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Something in the air

Installing the correct odour control equipment will not only keep local residents onside but also your planning department, says Andrew James, sales director at Purified Air

Who is purified air?

As a company, Purified Air has been around since 1984, and I would say we are the market leader in this country when it comes to filtration and odour reduction equipment for commercial kitchens. Our market covers everything from fast food chains, such as McDonald’s, Burger King and KFC, through to casual dining and independent restaurants, to fine dining. We also do a lot of educational seminars to local authorities and to restaurant chains and brands, and we do free site surveys for operators. We’re not just a box moving company in it to sell products, we like to take a consultative approach.

What is the purpose of odour control?

Odour control removes odours from the cooking process and prevents them from causing a nuisance to the local surrounding environment. The old way of thinking, going back 20-30 years, was that the smell of your cooking would attract customers to your shop. But these days, especially with the majority of shops now being within residential areas, it’s important those smells are dealt with. As much as we all enjoy having fish and chips, people don’t want to smell it constantly in their back garden or homes!

Is odour control an issue shop owners know enough about?

We’ve found that the larger chains are well aware of this and it’s something they put in as standard when opening a new shop, so we will get called out at the fit out stage or even prior to that when a customer wants to know if it’s going to be a problematic site. But for many others, it’s still quite new and the first time they are made aware of a need for odour control is at the planning stage or when a change of use is submitted. If shops can’t demonstrate they have taken the necessary steps to tackle odour control, their planning application will be turned down or they may be prevented from opening.

Are there any guidelines that shops need to follow?

Yes and no. In 2005, the DEFRA guide was released, which is a document that gave guidance on odour and noise from a commercial site. It was a document we helped to write and it was useful for both the local authority and the operator as it gave them guidance on what should put in so as not to create a nuisance to the local surrounding area.

In 2017, that guidance was withdrawn as part of the government’s pledge to cut red tape. However, a company called EMAQ produced a replacement document as it was thought it was important to still have something available. I think this is going to spark another level of interest in ensuring there isn’t a nuisance odour attached to a new takeaway.

How do shops know if odour control is going to be an issue?

The guidance entails a risk assessment which asks various questions and gives points to each answer, so for example, if you’re exhausting your ducting at a certain level you get a score, if you’ve got a neighbour you get another score, how many covers gets another score and the type of cooking you do gives you another. You add up those scores and that tells you the level of control you need and the type of equipment you need. It’s only a couple of pages and we put that in the back of our brochure, but we can e-mail it or bring it to a meeting.

What’s the next step once they’ve assessed what’s needed?

When an operator has got that calculation they know exactly the type of equipment they need, so it’s easy to get quotes from filtration suppliers for the right system. It avoids over-engineering a solution and an operator putting in more than they need.

So why do we still hear stories of residents complaining about smells or, worse, shops closing?

For planning permission to be granted, a fish and chip shop needs to state they are putting X and Y in. However, if you imagine how many takeaways and restaurants open each week, the local authorities just don’t have the spending power or the number of bodies to send round to all these premises to check every aspect of an installation. So it could be they actually put in nothing. Equally, they may have put in a poor quality product or a good quality product but didn’t implement any service and maintenance for it.

So it’s important to get it right first time?

Yes, absolutely. At one end of the spectrum you could be faced with closure while you get the equipment retrofitted (and a nasty surprise if you’ve not budgeted for it), so a loss of serious amounts of money, but the other thing is by creating a nuisance you’re upsetting local residents, many of who are going to be your customers!

You mentioned maintenance, what is needed?

It’s dependent on the type of product and the volume of trade. Typically you’d have one component that would be the filtration element, normally called an electrostatic precipitator which scrubs the air clean of oil and grease. That’s not a replaceable component, it needs cleaning somewhere between monthly and six monthly. Then the second component is either a carbon filtration to absorb the smells - that is a replaceable item that gets replaced every six to 12 months - or you have a UV ozone solution with a lamp that creates ozone and destroys the smells and that would need replacing every 12 months.

Can shops carry out the maintenance themselves?

Some do, they will buy the components themselves and, if that’s what they want to do, then we will help them with that. Alternatively, we can provide that as a service. We do an average of 1,000 service visits a month up and down the country.

Is there anything else an operator needs to take into consideration?

Just that the more sensitive the location, the more odour control equipment will be needed to reduce the smell. For example, if it’s a traditional parade of shops, exhausting at low level where the signage is and you’ve got flats with residents in above, then that’s a very sensitive discharge. If you're exhausting in a less built-up area, you will need less. It’s being aware of that and that’s where free surveys are invaluable.

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