C­onventional kitchen air management systems use powerful fans to cope with smoke and steam emissions. These fans, however, are used in conjunction with single speed starters, meaning they are often providing a higher level of air movement than is actually needed.

As an alternative, Food Industry Technical (FIT) has developed the Cheetah modular air management system, where the fans are equipped with Vacon variable speed drives and their speed controlled by sensors that monitor the environment within the kitchen.

Although the basis for the control is that the higher the air temperature, the faster the fans run, the Cheetah system incorporates additional features including: if a sudden release of steam or smoke is detected in the cooking area, the fans automatically ramp up to full speed and maintain this speed for a predetermined period; and manual override is also provided to cope with unusual conditions.

Following the evaluation of a number of drives, the company selected the Vacon NXL range. Although compact, there was enough room for an RJ45 connector and, of additional benefit, these support the LonWorks networking protocol straight out of the box. The  drive software  is also easy to customise.

To ensure that the Cheetah air management systems can be quickly and economically configured to match user requirements, FIT adopted a modular design, with data communication between the modules handled by LonWorks networking. By fitting an RJ45 connector within the Vacon NXL drive for the requisite network connection, the units become plug-and-play devices.

FIT has now used over 1500 of the NXL drives with ratings between 0.37 and 30kW in its Cheetah air management systems. The systems work efficiently under all conditions and they save around 50% on energy costs compared with using a standard ventilation system, claims the company.

The Cheetah range of modular air management systems have been adopted by many leading companies involved with food preparation, including Tesco, Sainsburys, Claridges, Center Parcs, Hilton and ASDA.

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