Published February 6, 2023

Restaurant Air Balancing: What Is It and Why It’s Required

Opening a restaurant is without a doubt one of the most challenging and stressful ventures a person can undertake.

The number of tasks, expenses, and delays involved can feel endless.

For many, just when they feel they have finished and all the expenses are finally over, they are told they need an air balance report from a certified company before they can open up for business. 

At Vortex Air Balance Co. we don’t necessarily refer to this service as an “air balance report”, we refer to this specific service, that the health department requests, as restaurant air balancing.

The “report” is what is issued by the TAB (test, adjust, and balance) company “after” the restaurant air balancing is completed.


What Is Restaurant Air Balancing?

Restaurant air balancing is the process of testing and adjusting the airflows of both the exhaust hood and make-up air to their engineered specifications or to mechanical code. Doing so ensures the exhaust hood performs correctly and that the pressures within the building are equal.

When Is Restaurant Air Balancing Required?

The health department requires restaurant air balancing to be performed under a handful of situations:

Typically, restaurant air balancing is required when:

  • Building a new restaurant
  • Transferring ownership of an existing restaurant
  • Performing a name change to an existing restaurant
  • Performing any major renovations on a restaurant that involves pulling city permits (even if the kitchen equipment is not altered)

The trend appears to be, if permits are pulled… expect to have an air balance completed. 

To learn how much air balancing may cost you visit our page: How Much Does Air Balancing Cost?

Why Restaurant Air Balancing Is Required?

Restaurant air balancing is required to be performed for the following reasons:

  1. To adjust the airflows of the exhaust fan and make-up air to their engineered specifications.
  2. To verify both the exhaust fan and make-up air are installed correctly to code.
  3. To ensure the building pressure in the restaurant is equal.
  4. To verify that the restaurant is safe to operate.

Why Does the Exhaust Fan Need to be Adjusted To Specific Airflows?

The exhaust fan needs to be adjusted to engineered specifications so it can actually remove all the heat and smoke created when cooking.

The amount of air being exhausted is not random… you don’t just install a fan and hope for the best.

No, it is precisely engineered way before being installed.

Each restaurant has different quantities and types of cooking appliances used and not any exhaust fan will do the job.

To prove this statement, will a small house fan extract all the heavy smoke created during busy cooking hours?

Absolutely not.

Obviously, you need a bigger fan… but how big?

That’s the important question.

The amount of exhausted air needed to properly remove the heat and smoke from a restaurant’s specific cooking set-up can be engineered and it is.

The size of the fan, the length of the hood, the type of hood, and just about everything involving the grease hood are precisely calculated.

Now you might be wondering, if everything is so precisely calculated and engineered why is the air balance company even needed?

To answer that let’s start at the beginning of this process.

When the precise CFM (cubic feet per minute) of air is calculated by the mechanical engineer an exhaust fan that can successfully meet these CFM levels is then chosen.

The size chosen will usually be one that can produce slightly more or slightly less than the calculated CFM, never an exact size.

The exhaust fans are set up by the manufacturer to generic adjustments and will almost never produce the needed CFM required.

This is where the air balancer comes into the picture.

Once installed and commissioned, the restaurant air balancing technician then tests and adjusts both the make-up air and the exhaust fan to produce the airflows that were engineered or calculated for the restaurant’s specific needs.

Why Does the Make-Up Need to be Adjusted To Specific Airflows?

The make-up air needs to be adjusted so it brings in the same amount of air being removed from the building by the exhaust fan. Doing so re-equalizes the building’s pressure.

An interesting fact that many may not know is that the exhaust fan does as much harm to the restaurant as it does well.

The exhaust fan removes so much air from the building that it creates negative pressures in the building strong enough to create a handful of nasty problems.

For example, under negative pressures the exhaust fan can and will:

  • Suck dust and grime from the cracks in the walls, the attic, and anywhere it can pull air from, even the sewer which can create awful sewage smells.
  • Suck the cold air from the AC right out of the building before it gets to cool the building and recirculate.

These problems can not only create an unhealthy restaurant but it can become uncomfortable for employees and customers to endure.

To combat these issues is why the make-up air fan is required to be installed along with each exhaust fan.

It brings in the same amount of air being exhausted to balance the pressures within the building.

The make-up air is engineered and chosen in the same way the exhaust fan is, so it is up to the air balance technician to properly test and adjust it to bring in the correct CFMs of air into the building.

If My Exhaust Fan Has No Engineered Plans Can It Still Be Balanced?

Yes, if your restaurant is existing and you do not have any mechanical plans for the building the exhaust fan is then balanced to mechanical code listed CFMs.

How A Restaurant Air Balance Can Save You Money

  1. Part of the restaurant air balance process involves confirming all ventilation equipment is operating within their safe perimeters. This drastically prevents premature failure of large components potentially saving thousands in repairs.
  2. The air balance process also confirms that the exhaust fan and make-up air aren’t overproducing air, or (from a restaurant owner’s viewpoint) overproducing electricity. Balancing the fans to produce the exact airflows needed can drastically reduce the electric consumption from the ventilation equipment, saving on the monthly electric bill.

To Conclude

Restaurant air balancing is adjusting the airflows produced by the exhaust fan and make-up air to their engineered specifications.

Doing so verifies that the restaurant will be safe to operate, that all smoke and heat will be ventilated, and that all equipment is installed correctly and running efficiently.

If you have any more questions you feel we didn’t answer and should include in this article, let us know!

If you are in need of restaurant air balancing and are located in Southern California, call us here at Vortex Air balance Co. today!