The need for two different service companies for the kitchen exhaust hood system has often caused confusion; a common misconception for customers is one tech completes both the exhaust cleaning and fire protection service. Preventative maintenance services are often the intangible we’d like to squeeze out of the budget – it doesn’t build your customer base or provide the same ‘value’ that new seating, upgraded façade or even technology can provide to your end-customer. So it’s no wonder many service companies use the blame-game to deflect from their own specialty. Nowhere is this more the case than when two service companies work on the same system.
Like commercial exhaust systems, the exhaust cleaning (KEC) service company, like Averus, is meant to address the buildup of grease, carbons and other particulate within the exhaust system, in all accessible areas, from the hood plenum (area behind the grease filters), the exhaust duct to the roof and the fan itself. The suppression piping and detection are both typically installed within the hood, hood plenum, and into the exhaust duct opening, so logically it would seem the buildup would be cleaned by the KEC tech. Not so much. That buildup we’re talking about, often carbonized or dried-out, is the syrup colored, sticky or charred gunk regularly covering the piping, nozzles, and fusible link assembly of the fire system, (along with everything else), you’d still be wrong to think the KEC tech is cleaning that.
NFPA 96, the standard that is referenced in Life Safety code, specifically requires that exhaust cleaners not clean, nor apply chemicals to any components of the fire system. When you understand how the KEC technician cleans the system, this reasoning becomes obvious. A professional KEC company uses high-pressure water to clean – think about cooking in your oven – if you left a pan of meats, oils, starches, and more, sitting in the oven all day and night, for weeks or months, how would you remove the resulting build-up? At home we’d probably replace the pan. In your kitchen high pressure, meaning 3,000 PSI or pound-force per square inch, heated water, is applied to the accessible areas of your system, this machinery is professional grade, truck-mounted, and costs almost as much as a car, not like the machines you can buy at Lowe’s or Home Depot. Consider your fusible link detection lines, at maximum, can only withstand 55 pounds of force, so a pressure washer cleaning it at 3,000 PSI is a really bad idea. If something happens will the KEC tech know how to correct it? Probably not. And NFPA addresses that too, requiring all maintenance of any and all components of the fire system be performed by trained, qualified, and certified persons acceptable to the AHJ (authority having jurisdiction, such as the local code authority, fire inspector, building inspector).
Fire technicians, like ours here at Averus, receive a tremendous amount of training in order to obtain certification because they are ultimately responsible that what they have installed and serviced is functional during a fire event. KEC technicians do not have licensing or training required through most states or AHJ’s. Even in professional KEC companies there is often a lack of formal training and even less familiarity with NFPA 96. At Averus we take fire and life safety seriously. We know our customers expect us to be the best and to operate as experts. Not only do we use an independent training program for our KEC techs, we’ve developed our own in-house, ongoing training program that occurs at least every month, often weekly, regardless of how experienced the technician is. NFPA guidelines are part of our every day operations. And, since Averus operates nationally for both kitchen exhaust and fire protection services, we don’t play the blame-game. Our goal is to be a vendor partner, we value communication and information, sharing as much as we know and providing sensible solutions that keep you fire safe.
So the next time a fire protection company blames the kitchen exhaust cleaners for having to replace part of the detection line due to buildup (also called soot, grease, char, and carbon) you can let them know that it was their job during the semi-annual maintenance to clean and remove this buildup, not the KEC technician. You are officially informed, and if you have any other questions, feel free to send us an email, we are always honored to help our customers understand how or why their systems work.