The air that you breathe
Health and beauty salons in the UAE have to use some form of air conditioning in order to maintain the surrounding air quality and temperature, and so provide customers and staff with a comfortable environment all year round.
Ventilation – the supply and circulation of air in a building – comes either by natural or mechanical means. Natural ventilation is simply introducing outside air into a room by opening windows and doors. Mechanical ventilation requires the installation of fans, ducts and other equipment to draw air in and out of a room and evenly distribute air throughout the space. In the UAE mechanical ventilation is essential most of the time since it is more consistent and can provide a more uniform, predictable amount of fresh air, independent of weather conditions.
A study on air quality in the UAE, conducted last year by the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA, recommended beauty salons, nail salons and health clubs, which face more challenging problems than typical retail establishments, follow the guidelines of the American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air-conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE), which is the leader in all things ventilation, according to Chris Trent of the university’s Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering.
She said that indoor air quality issues were almost always the result of poor ventilation. “Beauty salons, especially nail salons, are challenging because they are often found in spaces that were never designed for that type of work and the ventilation systems are inadequate. Some nail salons have attempted to go with local exhaust around the nail stations to reduce the chemical emissions throughout the rest of the salon, but I don't believe this is a requirement,” said Ms Trent.
Correctly installed air conditioning systems will retain customers and encourage future visits as well as reduce staff fatigue - they, as a result, will be more efficient for longer. Different air conditioning systems and units are available to suit all industry sectors. Most salons in the UAE have systems which are controlled by the owner of the building in which they are situated, and therefore have no control over it.
However, anyone who is installing their own air conditioning within a private villa should first contact the Dubai Municipality or the Environment, Health and Safety (EHS), which regulates and enforces rules related to all aspects of environment, health, safety and fire protection. They would then need to choose between a wall mounted or a ceiling based air conditioning system. This choice depends on the total area of the salon, the purpose of each room and the maximum number of people to be in the room at any one time.
Installation in a ready-made salon is generally quick – a single or twin split application can be installed in one day, with minimum disruption.
Most units come with a manufacturers' warranty, but in order for this to be honoured, units need regular maintenance checks. Usually along with the warranty comes a parts and labour service for the first 12 months, however all installers vary.
LG Electronics’ AC Product Manager Ms Rohini Ireen Fernandes reckons standard installation costs would be Dhs400, which includes installation plus five meter piping. “Wall bracket plus additional piping is extra, charged as per the site. The average time taken for an installation is three hours, but it depends on the site,” she added.
LG offers a range of electronics products and services which can be customised to suit the requirements of a project. They help in the initial design stage of any project in order to provide the right solutions, says Rohini.
Ideally the air conditioning system installed will have a strong air filtration and anti-allergic air purification mechanism. Poor indoor air quality can lead to staff experiencing headaches, an inability to concentrate, dizziness, nausea, eye and throat irritation, excessive fatigue and general malaise. It is particularly important for those working with hazardous substances such as perm products, hair colourants and applying artificial nails to conduct the processes in well-ventilated areas. In nail salons, the day-to-day vapours and dust can be a problem, but this can be counter-acted by the use of general ventilation systems combined with ventilation tables.
NBar projects manager Yunus Armien says the company prefers central AC over wall mounted units. “When the air handling unit turns on, room air is drawn in from various parts of the building through return-air ducts. This air is pulled through a filter where airborne particles such as dust and lint are removed. Sophisticated filters may remove microscopic pollutants as well. The filtered air is routed to air supply ductwork that carries it back to rooms. Whenever the air conditioner is running, this cycle repeats continually.”
The condenser unit (with its fan and the compressor) is located outside the salon, so offers a lower level of indoor noise than a free-standing air conditioning unit.
“Room air conditioners come in two forms: unitary and packaged terminal PTAC systems. Unitary systems, the common one-room air conditioners, sit in a window or wall opening, with interior controls. Interior air is cooled as a fan blows it over the evaporator. On the exterior the air is heated as a second fan blows it over the condenser. In this process, heat is drawn from the room and discharged to the environment. A large villa or building may have several such units, permitting each room be cooled separately. PTAC systems are also known as wall split air conditioning systems or ductless systems,” said Yunus.
Most nail salons in the UAE use central AC, and some have a combination of a work table with an exhaust vent embedded in it that is vented to the outdoors and a ceiling or wall-mounted exhaust system with exhaust intake suspended above the work table. A ventilated table prevents toxic chemicals from reaching the breathing zone of both nail technicians and customers.
LG Electronics’ Ms Rohini recommends for a salon the LG Artcool model in the wall mounted category. This model allows for the picture on the unit – such as hair styles or products - to be changed as and when required by the salon. She also recommended their “elegant and classy” Titan Air conditioner as it is designed specifically for the Arab region, with henna design and Swarovski crystals embedded into it. Where there is less space on the wall then the cassette type of air conditioner from the false ceiling is recommended.
At Zen Beauty Lounge in Discovery Gardens, Dubai, founder & CEO Leena Al Abbas has a few good tips for those starting out to consider. “Since my salon is eco-friendly, I don't use any toxic chemicals, so the air is always fresh and safe for my customers and staff. We are currently taking advantage of the lovely weather and using fresh air, so we have not yet used the a/c, thus saving energy costs and unnecessary carbon emissions,” said Leena.
Using the correct size unit to suit the salon space allows for more conservation of energy. “If you choose an air conditioner too large or too small for the area then you will be causing an unnecessary drain on your electricity.”
Leena added that when selecting a new air conditioner unit, it was wise to get one stamped with an energy star approval. “Energy Star approval is a label given to a product by the Environmental Protection Agency. This ensures that the product is 10% more efficient than what is required by the minimum federal standards,” she said.
A unit that can dehumidify the air at the same time is useful for those living in the UAE as it makes the working environment more comfortable. It also allows a lower setting of the air conditioner. This coupled with using the fan-only option at night will reduce electricity bills and CO2 emissions.
Maintenance is important too – cleaning and checking the filters on the units saves electricity and improves efficiency. Rohini agrees saying: “Due to the sand particles (in this part of the world) the filters can get blocked, so the filters in the AC should be washed once every six months, and this should be done by the right technician. Regular maintenance of the air conditioner will ensure good performance and durability.”