What Is an Air Curtain?

Air curtains release vertical sheets of air that maintain internal temperatures and block out airborne contaminants. Also known as air doors, these powerful fans create an invisible barrier between spaces. Air curtains allow products and people to pass through unobstructed while preventing outside environmental factors from entering.

Whether you're opening a warehouse or a restaurant, air curtains cut costs for most commercial businesses. Our guide to air curtains explores their benefits, uses, and functionalities. We answer all the common questions about air doors so you can evaluate whether they’re a profitable investment for your business.

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What Are Air Curtains Used For?

an air curtain above the entrance to a cold storage room

Air curtains serve multiple purposes including:

  • Containing cool and heated air
  • Energy conservation
  • Dividing environments without slowing traffic
  • Enclosing an area without creating a visual barrier
  • Decreasing pest entry
  • Preventing pollutant circulation
  • Controlling humidity
  • Increasing the comfort of your staff and clientele
  • Improving air quality

Types of Air Curtains

There are four types of air curtains: non-recirculating air curtains, recirculating air curtains, heated air curtains, and unheated air curtains. Your budget and the size, height, and location of your opening determine which type of air curtain you need. We explain how each type of air curtain works as well as their pros and cons below:

1. Non-Recirculating Air Curtains

Non-recirculating air curtains are the most common type of air curtain. You install non-recirculating air curtains horizontally atop your opening. They send sheets of air to the bottom, where the air dispenses into the environment. Discover the pros and cons of this type of air curtain below:

  • Less expensive to run
  • Easy installation
  • Lower chance of damage/wear and tear
  • More affordable to repair than recirculating air curtains
  • Less efficient than recirculating air curtains
  • Requires horizontal mounting, which is not possible for all openings

2. Recirculating Air Curtains

Recirculating air curtains have both a discharge and receiving grille. The receiving grille absorbs and recycles the air sheets into the discharge grille. Unlike non-recirculating units, you can install recirculating air curtains on the sides of your opening. However, side-installed air curtains are more prone to wear and tear. In most cases, builders install recirculating air curtains during construction. Evaluate the pros and cons of recirculating air curtains below:

  • Greater energy efficiency than non-recirculating air curtains
  • Create a denser air wall than non-recirculating air curtains
  • High installation fees
  • Expensive repair

3. Heated Air Curtains

Heated air curtains release warm or cool sheets of air that push your internal, temperature-controlled air back into your building. They're just as effective at blocking airborne contaminates and pests as unheated air curtains, and they come in both recirculating and non-recirculating models.

  • Controls temperatures in the winter months
  • Saves energy
  • Blocks pests
  • Protects against airborne contaminants
  • More expensive to run than unheated models

4. Unheated Air Curtains

Unheated air curtains release sheets of air and prevent airborne contaminates and pests from entering the spaces they guard. Because they lack heating abilities, they cannot control the temperature during the cold seasons. Unheated air curtains come in both horizontal and vertical models.

  • Blocks pests
  • Protects against airborne contaminants
  • Less expensive to run than heated models
  • Can’t control temperatures in the winter months

Who Uses Air Curtains?

an air curtain on an open drive through window blows air while an employee hands a customer their order

Air curtains are a cost-saving, pest- and pollutant-reducing tool for most commercial businesses. Find out who uses air curtains below:

  • Restaurants
  • Grocery stores
  • Schools
  • Drive-through windows
  • Food processing plants
  • Hospitals
  • Warehouses
  • Malls
  • Airports
  • Retailers

Benefits of Air Curtains for Restaurants

Air curtains offer restaurants multiple benefits. From customer retention to real estate savings, find out how your restaurant can benefit from an air curtain below:

  1. Air curtains transform every table into a comfortable space year-round. Eliminate intemperate blasts of air from entering your restaurant during the hottest and coldest months by placing an air curtain at your entrance.
  2. Air doors improve food safety. Adding an air curtain to your walk-in contains the cold, helping preserve ServeSafe temperatures and reducing energy costs.
  3. Air doors improve employee health outcomes and safety. Air curtains block gas and fire fumes in commercial kitchens, creating safer working environments.
  4. Air curtains help you draw in walk-in customers. If you're located in a lively downtown area or shopping district, leaving the front door of your restaurant open can be a fantastic way to usher customers inside. With an air curtain, you can prop your doors open without letting pests and inclement weather in with your patrons.
  5. Air curtains optimize drive-throughs and walk-up windows. Air doors allow staff to pass orders to customers without letting pests in and climate-controlled air out. They also preserve the sanitary conditions of your kitchen by preventing contaminants from blowing into your back-of-house operations.
  6. Air curtains can even save you on real estate. You can eliminate the need for a vestibule with an AMCA certified air curtain according to both ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2019 and the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) of building requirements.

Air Curtain FAQs

an air curtain placed at the back entrance to a bakery kitchen blows air while an employee leaves the door open to take out the trash

Now that you understand how air curtains work, you may have additional questions about their functionality. We answer some of the most frequent questions about air doors below so you can make an informed investment decision.

Do Air Curtains Work?

When installed and operated correctly, air curtains will create an air barrier. Air doors are proven to control temperatures, block pests, and mitigate air pollution.

Do Air Curtains Keep Flies Out?

Yes, air curtains will keep flies out, so long as every entrance point is equipped with an air curtain or sealed closed. Air curtains are more effective than pesticides and baits because they prevent flies from entering rather than combating them inside.

Do Air Curtains Cool a Room?

Air curtains effectively preserve interior temperatures. However, they are not conditioners and will not bring the temperature down.

How to Clean an Air Curtain

Generally, you should clean your air curtain at least once every three months. If your air curtain is in a dirty industrial environment, shorten the time between cleanings. As a starting point, refer to our generalized steps for how to clean an air curtain below. Look to your air door manufacturer for specific instructions on cleaning your air curtain.

  1. Turn the power source off.
  2. Remove the air intake grille or bottom access panel (depending on your model).
  3. You should have access to the blower housing and motor. Vacuum the parts down or wipe them off with a microfiber cloth.
  4. If there is a lot of caked-on dirt, scrape it off before vacuuming.
  5. To remove grease, use a non-solvent-based cleaner or detergent.
  6. If damp, dry the air curtain parts before reinserting the access panel(s) and resuming use.

The global pandemic heightened public cleanliness standards. Creating a trustworthy business environment has never been more crucial. From drive-through windows to auto body shops, air curtains are an effective pest, pollutant, and temperature controlling tool. Use this guide to determine which type of air curtain best suits your business.

The information provided on this website does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice. Please refer to our Content Policy for more details.
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