This article was written in conjunction with our partners at Mars Air
A recent study by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) found that 10% of the total electricity consumed in 2020 was used for cooling the interiors of residential and commercial buildings.
Given that 61% of this electricity was generated from fossil fuels, it’s easy to see that the energy spent on temperature regulation — both in industrial and residential buildings — puts tremendous pressure on the environment. Not to mention, any amount of savings on this front can bring down your energy bills significantly.
Using an air curtain is one of the best ways to cut down on the energy spent in regulating temperature — especially in commercial facilities whose entryways are open for a large portion of the day. In this article, we’ll explore the impact that air curtains have on energy savings and how they work.
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
How it Works
Reducing Energy Consumption
Impact on Energy Savings
Return on Investment
How Air Curtains Work
An air curtain is essentially a machine that blows a controlled stream of air across an entryway or opening in a building and creates a barrier (or air seal) to prevent dust, flying insects, or other unwanted particles from passing through.
They typically have a fan or two that collect air from an inlet grill. This air is compressed as it goes through the fans and is then forced through the outlets thus creating a curtain across the opening.
The Role of Air Curtains in Temperature Control
Air curtains are particularly useful for regulating indoor temperature. For example, if it’s hot outside and you have the air conditioning on, an air curtain can prevent the heat from entering and maintain optimal temperature levels inside a building or facility.
Similarly, if it’s really cold outside, air curtains can act as a barrier minimizing the entry of cold air into your facility. This eases some of the pressure from your HVAC system which doesn’t need to work as hard to keep the temperature inside warm and comfortable for your staff and/or customers.
The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) department recommends that the temperature in work settings be kept between 68°F and 76°F. If it’s too hot or too cold, it can make your employees feel uncomfortable and also affect their productivity significantly.
As such, air curtains help create optimal working conditions in commercial or industrial facilities without driving your energy bills through the roof. This is particularly useful in facilities with large doors that remain open for a greater part of the day. Air curtains allow people and equipment to move freely while separating the temperature between the outside and inside areas.
How Air Curtains Reduce Energy Consumption
Doors or entryways at retail outlets, quick-serve restaurants, warehouses, or cold storage facilities, typically open and close all day long to enable the movement of people and goods. In these settings, HVAC systems need to run constantly to maintain optimal indoor temperatures.
Depending on the season, these systems would either be working to heat or cool the inside air. However, if your entryways aren’t adequately protected, your HVAC system is in a constant fight with outside conditions to make sure they don’t mess with the climatized air you're paying to treat. This creates an inefficient cycle.
Similarly, at a cold storage facility, the freezer temperature goes up as soon as the door is opened. But it needs to remain open for loading and unloading which typically takes 30 minutes to an hour. This means that your systems must work extra hard — consuming more energy — to get the freezer temperature back to 32°F (or whatever it's supposed to be).
The Advantage of Using Air Curtains
If you can cover the entryway with an air curtain that protects the inside from the outside air, your HVAC system won’t have to work as hard. Plus, your equipment is likely to last longer because it doesn’t need to run all the time driving energy costs through the roof.
An air curtain creates a climatic barrier and restricts the flow of air (along with heat and cold) between the inside and outside of a building or facility. It ensures that the energy used by your HVAC system to heat or cool the space isn’t wasted.
By restricting the airflow, air curtains help keep indoor temperatures optimal with much less help from the HVAC system. This brings down your energy consumption and the costs associated with it.
Air Curtains and Their Impact on Energy Savings
There are several studies that demonstrate the impact that air curtains have on the energy used to regulate temperature.
And even though air curtains themselves consume energy to run, they produce net energy savings beating other physical barriers like single doors and vestibules by a wide margin.
A 2013 study by the Air Movement and Control Association International, Inc. (AMCA) focused on evaluating the effectiveness of air curtains when compared to vestibules. It also modeled a “plain” building (with no air curtain or vestibule). Here are some of the most notable findings from this study:
- Compared to the vestibule door, the annual total energy savings from using air curtains varied between 4169 kWh (0.9%) and 7205 kWh (1.5%).
- Also, compared to the single door, the annual total energy savings from using air curtains varied between 6660 kWh (1.4%) and 11085 kWh (2.3%).
Essentially, the study conclusively proved that air curtains result in better energy performance than the vestibule door and the single door.
The Return on Investment of Air Curtains
As is clear from the studies mentioned above, air curtains can significantly reduce your energy costs. Besides energy savings, they can also bring in returns such as greater employee productivity and fewer safety concerns. Plus, unlike physical barriers like doors or vestibules, they don’t impede foot traffic and even offer protection from dust and bugs.
If you want to see how much energy you could potentially save from using an air curtain, use Mars Air's ROI Calculator. Just enter some quick details about your needs (e.g., heat retention, air conditioning retention, walk-in freezer, etc.), your business’ operating hours, entryway measurements, and so on.
The ROI Calculator will then produce a detailed report showing you how much energy you might save and how long it may take for you to recover the cost of the air curtain.
There’s no doubt that air curtains can bring down your energy bills significantly. However, choosing the right one for your needs isn’t quite as straightforward as it might seem. There are a number of factors to consider, such as your purpose, the size of the entryway, the size of the building, expected wind load, and a whole lot more.
Contact your LONG representative to help you find the best air curtain.