Thermal comfort is typically used when we are discussing how staff and customers feel in a restaurant and is typically evaluated using measures such as the temperature and relative humidity in the space. Indoor air quality is typically used to define how “clean” the air is that the staff and customers are breathing in a restaurant and typically includes levels of particulate matter, volatile organic compounds (VOC’s), smoke, and carbon dioxide. The term Indoor Environmental Quality (IEQ) combines both the thermal comfort measurements along with the indoor air quality measurements.
When food is cooked in a restaurant, the cooking process creates a lot of pollutants including grease particulate, grease vapor, smoke, and other byproducts including odor-causing volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). For staff and customers in a restaurant, one of the most harmful emissions is grease particulates.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that “fine particles (PM 2.5) pose the greatest health risk. These particles can get deep into the lungs and some may even get into the bloodstream. Exposure to these particles can also affect a person’s lung and heart.” (source U.S. EPA: (https://www3.epa.gov/region1/airquality/pm-human-health.html). Particles ranging from PM2.5 up to PM10 can also irritate a person’s eye, nose, and throat.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) is another pollutant that is produced by people when they exhale along with being a by-product of gas combustion. Excess CO2 can cause headaches, dizziness, difficulty breathing, sweating, tiredness, increased heart rate, and at extremely high concentrations, coma or asphyxia.
In order to provide owners, operators, staff, and customers information on the health of a commercial restaurant, it is important that these various pollutants be monitored. Basic IEQ monitors include temperature, RH (Relative Humidity), and CO2 but as we can see from the information in this article it is important that at least carbon dioxide, VOC, a range of PM (Particulate Matter) measurements (including PM 10, PM 2.5, and PM1) be monitored.
With the emergence of COVID-19, everyone is also more aware of viruses in the air, and CO2 levels can be used to determine what the virus risk is in a building.
To take this further from not only informing the owners, operators, staff, and customers about the current state of their environment but to provide a sense of well-being by actively managing the systems and taking action to reduce the levels of items such as PM2.5 and CO2 when they are critical.
Historically, Demand Control Ventilation (DCV) systems have been used to provide fresh air into the dining areas of restaurants to manage the amount of fresh air so that the CO2 levels in the dining room do not get too high.
If you are interested in further information on indoor environmental quality sensors, the experts who develop them can guide you on the proper selection needed to meet your requirements.
Our recommended next article would be: How does radiant heat affect your chef’s and kitchen staff’s comfort?
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