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Tips for enclosure temperature management

18 June 2018

Key aspects to consider when reviewing your climate control solutions.

Enclosures protect sensitive electronic and electrical items from the atmosphere in which they are installed, providing an environment that allows them to function as required and which prolongs their service life. Maintaining an internal temperature within required parameters is vital. This often requires an active cooling solution because heat is trapped inside enclosures designed to protect against the ingress of solid objects and water to a level appropriate for many manufacturing facilities. This can pose problems in enclosures designed for washdown environments – those with an ingress protection category of IP 69K. As the temperature rises internal temperature parameters can be breached. In turn, the life expectancy of the equipment within the enclosures is reduced and the probability of an unexpected system failure increases drastically.

Care needs to be taken when selecting climate control equipment to ensure its suitably robust to handle the rigours of the environment in which it’s situated. The type of product being processed and/or the location of the equipment on site are likely to have a heavy influence on the suitability of your climate control system.

If the ambient temperature remains lower, throughout the entire year, than the desired temperature inside the enclosure then fan-and-filter units and air-to-air heat exchangers can be very effective. They use ambient air to remove heat energy from the enclosure and dissipate it into the local environment.

If the ambient temperature rises above the required internal temperature then units with active cooling circuits must be used. Wall/roof-mounted cooling units use refrigerant as an intermediate medium to remove the excess heat from enclosures, transferring it to the surrounding ambient air, and maintain the desired conditions.  Air-to-water heat exchangers, as the name suggests, transfer unwanted heat to water, transporting it away from the enclosure to centralised cooling plant, possibly outdoors, where it may be more easily dissipated. Air-to-water heat exchangers also provide a more hygienic solution than cooling units. They do not require a supply of ambient air and therefore have no louvres. They can have a very simple housing that has no dirt traps and is very easy to clean.

Dusty or acidic contamination can interfere with switchgear and cause short circuits or a reduction in service life. Applying filter mats to fan and filter units will help, but if the environment is extremely contaminated you might be better off installing an air-to-air heat exchanger, cooling unit or air-to water heat exchanger, which have sealed internal air-paths to ensure that contaminated air is not drawn into the enclosure.

Establishing a regular inspection and cleaning routine for cooling equipment is good practice. For example, vacuum cleaning units with filter mats to remove any dust and debris, which may starve the fan and the cooling circuit of air. This will result in the unit working harder for longer and a reduced cooling capacity. Cooling systems must also be kept clean to maintain high hygiene levels. Some will be cleaned daily with pressure washers and jet steam cleaners, in which case use a solution that meets the ingress protection rating demanded by your site and install additional cowls or covers as needed.

It is important, from both an environmental and a cost saving standpoint, for food and beverage producers to adopt energy efficient technologies. With a spotlight on carbon footprints and energy prices rising globally, it’s vital that the energy consumed by manufacturing processes is reduced where possible.

The Rittal Blue e+ cooling unit incorporates heat pipe technology which delivers cooling in a similar manner to an air-to-air heat exchanger, using fans alone, when the ambient temperature is sufficiently low.  As the ambient temperature rises and the heat pipe cannot satisfy demand, speed-controlled components provide additional mechanical cooling, but only as much as is needed. If the ambient temperature exceeds the temperature required in the panel, active cooling alone is supplied, but, again, no more than is necessary. Heat pipe and inverter technology allow the Blue e+ to capitalise on daily and seasonal temperature fluctuations in a factory to deliver typical energy savings of 75%.

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