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Air Door or Air Curtain

Air Door or Air Curtain

An air door or air curtain is a device used for separating two spaces from each other, usually at the exterior entrance.

Air Door or Air Curtain

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The most common configuration for an Air Door or Air Curtain is a downward-facing blower fan mounted over an opening, blowing air across the surface of the opening. Air Curtains can come with, or without heaters to heat the air. Normally, the opening is an entrance to a building, or opening between two space conditioned at difference temperatures. Air Doors or Air Curtains can serve many purposes. They can be intended to help keep flying insects out by creating forceful turbulence. It also helps keep out outside air, reducing infiltration though the opening. They can also be used to avoid cold drafts by mixing in warm air heated by the air curtain. The fan must be powerful enough to generate a jet of air that can reach the floor.

Air Doors or Air Curtains are utilized when a barrier is needed across an opening, and when reducing energy costs is desired. Some applications include customer entryways, airplane hangars, cargo doors, drive through windows, restaurant doors, or shipping receiving doors. The air stream that the Air Door or Air Curtain places across the opening creates an invisible barrier to contain an air conditioned space and reduce infiltration. Typically, an Air Door or Air Curtain can pay for itself in one to two years by reducing the load on the building’s heating or air conditioning system. Depending on how much an entrance is opened or for how long it remains open, there is a mechanism, such as a door switch, to turn the unit on and off as the door opens and closes, so the Air Curtain only operates when the door is open. Heated Air Doors or Air Curtains are commonly used when supplemental heat is needed for a space, and to reduce the wind chill factor across the opening in colder climates. Air Curtains work best when the pressure differential between the inside and outside of the building is as close to neutral as possible. Negative pressures, extreme temperature differences, elevators in close proximity, or extreme humidity can reduce the effectiveness of an Air Door or Air Curtain.

The most effective Air Door or Air Curtain for containing heated or cooled air inside a building with an open door will have a high face

Air Door or Air Curtain

Air Door or Air Curtain

velocity at the opening, generated by top-down flow, recovered by a recirculating air plenum and duct return to the source fans. This configuration is available for new construction, but difficult to provide in existing buildings. The Air Door or Air Curtain is most effective with low exterior wind velocity. At higher wind velocities, the rate of air mixing increases and the outside air portion of the total face flow increases. Under ideal conditions of zero wind, the effectiveness of the air curtain is at its maximum. In windy locations air curtains cannot create a perfect seal, but are often used to reduce the amount of infiltration from an opening.

For industrial conditions, high face velocities are acceptable. For commercial applications like store entrances, user comfort dictates low face velocities, which reduce effectiveness of separation of exterior air from interior air.

Non-heated air curtains are often used in conjunction with cold storage and refrigerated rooms. Airflow through a door depends on wind forces, temperature differences (convection), and pressure differences.

Air Doors or Air Curtains can be used to save energy by reducing the heat transfer (via mass transfer when air mixes across the threshold) between two spaces, although a closed and well-sealed physical door is much more effective. A combination is often utilized; when the door is opened the air curtain turns on, minimizing air flow from inside to outside and vice versa. Air Door or Air Curtain are often used where doors are required to stay open for operational purposes, such as at loading docks and vehicle entrances.

Research by the University of Cambridge for the Close the Door campaign found that air curtains failed to provide adequate thermal comfort if store doors were left open, and that they could be eliminated if the doors were shut.

It should be noted that the air movement equipment positioned over the shop doorways in the two case studies in the University of Cambridge interim report are not air curtains but overdoor heaters. There is a clear distinction between an overdoor heater and an air curtain and this was not acknowledged by the authors of the interim report who referred to these units as air curtains. The UK based HEVAC Air Curtain Group describes over-door heaters as small electric or water heated fanned units with a low air volume flow rate. They are intended to be installed at doorways having low pedestrian footfall where the door is mainly closed. They are useful in providing warmth to a cold region adjacent to a doorway or opening which could become uncomfortable, similar to a radiator positioned under a window. They should not be seen as an alternative to an air curtain. It is quite understandable that the overdoor heaters in the University of Cambridge study did not perform well at the doorways examined as they were being used as a cheap alternative to air curtains. Unfortunately this happens all too often as people do not understand the principal differences between air curtains and overdoor heaters, these are:

AC Door, AC Curtain


1. Air curtains are designed to fully cover the width of a doorway plus an overlap – overdoor heaters are small, they could never cover the width of a doorway so would leave significant gaps where the outside air can enter.



2. The fans in an Air Door or Air Curtain are powerful enough to provide an air stream to project across the whole doorway – overdoor heaters have only small fans that could never project an air stream more than approximately 1m. ISO 27327-1:2009 describes a test method to measure air velocity projection.

AC Door and AC Curtain

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3. The discharge nozzle on an Air Door or Air Curtain is optimized to provide a more uniform air stream across the whole width of the doorway – overdoor heaters could never provide uniformity comparable to an Air Door or Air Curtain as they can only cover part of the doorway. ISO 27327-1:2009 describes a test method to measure air velocity uniformity.

4. Air Door or Air Curtain are fitted with sophisticated controls to regulate the strength and heating capacity of the airstream across the doorway – overdoor heaters have simple manual controls which are often left on the wrong settings, unnecessarily wasting energy.

As way of illustration Figure 1 shows an air curtain and Figure 2 shows an overdoor heater, both installed over the same doorway.

An authoritative engineering design procedure for calculating the supply air flow and thermal capacity of an air curtain for an HVACR application is explained in the BSRIA Application Guide 2/97. The procedure for a ‘Building with an Air Tightness Specification’ should be followed, i.e. a practical building with some air leakage. Within the BSRIA Application Guide, Section 4.2 explains the design procedure and Section 5.2 gives worked examples for buildings with a range of air tightness specifications. This allows the engineer to calculate the supply air flow rate and thermal capacity of the required air curtain for a particular application.

Air Door or Air Curtain

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Air Door or Air Curtain

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