Restaurants and commercial kitchens are notoriously one of the largest consumers of energy per unit of floor area. Moreover, the kitchen ventilation system is often the largest energy-consuming component in a food service facility. Building owners and engineers often struggle to justify additional costs for energy-efficient measures, such as a demand-controlled kitchen ventilation (DCKV) system. The energy codes that reference ASHRAE Standard 90.1-2010 and newer prescribe such energy-saving measures for kitchen exhaust airflows over 5,000 cfm, but currently only 17 of the 50 states have adopted such codes.
I live and perform most of my work in a state that does not require any kind of kitchen ventilation energy reduction, but I still advise my clients of their options for energy conservation strategies in commercial kitchen design. As engineers, it is our job to advise building owners or restaurant operators of the benefits that a comprehensive HVAC system design can provide. But first, we need to understand how a DCKV system saves energy and the value that provides for our clients. Let us explore the multiple factors that affect kitchen ventilation energy usage and develop some rules of thumb for determining when a DCKV system makes sense.