Fit and forget

Fit and Forget?

Bradley Crisp, Senior Industrial and Smoke Sales at Applied Technology, explains the smoking gun for ineffective ventilation. 

Smoke ventilation within a building is a life-safety system, designed to facilitate the safe escape of occupants in the early stages of a fire. It forms a crucial part of contingency planning, and as such requires a thorough approach to servicing and maintenance in order to ensure optimum operational effectiveness should it ever be required.

As with many life-safety systems, smoke ventilation is something that very quickly becomes important in extreme circumstances. It plays a critical role in mitigating the effect of fires, particularly in the early stages, by keeping escape and access routes free from smoke to allow occupants to exit the building.

Such systems are also important in providing a level of reassurance, and across all applications they are an integral part of building safety. However, as a result of only being required in worst-case scenarios, there can be a tendency to fit and forget these systems. It forms part of a wider industry malaise when it comes to contingency planning, and it is important to note that there are a number of key and fairly straightforward steps to ensure the ongoing effectiveness of smoke ventilation.


Right from the outset, it is important that smoke ventilation products are correctly stored. When part of a larger project, it can often be the case that fans are not immediately installed, and instead sit on site for several weeks, or even months. In these circumstances, it is vital that they are kept in the right environment, to prevent long-term damage or a reduction in their performance.

The fan should be kept in a clean and dry area, free from corrosive fumes, vibration, and dust. Temperature fluctuations should also be avoided, with special attention given to removing any shrink wrap that may have been used to house the product during transportation. This can act like a greenhouse, meaning it gets excessively hot in the sun, before becoming freezing cold at night.

The impeller should be rotated monthly to prevent grease separation and damage to the bearings, and should not be returned to the same position after rotation. In cases where fans must be stored for more than two years, bearings and grease lines should be flushed and repacked with fresh grease. If in doubt, contact the fan manufacturer for specific guidance on how best to store smoke ventilation units.

Ongoing servicing and maintenance

Once the system is in place, there are a number of regular checks that should be carried out during the operational lifespan of the fan. As a general rule, inspection of the equipment should take place every six months, including the testing of AVs, spinning the impeller, and checking the running current. It is also worth noting that the parts surrounding the fan itself should be maintained, in an effort to keep the entire system operating effectively.

Bradley Crisp
Bradley Crisp

With so many components to consider within a smoke ventilation system, Elta Fans’ Applied Technology division has included an indicative maintenance schedule in its installation and maintenance manual. For example, it is recommended that motor bearings are replaced after 20,000 hours of operation, or five years of service in normal, ambient conditions (whichever is earlier). Another crucial piece of regular maintenance is to run the fan on a monthly basis, as a precaution against grease separation.

Other areas of note include an insulation test (every three months), checking the tightness of fixings (every three years), and cleaning impellers (also every three years). For more arduous environments such as transport or marine in which there is likely to be vibration and shock, maintenance checks should be more regular. 

Throughout a fan’s operational lifespan, it is vital that a maintenance record is kept. Alongside ensuring that best practice is followed, this will be required in the event of a warranty claim. It is also important to note that all maintenance work must be carried out by the manufacturer’s ‘authorised representative’.

Barriers to maintenance

In spite of the crucial role that regular servicing and maintenance plays in ensuring the efficacy of smoke ventilation systems, there remains an ongoing ‘fit and forget’ mentality. One of the biggest challenges for contractors, engineers, and anyone else tasked with installing systems is that once it is in the possession of end-users, you effectively lose sight of it.

This is where it is important to stress the responsibility that building owners have to ensure systems remain operational. If smoke ventilation is not correctly maintained, they need to be aware that they risk becoming liable. It is up to everyone in the industry to raise standards by highlighting why and how to keep equipment in optimum condition.

Bradley Crisp is Senior Industrial and Smoke Sales at Applied Technology a division of Elta Fans

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