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  • M. Villarreal

Why Access Panels are Important


One of the most important things about kitchen exhaust systems maintenance is how clean they are, NOT JUST HOW CLEAN THE HOOD MAY LOOK. Most only look at the hood or fan, But, your duct system is where the real dangers hide. The cleaner your kitchen exhaust duct system is, the more efficient and safe it will be.


When cleaned properly, your exhaust system removes heat, particulates, unwanted smells, creates a healthy and inviting environment for both employee and customer, and above all else, it helps prevent fires.


For this reason, it is safe to assume that the easier it is to clean your system, the better it will be for your business. So, today, we'll be talking about the importance of access panels for kitchen exhaust systems and difficult to clean areas that are so often ignored.


What Is The Purpose Of Exhaust Systems?


Commercial kitchen vent hood cleaning is important for several reasons. First, is the obvious need for safety, but your system is also used for eliminating food odors, remove smoke, recirculate air, reduce heat build-up, etc. Grease and dust can block airflow or damage the blades of exhaust fans. As you may know, commercial kitchen exhaust system is made up of three major components: a hood (which holds the filters), the duct system, and exhaust fan. However, if there is no way to inspect and clean the inside of the ductwork and system, a major fire disaster can more easily occur. That’s where access panels come into play and why they are so important.


What Are Duct Access Panels?


To properly appreciate the significance of duct access panels, you must first grasp how they work. These panels are necessary for commercial kitchens and restaurants because they allow professional cleaning services to efficiently and effectively remove grease and contaminant buildup from the ducts at all areas of the system.


The size, shape, and spacing of duct access panels for kitchen exhaust systems are regulated. That means, you must conform to specific rules and regulations. Depending on where you live, kitchen guidelines can vary considerably. That’s why it’s so important to find a local expert to advise you on hood safety and the best practices for cleaning and maintaining your exhaust system. The regulations of providing access panels or doors are complex. Some of the relevant NFPA-96 codes include:

  • NFPA-96 4.1.8: Requires that all parts of an exhaust system have access panels or doors to enable full cleaning of the system.

  • NFPA-96 5.1.2: All areas of the system that channel grease and exhaust vapors must have a tight and continuous weld that’s watertight, and this external weld must continue to the lower part of the outermost perimeter of the hood.

  • NFPA-96 7.3.1: Access panels must be located on the sides or tops of ducts–whichever area is more accessible–and where ducts change directions.

  • NFPA-96 7.4.1.1: Horizontal ducts require a 20” by 20” opening to provide human access.

  • NFPA-96 7. 4.1.2: If duct size doesn’t allow a 20” by 20” opening, an opening must be large enough to allow cleaning.

  • NFPA-96 7.4.1.3: Openings on horizontal systems must be accessible by a 10-foot stepladder or a dedicated work platform.

  • NFPA-96 7.4.2.2: If entry isn’t possible, suitable access for cleaning must be provided.

  • NFPA-96 7.5.2.1: All seams, joints, connections and penetrations musty have a watertight continuous external weld.


So let’s make this as simple and clear as possible. According to NFPA regulations, your ducts must be readily accessible for cleaning or repair. If you don't have the proper access panels, you should install them as soon as possible. Even though this may require a renovation project, it is worth it. If you find yourself in this situation, you shouldn't worry too much. These days, this type of work around your restaurant and kitchen doesn't take a lot of time. Depending on the size of the project and accessibility needed, if it is a larger project, the contractors may ask you to store kitchen appliances for a while and keep some items out of the way while they work. If that happens, we suggest storing all of your appliances off-site.



They Make It Easier To Clean

There are many reasons why you should have your kitchen cleaned on a regular basis. It will allow you to run your kitchen more efficiently and make it a much safer place to work. If you keep your kitchen exhaust system clean, you will be able to work without exhaust issues, reduce ongoing cleaning cost and reduce the chance of fire.


However, cleaning exhaust systems can be time-consuming and challenging work and needs to be done correctly by professionals. So much so that some businesses can't afford to stop production for cleaning. That being said, if you have well-placed access panels on your ducts, you could make the process much quicker and less expensive over the long term.


However, as we've mentioned earlier, these access panels must be installed correctly, by professionals and the panels must be correctly fire rated for your system. If done incorrectly or poorly by an inexperienced company, they can do far more damage than good. Ensure you have done your due diligence before moving forward and choose the right company with solid reviews and experience.


If you aren’t sure, give Cornerstone Commercial Services a call today and schedule your free onsite review and estimate with no contract or obligation. 1-800-274-3905

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