Hot, steamy summertime indoor temperatures and skyrocketing utility bills were not a “fun” cost of doing business for the Charleston Fun Park, a five-acre indoor/outdoor family entertainment center.

However, four entranceway air curtains, which now protect the Mount Pleasant, South Carolina-based amusement park’s 16,000-square-foot indoor area from outdoor temperatures, have lowered annual utility costs and energy use by approximately $20,000 and 6.6 MMBtu, respectively. The improved indoor air comfort also helped increase sales 20 percent in the first year since installation.

The indoor facility is air conditioned with five 10-ton split-system air conditioners. However, the units couldn’t overcome heat gain from three sets of double doors that accommodated constant foot traffic during peak hours. Brian Lee, general manager, estimates the 7-by-8-foot industrial aluminum-frame glass doorways are each typically opened an average of 60 times per hour.

 Consequently, the sweltering 85°F minimum indoor temperatures on summer days discouraged indoor activities. The indoor area also serves as a cool refuge for patrons participating in the go-kart track, paintball area, miniature golf, climbing wall, and other outdoor activities.

“In 2016, regular customers thought our air conditioning was broken, and now they think it’s fixed, but we never touched the air conditioning,” said Lee, who now maintains the indoor facility at 70º-72° year-round.

Lee attributes most of the aforementioned sales increase to the 60-machine arcade and virtual reality area, where customers buy playing time up and above park entrance ticket prices. Indoor entertainment players are staying longer and buying more game time because of the air comfort, said Lee. The park attracts nearly 300,000 people annually, and Lee believes return business has increased too, because patrons felt more comfortable during their previous visits. 

While the sales increase was surprising, the utility savings was expected, according to Tom Gondi, president of Southern Market Share, a Greenville, South Carolina, industrial product manufacturer’s representative.

Gondi initially ran an energy audit for the park using the Berner Energy Savings Calculator, a free web-based program available from Berner Intl. The program uses data inputs, such as door dimensions, use times, cycles, local energy rates, and National Weather Data, to provide the user with energy savings and payback estimates.

In addition to energy savings and indoor air comfort, the air curtains also prevent dirt and insect infiltration. Air curtains create an invisible air barrier that flying insects can’t penetrate, thus increasing sanitary conditions in the 35-seat snack area. The kitchen’s 4-foot-wide shipping door also received an air curtain.

Charleston, South Carolina-based material handling distributor Custom Equipment Co. supplied the air curtains. Charleston Fun Park’s in-house maintenance staff and licensed electrician ran 120-V power and wall-mounted the 6-foot-wide Commercial Low Profile 8-Series (CLC08) units above the double doorways in less than a day with no park down-time.  

Each air curtain features a 24-V control panel and two heavy-duty magnetic reed switches that automatically activate the air curtain when either door is opened. The magnetic reed switch guarantees the air curtain is activated without interaction by employees. The air curtain control package turns them off after a factory-set 60-second timer delay; however, constant foot traffic through the doors keeps the air curtains running almost continuously, said Lee. All four air curtains’ annual operating expense is $111.54.