Park Tower’s Assistant Engineer, Bill Rini, took the time to draft a very detailed narrative explaining the purpose and function of the bathroom and kitchen vents. In addition to answering many of the questions, it is very helpful in understanding the how these vents function to improve the buildings air quality and circulation.
From the office of Assistant Engineer Bill Rini:
There are two types of exhaust systems here in the PT condos. There is a passive ( always active) exhaust that is being pulled from their bathroom, as well as a non passive ( needs to be turned on) exhaust that is being pulled from the kitchen whenever the kitchen light is turned on . The passive system is used to cut back on the excessive moisture that is present in bathrooms. Whereas the kitchen is only active when the light is on. If both the kitchen and the bathroom exhaust stayed on constantly it would create an imbalance of air pressure and cause the unit to have negative air pressure.
Why is negative air pressure bad? If your unit is under a vacuum( negative pressure) it is starving for oxygen , subsequently it automatically solves this issue by pulling in air from the air ducts of either the kitchen or the bathroom exhaust. This is turn balances the air pressure in the unit, however with air blowing in and not sucking out of the exhaust the humidity and smoke from kitchen cooking can not be properly exhausted from the unit. This is a main contributing factor to residents complaining of cooking odors, smoke odors, and cracking ceilings in the bathrooms .
How does PT combat negative air pressure? PT combats negative air pressure within the residents units by suppling fresh air that is pushed into the residents units from the air ducts in the hallways . The hallways become slightly pressurized ( positive pressure) and the positive pressure makes its ways into the units by the means of the gaps along the four sides of the door. The most important factor being the gap underneath the door. When the positive pressure enters the unit it reaches its equilibrium with the negative pressure and balances out. This allows the bathroom exhaust to perform its conventional duties of a passive exhaust and not blow dust and debris into the unit.
What to do if I received a notification for inoperable bathroom or kitchen exhaust? Since these are two different exhaust systems, there are different avenues of approach. The easiest thing to do as the resident is to check your door gap to the entrance to your unit. Is it blocked with a door sweep? If so removing the door sweep will enable the fresh air from the hallways to make its way into the units. The kitchen exhaust being non passive does have a motor, a damper door, and a spring. Many times these three components fail and need to be replaced where as the bathroom being passive does not consists of any moving parts. With that being said when your bathroom exhaust is malfunctioning it is 100 % contributed to an imbalance of air pressure. Please note that replacing all three components of the kitchen exhaust will not solve the issue if there is an imbalance of air pressure within the unit.
How do I solve the air pressure issue if removing my door sweep didn’t work? It is out of scope for PT staff to sand down or cut down the bottom edge of any of the entrance doors. Really this should not be done unless absolutely necessary. Things to take into consideration before cutting the bottom edge of the door. numerous coats of paint added up over the years could be the main reason why fresh air is not being fed into the units. Light sanding on the two long edges of the door may be enough to equalize the pressure.
If you are remodeling your units floor use sample pieces of underlayment , as well as the floor to gauge how much of the door you will need to undercut if you want your door not to scrape your new floors. I would recommend adding about a 1/4″ measurement on top of the underlayment and flooring sample to make sure your door swings all the way open, and than i would add an additional 1/2″ undercut to the door to make the door gap on the bottom total about 3/4″ .