restaurants.
The indoor air quality within restaurants is often adversely affected by the kitchen's emission. Food coking alone expels a significant amount of VOCs, and these can pose health risks. Additionally, commonly used industrial appliances have a high energy output and emit hazardous fumes.
Liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), charcoal, and wood, used as cooking fuel for grilling and frying, emit a significant amount of pollutants. Without a kitchen air filtration system, high-efficiency ventilation system increased circulation indoors, or air purification system in place, restaurants risk significantly polluting their indoor air.
During the pandemic, restaurants were significantly impacted due to how close patrons and employees are to each other during normal operations, with waiting staff maneuvering between tables and customers within direct exposure of each other.
On top of concerns over poor indoor air quality (which are almost always present in restaurants), restaurants have a high risk of COVID transmission. These establishments continue to be significantly impacted by COVID restrictions due to the close proximity of patrons and employees within the enclosed setting.
In restaurants, COVID-19 transmission is at a higher risk as customers and employees frequently maneuver between tables while guests eat, talk, and laugh. Since the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the virus that causes COVID-19) is primarily transmitted through biological aerosol droplets that can travel as far as 2 meters.
Indoor dining tables in restaurants are often situated closer than 2 meters. Therefore, restaurants are particularly susceptible to aerosol viral transmission, especially without efficient ventilation or adequate air filtration.
Considering the dangers of COVID-19 variants and uncertainty in vaccination percentages among patrons and employees, businesses need to do everything they can to reduce viral spread. Here are some key ways restaurants can improve IAQ and reduce the risk of biological aerosol transmission:
Your place of business has likely been audited for environmental and workplace hazards. Depending on the age of your building, the age of your business, and your jurisdiction, these assessments may not be thorough enough to measure against hyper-sensitive IAQ risks, structural risks, or air purification for COVID.
You can do an indoor air quality test with an air quality monitor, which is meant for residential purposes. Consider hiring structural engineers, mechanical engineers, or industrial hygienists to assess IAQ parameters and test and balance HVAC systems for proper IAQ and ventilation. Make sure to follow EPA and OSHA recommendations, including guides for IAQ and best practices for IAQ in commercial settings.
Your building's ventilation system is dependent on a well-functioning system. Your HVAC system should be providing the inhabitants with a balance of fresh air and proper clean air distribution. Make sure to write down the date and detail of each maintenance schedule, including maintenance on:
Keep an HVAC checklist (appendix A) on hand to know which parts of the machine are checked and ensure that it is continually working properly.
Throughout the COVID pandemic, businesses were encouraged to improve the circulation rate in indoor spaces, including opening a window, improving ventilation systems, running ventilation consistently (or for longer), and adding air purification systems, even portable ones.
When upgrading your HVAC system, you'll want a higher-rated MERV filter (if your system is compatible). MERV 13 filters are widely recommended as they have one of the highest percentages (99.97%) in capturing the most penetrating particle (MPPS) measured in similar micron sizes to the SARS-CoV-2 virus particle.
Induct air purification systems can also be added to existing HVAC systems. But it is often more convenient and feasible to purchase portable air purification systems. Portable air purifiers are extremely powerful and are scalable to meet any sized space. Most of these portable systems are designed to exchange a high amount of cubic feet of air per hour to improve IAQ rapidly.
Air purification systems are affordable and accessible to struggling businesses as government grants for COVID relief are available.
Not all air purifiers work the same. Some manufacturers produce air purifiers, but not all of them follow standards related to air filtration, testing efficacy, and operational safety. First, it is essential to know what mechanical and electric air cleaning technologies they feature when looking at air purifiers. Standard technologies air purifiers include True HEPA Filters, Activated Carbon Filters, Negative Ionization, and UV-C PCO Technology.
True HEPA Filters are a critical component in an air purifier's ability to reduce common and microscopic airborne contaminants in restaurant settings. Often supported by Activated Carbon Filters, this secondary filtration media eliminates common odors, gases, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) omnipresent within restaurants.
Electronic air cleaning technology Negative Ionization is also featured in most commercial air purifiers to help improve the effectiveness of the primary filtration media. Negative Ionization uses either electrostatic or high voltage energy to charge air particles and clump them together for easier filtration. UV-C Light or PCO Technology provides additional protection by sterilizing the air passing through the filters.
PCO Technology uses 254 nm UV-C lights and a catalytic oxidation process to break down and inactivate viruses, bacteria, and microorganisms. However, choosing an air purifier that features any one of these technologies makes sure the systems comply with strict CARB Certification and UL Certification requirements. As often, low-quality, poorly manufactured, or untested systems may produce ozone above levels safe for occupied spaces.
When choosing the best air filter for your restaurant, consider additional efficiency measures like air exchanges per hour (ACH), cubic feet per minute (CFM). These measures will help you find the right air purifier that can provide optimal air exchanges for the spaces you seek to protect. However, with Sanalife's team of IAQ experts, finding the right air purifier for your business has never been easier. Call to speak with one of our helpful sales representatives so you know you choose the right air purifier for your business. We will also show you how it works and ensure that it is properly set up in your space! Our portable air purifiers only need to be plugged in and are ready to go. Increased safety and peace of mind really are that easy. Give us a call today!