What Is A Pollution Control Unit & Who Should Use One?

Pollution Control Units use a system of special filters to help clean grease, smoke and odors from the exhaust airstream of commercial kitchens and restaurants. Adding a PCU to an existing ventilation system cleans the exhaust and removes harmful particulates and volatile organic compounds.

Pollution Control Units for Restaurants

Air quality is a concern across the world. From Italy to Brazil and everywhere in between, more and more commercial kitchens are installing pollution control units (PCUs).

Sometimes it is voluntary but PCUs are now being required by a growing number of local and regional authorities. So what is a pollution control unit and who should use one? First, we’ll share a bit of background on the topic.

Do Restaurants Really Contribute To Air Pollution?


You are probably wondering how restaurants contribute to air pollution. You might even be asking yourself, “What about cars, trucks, refineries, and factories? How can someone compare restaurants to things like those?” But someone has, and what they found out may surprise you.

Pollution Control Units Help Clean Air

A recent study by the University of California, Riverside found that commercial charbroilers actually harm air quality more than 18-wheel transport trucks and factory smokestacks.

Principal Development Engineer for the study, Bill Welch, said, “Emissions from commercial charbroilers are a very significant uncontrolled source of particulate matter… more than twice the contribution by all of the heavy-duty diesel trucks.”

A comparison was even made stating that the preparation of one charbroiled hamburger patty was equal to driving an 18-wheel diesel-engine truck for 143 miles on the freeway. In a similar report, deep-fat fryers are said to produce nine times more smoke than buses do.

Comparing restaurants to motor vehicles may seem odd but the fact is that pollution from restaurants can be just has harmful to people, especially those with asthma or other health issues.

And it isn’t just outdoor air quality that is affected. A study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) actually shows that exhaust from nearby restaurants can and will enter homes and nearby buildings and increase indoor air pollution.

What’s So Bad About Commercial Kitchen Exhaust?

Pollution Control Units help reduce smoke and odor
Smoke is one of the most obvious air polluters from restaurant exhaust. While billowing smoke and the scent of sizzling meat may entice some customers, for many it’s a turn-off. Whether or not something smells good is entirely subjective, plus no one wants their home to smell like a hamburger all the time.

Not only can the smell be overpowering, it can also make it hard to breathe, aggravating to – and even causing – respiratory issues such as asthma. The effects have been compared to that of secondhand cigarette smoke.

Smoke particles can be difficult to contain because they are so small. Individual smoke particles from cooking exhaust measure between 0.3 and 0.8 microns and one micron is only 1/25,400 of an inch!

Restaurant smoke exhaust is also becoming a major contributor to smog in many areas and can even cause visibility issues. But smoke and odors aren’t the only problems.

Kitchen exhaust also contains high levels of carbon monoxide as well as microscopic grease aerosols and volatile organic compounds that can drift and settle on and into nearby buildings and homes. One of the most nefarious pollutants from restaurant exhaust is grease. Dirty, greasy buildup isn’t just unsightly and unsanitary; it can also become a fire hazard – especially on rooftops.

Pollution Control Units help reduce grease deposits and buildupNot all commercial kitchens contribute to the same degree though. Some of the biggest offenders include kitchens that operate charbroilers, deep fat fryers, roasting.

Cooking operations such as these produce dense smoke filled with grease, fats, and carbon particulates. The smoke is created as a byproduct of the grease from meat when it drips onto a hot cooking surface. The higher the fat content, the more smoke.

Wood burning pizza ovens and wood burning stoves are also large contributors to air pollution and their popularity has inspired more than one local government agency to introduce new laws regulating their emissions.

How Can Restaurants Reduce Their Contribution To Air Pollution?


Now that you know a little more about the health and environmental issues involved with commercial kitchen exhaust, you may be wondering what solutions there are. That’s where pollution control units come in handy.

