Optimizing Your Commercial Kitchen’s Exhaust Duct Ventilation System

Fire Suppression systems ventilation
Article contributed by Master Fire Systems

Having the proper ventilation in your restaurant’s commercial kitchen has a multitude of benefits. This article lays out the basics of commercial kitchen exhaust ventilation in plain language. The two chief objectives are to prevent fires from breaking out and to serve better tasting food that smells great.

Additionally, the incentive is always there to keep your restaurant kitchen clean to avoid costly violations. Improper exhaust ventilation can not only result in safety violations and increased utility bills, but decreased employee productivity as well.

First and foremost, it goes without saying that:

1. Not all fire protection services companies specialize in, and have an extensive track record for designing, installing, testing, inspecting and maintaining kitchen exhaust ventilation systems; and,

2. The exhaust ventilation system designed for your specific commercial kitchen, needs to be a custom job with ample duct access points, crafted with American made sheet metal, with each twist and turn negotiated down to a fraction of a millimeter for the tightest fit possible.

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Every restaurant has its own unique ventilation needs and challenges. In fact, no two commercial kitchens can be deemed to be the same. That’s because even a millimeter’s difference in a curve or turn could make all the difference in the tightness of the duct design, and by extension, it’s effectiveness.  Insuring a tight custom fit is critical which is why restaurateurs should inquire as to whether the fire protection services company they’re requesting a quote from has its own sheet metal fabrication facility. Hiring a Fire Protection Services Company that has its own plasma cutter is always preferable over one that is just a middle man. Companies such as New York City’s Master Fire Prevention will take your architectural drawings and plans, visit the space and take measurements before custom fabricating and welding your exhaust ventilation duct.

Again, even a millimeter can make all the difference in the world. Potentially flammable grease particles can ignite and cause a flash fire so that duct needs to be air tight.

The next consideration is to ensure that the proper ventilation apparatus is in place to push out the “bad air” and bring in “good air” (or what is referred to as “make up air”). Make Up Air is essentially clean, fresh, outside air and you need to bring a lot of it into your kitchen to replace the air from the kitchen being expelled via the exhaust system.  Not having enough makeup air can lead to all manner of problems, not the least of which is poor air quality. Compliance factors come into play here as well due to the strict workplace standards required of commercial kitchen operators under OSHA. It is highly important that your exhaust system is not only properly ventilated, but kept clean. Having enough access points to keep the interior of your grease duct system clean therefore is yet another consideration.

It goes without say that keeping your ventilation system clean is the best way to prevent a hazard. Removing grease from kitchen cooking ventilation systems, by scraping and/or chemical washing are important ways in which to accomplish this goal. And not just clean, but down to bare metal clean. It is thereby important to make sure that ample access panels are available as they are essential to maintaining and cleaning a commercial kitchen exhaust system. Kitchen exhaust and hood cleaning and subsequent inspections are needed on an annual basis.

The savings of using an engineered hood, such as those manufactured by Captive Aire can be considerable. Engineered hoods require substantially less air flow in terms of CFMs (cubic feet per minute). This is important for two reasons. The first being of course that less energy is required to move air in and out through your exhaust ventilation system, thereby resulting in lower energy bills as less power is required to run the system. Another factor is that a smaller duct system means more room, and increased comfort in your commercial kitchen.

Another spectacular feature of this type of engineered duct system is the ability to lower the speed of the fan when there is a lower volume of cooking. This is accomplished by a thermostat heat sensor being located within the hood.  The resulting impact on the bottom line for the commercial kitchen operator is significant. Multiply these cost savings over the years and put that money back into other areas of your restaurant’s operation.


Master Fire Prevention has been in the commercial cooking fire protection services industry for over 40 years. Please visit Master Fire Prevention’s website, or go to their YouTube Channel, where we feature dozens of short informative videos on all manner of topics related to your commercial kitchen mechanical and design needs. For the Top 10 Things You Should Know About Fire Prevention, click here