Based solely on our sense of touch, sight, hearing, smell, and taste the perception of human comfort is complex and often a challenge to achieve in a restaurant atmosphere. The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) and the International Organization of Standardization (IOS), established standard levels based on thermal, visual, auditory, olfactory and hygienic comfort levels in which humans can function without distraction, annoyance or sickness. Although HVAC systems have little to do with maintaining the standards of auditory and visual comfort in a restaurant, they are imperative to provide acceptable levels of thermal, olfactory, and hygienic comfort.
Understanding ASHRAE human comfort standards
Surfaces of a room, relative humidity, velocity of air, color of interior, and even the average metabolism of your customers are all factors to consider when providing thermal comfort. This is why HVAC systems were designed to regulate more than just the temperature of a room. It may not be able to change the color of the wall, but it can regulate the humidity, air flow, and temperature of a room. It can also adapt and adjust accordingly to ensure optimal comfort at all times.
Olfactory comfort is another extremely important factor for restaurants. The presence of smell, both pleasing and displeasing, can deeply affect the customer’s experience. Companies such as Starbucks are so concerned with smell that they retool their HVAC equipment and processes to ensure that the scent identified with their product is not lost. All restaurants may not need their facility to smell of coffee, but the ability to control the odors of the kitchen, restrooms, and waste area can directly impact restaurant success.
Hygienic comfort refers to air quality issues and should be considered the most important factor when providing a comfortable atmosphere. Air quality is not something that is seen, felt, heard or smelled but, the negative impacts of poor ventilation can be deadly. The air quality of a restaurant is so important the US government implicated laws and regulations in order to protect citizens and the environment.
Understanding the importance of HVAC systems is only the tip of the iceberg. Keeping the system operating and maintained can be costly. Especially without understanding, common issues, early indicators of problems, and the proper maintenance needed. Neglecting the HVAC system is a common habit of restaurants. Sadly, most problems occur during summer months because HVAC units are working harder to keep comfort levels consistent in the heat, driving their overheated customers straight for the door.
1. Become familiar with common issues
- Dirty or clogged filters
- Leaking refrigerant
- Thermostat malfunction
- Improper air balance
2. Be alert for early indicators of a problem
- A noticeable odor or poor air quality
- Entrance/exit doors are hard to open or remain open
- Inconsistent airflow and temperature
- System is consistently running or kicking on too often
- A noticeable rise in heating/cooling cost
- Visual indicators
- Dented or corroded condenser coils
- Refrigerant piping leaks
- Dented or corroded evaporator coils
- A cracked heat exchanger
- Cracking or arcing contractors and wiring
- Damaged cabinet
3. Follow a regular maintenance plan
- Replace air filters every 30-60 days
- Clean evaporator and condenser coils
- Never set the temperature below 72 degrees
- Make sure all panels are secure
- Keep drains and vents clear of debris
- Schedule professional maintenance every 6 months for the following:
If you do find yourself in a pinch, and are need of emergency service it is important to choose a service provider with the appropriate credentials. HVAC systems are complicated and should only be serviced by trained professionals. If your restaurant is located in Eastern Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, or New Jersey, give Clark Service Group a call. We have over 40 factory trained and certified technicians who can help keep your restaurant operating and your customers comfortable.
Written by: Becky Simmons
Edited by: Carrie Hershey