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Managing your enclosure temperature

10 December 2018

Enclosures are designed to protect sensitive electronic and electrical items from the often challenging environments in which they are installed. The temperature within the enclosure is always an important consideration to maximise service life of the equipment inside.  

Maintaining an internal temperature within an enclosure is important to ensure prolonged service life of the equipment inside. Because heat is trapped inside enclosures designed to protect against the ingress of solid objects and water an active cooling solution is often required. 
When considering climate control options it is important to ensure that the solution is right for the environment in which it will operate and also the type of product being processed and/or the location of the equipment on site. 

Consider the ambient temperature of the facility – if it remains lower throughout the entire year than the desired temperature inside the enclosure then fan-and-filter units and air-to-air heat exchangers should be 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 of the enclosure then units with active cooling circuits should 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 can offer a more hygienic solution than cooling units, so are suited to use in food processing applications. They do not require a supply of ambient air and 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 do consider installing an air-to-air heat exchanger, cooling unit or air-to-water heat exchanger, which all have sealed internal air-paths and thus ensure contaminated air is not drawn into the enclosure.

Cleaning and maintenance 
Establishing a regular inspection and cleaning routine for cooling equipment is good practice. Consider using vacuum cleaning units with filter mats to remove any dust and debris, which can starve the fan and the cooling circuit of air.  This will result in the unit working harder for longer.

Cooling systems must also be kept clean to maintain the highest levels of hygiene. Some will be cleaned daily with pressure washers and jet steam cleaners, in which case use a solution that meets the ingress protection (IP) rating demanded by the site and install additional cowls or covers as needed.

Reducing costs
It is important, from both an environmental and a cost-saving standpoint, to adopt the most energy-efficient technologies. With a spotlight on carbon footprints and energy prices rising, the energy consumed by manufacturing processes should be reduced, where possible.

An energy efficient enclosure cooling solution from Rittal is available in the form of its Blue e+ cooling unit which incorporates heat pipe technology, delivering 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 is not able to 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. With many production facilities now working around the clock and throughout the whole year this heat pipe and inverter technolo-gy can deliver typical energy savings of around 75% when compared to tradtitional cooling solutions.

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