Air Curtains Saving Healthcare Construction & Operating Costs

By Stephen Benes, Regional Sales Manager, Berner International Corp.
Updated: January 18, 2019

HVAC trends point toward an increasing amount of consulting engineers specifying air curtains for healthcare applications.

Instead of just common shipping door or foodservice back door air curtain applications to prevent flying insect infiltration, air curtains have expanded to the front door, emergency room door, and even foodservice walk-in cooler doors to reduce energy costs.

Berner's Architectural Recessed 12-16 Air Curtain over main entrance to UPMC.

Architectural Recessed 12-16 Air Curtain

For example, the trend toward the front doors is very apparent to Don Peterson, P.E., a principal at consulting engineering firm, Robert G. Burkhardt & Associates, Chicago, which specializes in total HVAC design for healthcare facilities.

Burkhardt, which has specified HVAC for dozens of projects including Central DuPage Hospital, Winfield, Ill., Edward Hospital, Naperville, Ill., and Saint Joseph Hospital, Elgin, Ill., specifies air curtains on almost every new healthcare project now, according to Peterson. Entry vestibules and automatic emergency room doors are the main targets in 90-percent of the projects because of the high foot traffic, energy losses and idling vehicle emission infiltration.

Volume, velocity, and uniformity of the air stream are critical factors in an air curtain’s effectiveness, therefore, it’s important that air curtains perform up to manufacturers’ specifications and are certified by The Air Movement & Control Association (AMCA-International), Arlington Heights, Ill. An AMCA rating label should rank as highly with engineers as Underwriters Laboratories, (UL), Northbrook, Ill., or National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), Ann Arbor, Mich., certifications.

A Vestibule Substitute

Air curtains are IECC approved as alternatives to vestibules. This means that business owners, architects, engineers, and developers can balance energy efficiency and occupant comfort while still meeting code without having to install costly vestibules that take up space.

Walk-In Cooler Air Curtains

Walk-in cooler doors, common to all healthcare facility foodservice operations, also waste energy when opened dozens of times daily. Therefore the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) (Section 312) code now mandates the energy-conserving, air infiltration reduction methods of either strip curtains, spring-hinged swinging vinyl doors or other options, such as air curtains for all walk-in coolers manufactured after Jan. 1, 2009. Berner International has recently introduced the Walk-In Cooler Kit, which easily retrofits existing walk-in coolers or can be added in new construction.

Healthcare facility operators are continually looking for methods of cutting operational costs. An air curtain is an option with a very short payback of two years or less, in most cases, for reducing energy losses at the doorway.