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July 20, 2017

Range Ventilation Upkeep — Are You Doing it Right?


By Johnny Dimicelli

Changing filters is an uncomfortable, nasty job. I would bet if we took a survey of today’s indoor range owners, it would be one of the top two worst range chores. But while it may be among the worst, it’s a chore that’s also so very important to keeping a lead-free environment that meets your state’s regulations.

Do you know if your system is keeping your range clean inside and outside? Do you know if you have the best filters installed that use latest design for capturing lead dust? Are there new configurations available that reduce filter usage, labor costs and disposal costs? Answering these questions can save you tens of thousands of dollars over the life of your range — and potential fines from OSHA, EPA and state regulators.

Read more on filters: Save Serious Money Using Filters Designed Specifically for Shooting Ranges

A range ventilation system is complex and should be inspected regularly by professionals who see these specific types of systems every day. Unfortunately, the typical filter salesperson doesn’t always grasp the complexities of a range ventilation system with its high air volume, high pressures and exhaust and re-circulation systems, nor the unique characteristics of lead dust. In short, your range system isn’t at all like the commercial A/C systems with which your filter salespeople are far more familiar.

I climb on range rooftops weekly, and that work gives me a unique insight into range ventilation systems. So many times I see the incorrect filters used and poor or incorrect installation of the filters that are there. Let’s face it, everyone wants to get up and down as fast as possible. But that rush to finish an unpleasant chore can often contributes to the problem: When you combine the wrong filters with incorrect installation, you have a recipe for lots of money going out the air exhaust system.

It is imperative to the health of your range and the proper management of your range maintenance overhead costs that you find the balance between the best filter configuration and the latest and best products for managing lead dust, and all of this at a good price. That doesn’t often mean the cheapest price. If you buy a $2,000 gun, would you buy the cheapest ammunition? The same holds true for your ventilation system. Why use cheap products to manage a system that protects employees and customers? Why use an AC service company that doesn’t have any experience in shooting range ventilation systems?

Read more on lead management: Getting the Lead Out

However you choose to manage your system, expert oversight is paramount. The following should be the framework for proper system maintenance:

  • Hire and train a good systems manager and make him or her accountable for the health of your range through a protocol of data gathering, documentation, dates and other checks-and-balances tools.
  • If you decide to hire an outside service company for your system’s regular maintenance, take note of how many times a different installer shows up (as that might be an indication that you’ve hired a company that doesn’t specialize in range ventilation systems). Even if you have found a reliable company, having a staff member trained in the correct filters and filter installation for your range should be a valuable cross-check every time your filters are changed.
  • Consult an expert in range ventilation systems who has seen multiple designs and can advise those that will best work for your range and testing protocols to ensure the one you do choose works properly.
  • Whichever filters you choose to install, they should be specifically made and tested for lead dust collection and shooting range application.

In the end, we all need to breathe clean air and sleep soundly at night. Properly maintaining your filters through expert setup and oversight will go a long way towards attaining both.

About the Author:

Johnny Dimicelli is range system division specialists with Airfilters, Inc., located in Houston, Texas. The company has been manufacturing air filters and filter housings for 65 years, helping range owners and managers nationwide with the latest indoor shooting range filtration technology.