Mixing it up with Air Curtains - Air Curtains being used “off the door”

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  • January 08, 2024
  • by Powered Aire

When you think of an air curtain, you usually picture it above a door where it's effectively separating environments, blocking insects and helping to keep you energy expenses in check. But it doesn't always need to be placed above a door. Take a look at how Powered Aire partnered with a regional health system to help solve a problem with negative pressure causing some negative reviews from patients and staff who didn't exactly love the bursts of cold air entering their lobby.

When it comes to ensuring a safe, clean, and controlled environment, hospitals can always be found atop the list.

From the moment a patient walks through the door, it is critical to ensure the most comfortable experience possible—not just for the patient but because hospital funding is impacted by their ability to provide the best experience possible. The Hospital Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HCAHPS) scoring system is a nationally standardized survey that measures patients’ perceptions of their hospital experience. The higher a hospital’s HCAHPS score, the higher their Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements will be. HCAHPS is one of the many reasons hospitals strive for total patient satisfaction.

The Challenge

When a leading women’s hospital in Pittsburgh had patients and staff complaining about drastic temperature changes in their main lobby, they did what any good hospital would do—worked to diagnose and remedy the problem. It was quickly discovered that their parking garage, which was connected to the main lobby through an enclosed walkway, was the cold-air-culprit.

More specifically, the lobby was part of a beautiful, multi-level atrium that would generate negative pressure (stack effect) due to its size. The significant pressure and temperature differences between the lobby and the parking garage meant that cold air was being pulled from the parking garage, through the corridor and into the lobby. With the open atrium, the cold air could seemingly visit every floor.

The Solution

Rather than spending countless dollars, time, and manpower to reconfigure the layout and mitigate the stack pressure, the hospital sought a more practical solution. This came in the form of a strategically placed air curtain that served as a “mixing box” that added a burst of heated air into corridor, mixing with the cold air and removing the blistering chill. Each time a person entered the corridor from the parking garage, the air curtain released a gentle flow of heated air.

The heated air curtain also included a thermostat to maintain the temperature in the walkway even when the doors are closed. At any point, if the temperature dropped below the setpoint, the air curtain would again mix heated air into the corridor. The result is more evenly tempered and comfortable air flowing into the atrium.

A heated air curtain mix warm air with the infiltrating cold air helping to temper environment
A heated air curtain can “mix” warm air with the infiltrating cold air, helping to temper the environment

The Takeaway

While not a “typical” installation, this off-door air curtain proved an effective solution for controlling environments. Using air curtains within corridors can also help separate environments, control odors, and/or prevent the infiltration of fumes and exhaust.

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