CaptiveAire Pollution Control UnitPollution Control Units use a system of special filters to help clean grease, smoke and odors from the exhaust airstream of commercial kitchens and restaurants. Adding a PCU to an existing ventilation system cleans the exhaust and removes harmful particulates and volatile organic compounds.

PCUs also help neutralize unwanted airborne odors and the bacteria that cause them. Not only are they helpful to the environment outside of your restaurant, PCUs can also help make sure your dining area is free of smoke and odors that might otherwise make customers uncomfortable.

PCUs have become particularly popular in mixed-use developments, non-traditional locations, and crowded urban settings. When several restaurants are located close together, even a little bit of smoke and grease exhaust from each kitchen can wreak havoc on nearby residents and passerby.

However, one of the main reasons that restaurants add a PCU to their ventilation system is not to make improve the experience of diners and the lives of nearby residents, but in response to the growing number of clean air regulations.

Does My Restaurant Need To Use A Pollution Control Unit?


Communities all over are showing a greater interest in helping to protect the environment. While PCUs are not currently required by any international or national set of codes or standards, many communities are starting to pass laws that require the use of PCUs to control visible smoke, particulate emissions, grease, and odors.

Chain restaurants, such as Burger King, that use charbroilers have already experienced a lot of extra regulations on their exhaust. Now, smaller mom and pop operations are beginning to have to adhere to the same rules regarding air pollution.

Colorado is a great example of a state with air exhaust odor and opacity regulations that affect commercial kitchens. The guidelines are simple. If you can smell odors from your business at your property line, they suggest you may need a PCU.

If the opacity of your kitchen exhaust exceeds 20% you may be in violation. Restaurant exhaust air should not contain any visible smoke or particles according to their standards. Typical charbroiling operations, for example, produce smoke that is about 60% – 70% opacity. If you can see smoke coming from your outside hood, you’ll likely need a PCU.

What Kind Of Filters Do Pollution Control Units Use?


PCU filters are the secret to effective pollution and odor control. Most PCU systems typically use a series of filters. HoodFilters.com carries three styles of replacement filters for CaptiveAire pollution control units.

1. Captrate Solo Washable PrefilterCaptrate Hood Filter

The Captrate Solo Washable Prefilter for PCUs is nearly identical to the one made for vent hoods. The only difference is that it does not include a filter hook and it must use 2-inch filter track.

Grease filtration is always important for kitchen ventilation. For pollution control equipment, removing grease particles helps ensure optimal performance and operation of the PCU.

The Captrate prefilter does an excellent job at grease removal. It has a 93% efficiency rating at 9 microns and captures up to four times the weight of grease when compared to standard baffle filters.

Constructed of 430 stainless steel, the Captrate prefilter is lightweight and easy to remove and clean. It is also ETL Listed and meets UL Standard 1046.

2. High Efficiency MERV FilterPollution Control Unit filter

After passing through the prefilter, exhausted air will next pass through a high efficiency MERV filter. The filter we carry is designed for use only with PCUs and is not compatible with standard HVAC units.

The high efficiency MERV 15 filter features a 100% synthetic media in a durable 24 gauge galvanized steel frame. It has a rated airflow of 438 CFM and an initial resistance of 0.12 WC.

The filter has a rated and tested velocity of 211 fpm, a maximum velocity of 500 fpm, and a maximum operating temperature of 200°F.

3. Odor Control FilterPollution Control Unit odor filter

The odor control filter is typically an optional filter in PCUs. The bonded activated carbon filter we carry utilizes a Carbon / Potassium / Permanganate blend to help reduce or eliminate odors and capture volatile organic compounds. The filters are easy to install and deliver high performance with minimal mass.

Kitchen Pollution Control Unit (PCU) is designed to remove grease particles and reduce the amount of smoke in the airstream from commercial kitchen exhaust systems.The PCU is constructed to specifically meet kitchen exhaust duct standards and can be used with any high-efficiency exhaust hood. 

We are installing Captive Air PCU system and also Make Up Air Units for commercial kitchen and restaurant.Source