Casino Air vs. 100% Outside Air

Tobacco smoke is made up of tar, nicotine, paper ash, VOC’s, chemicals, and carcinogens. These byproducts require engineered remediation in either the design stage of the property or in retrofit applications where the original mechanical design of the casino floor has failed and tobacco smoke and odor complaints are prevalent.

In the last 20 years Mechanical Engineers (ME) have for the most part been designing casino floor HVAC projects utilizing 100% outside air guidelines. Early on this design included overhead supply ducts and open ceiling plenum returns. In the last several years the ME’s have been pushing the 100% outside air design with underfloor supply distribution. The theory being the supply air will push the smoke up and out of the space and through the open plenum return and presto, no more smoke and odor issues. Unfortunately for the casino owners, this concept has many potential pitfalls, and costs nearly twice as much as properly designed conventional HVAC.

In a 100% outside air design, the air handlers (AHU’s) are over sized by the ME’s by as much as 100%. None of the conditioned air in the casino is recirculated back into the space. All of the 70 degree conditioned air is exhausted out of the building. The AHU’s and chillers work 24/7 to heat and cool the casino to 70 degrees, even in the early morning hours when the casino is basically empty. It will cost nearly twice as much to operate this casino as it would using Casino Air technology in the specifications. It will also cost you twice as much up front to purchase the 100% outside air HVAC package than it would if Casino Air technology was specified. We’ve been called to solve odor problems in casinos with this design, within a year of opening their doors.

“The return on investment has been exceptional. We are able to re-circulate 50-75% of the conditioned air from the casino floor. This reduces our energy costs several million dollars a year compared to the 100% outside air design offered by other companies.”

Gordon Sjodin, Chickasaw Nation

Energy Recovery Wheels

In virtually every 100% outside air casino floor design the ME’s will specify energy recovery wheels in an effort to reduce operating costs. Unfortunately, it is one of the worst products you can use in a tobacco smoke application. First of all, the wheels are expensive to buy and expensive to maintain. All the return air being exhausted out of the casino passes through the wheels. The tar and nicotine stick to the wheels like glue. The cigarette paper ash and other massive amounts of particulate generated on the casino floor stick to the tar and nicotine rendering the wheel basically inoperative. Many manufactures of energy recovery wheels have finally realized it is a bad application and will not warranty wheels in tobacco smoke applications.

It gets worse. As the wheels plug, no energy is recovered. In fact, it takes more energy to operate the equipment because the plugged wheels create a large pressure drop that puts more demand on the AHU’s and chillers to maintain temperature. It’s a vicious circle and only the power company wins.

Eventually the 100% outside air design will fail. The energy wheels will plug. Contaminated air from the casino floor will hit the plugged wheels and cross contaminate the supply air. There will come a time when the casino will start to stink and you can’t keep temperature in the building unless you recirculate conditioned air. If you have chillers you will last longer but eventually you will have no redundancy. We see it every day.

Get us involved in the mechanical design process

  • Fix the 100% Outside Air Design discussed above
  • Create a casino floor totally void of tobacco smoke and odor
  • Re-circulate 50% or more of the conditioned air and enjoy hundreds of thousands of dollars in energy savings
  • Prolong the life of your chillers and rooftop air handlers by reducing run time
  • Increase gaming revenue
  • Increase employee productivity

Ready to clear the air?

Clean air is good for business.

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