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Temperature management in the food industry

10 August 2018

Food processing is a sector that demands very high standards of efficiency to meet daily production throughput targets. Any unexpected breakdown of critical components which stops production lines can have a major impact, not just in terms of loss of output, but also unplanned maintenance. Karl Lycett, Rittal’s product manager for Climate Control reports

Electrical componentry is protected by an enclosure which is designed to protect the equipment from the ambient environment and create a secure atmosphere in which the climate is maintained within the required parameters.

As the temperature rises due to the summer months or random heat waves throughout the year, these parameters can be breached. In turn, the overall life of the componentry within the enclosures can reduce and the probability of an unexpected system failure increases drastically.

Care needs to be taken when implementing climate control equipment to ensure it is suitable to handle the rigours of the environment in which it is situated.
Below are some key aspects to consider when reviewing your climate control solutions.

Is your solution right for the environment?

The type of product being processed on-site and/or the location of the equipment within the facility are likely to heavily influence your climate control solution.

1) If the ambient temperature of your facility remains lower, year-round, than the desired enclosure internal enclosure temperature then fan-and-filter units and air-to-air heat exchangers can be very effective. They use the ambient air to remove heat energy from the enclosure, releasing it back into the environment.

If the ambient temperature rises above the desired internal temperature then units with active cooling circuits must be used. Wall/roof-mounted cooling units and air-to-water heat exchangers include a refrigerant to remove the excess heat from enclosures and maintain the desired conditions.

Already in 2018 we have seen unexpected jumps in average temperatures across the country. These jumps, as I’ve indicated, are what put cooling equipment under the most strain, therefore reviewing existing equipment sooner rather than later can reduce the likelihood of unexpected breakdowns.  

2) Dusty or acidic contamination (e.g. flour or yeast/vinegar extracts) 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 a cooling unit to ensure that the internal and external air-paths are exclusive thus ensuring contaminated air isn’t drawn into the enclosure.

Cleaning/Maintenance Regime

Establishing a regular inspection and cleaning of cooling equipment is very good practice. For example, vacuum cleaning units with filter mats to remove any dust and debris which might choke the fan. The will mean the unit works harder for longer and also reduces its cooling capacity.

Cooling units must also be kept clean to maintain the highest standards of hygiene. Some will be cleaned daily with pressure washers and jet steam cleaners in which case use units which meet the required ingress protection rating desired for your site and purchase additional cowls or covers as needed.

Many food production facilities work around the clock and with energy prices rising globally, it’s vital to get early warning of any potential issue which could impact on productivity or costs. 

For example, unlike speed-controlled cooling devices, such as the new Rittal Blue e+ cooling units, conventional units start when the temperature inside the enclosure gets above set point (normally 35°C) and finish when the shutdown temperature of 30°C is achieved (at a typical hysteresis of 5K). If the device does not reach the shutdown temperature it will continue to operate at full output, using large amounts of energy. This is one good indicator that the unit is inadequate for the job and that too little cooling air may be getting to electrical components.

Schedule a semi-regular performance assessment and a thermal survey of your cooling equipment to check whether or not it’s overworked. 

Our highly qualified engineers can provide you with a free RiAssure3 survey and if necessary advise on the best solution and identify the likely risk of a system overheating. If necessary, we will then provide recommendations around remedial action – for example, changes to the system’s service and maintenance regime to help improve its efficiancy or consider different climate control technology.

Key Points

  • Rises in temperature can cause a breach in enclosure parameters, reducing the life of contained componentry
  • Care needs to be taken when implementing climate control equipment to ensure it can handle the rigours of the environment in which it is situated
  • Many food production facilities work around the clock and it’s vital to get early warning of any potential issue which could impact on productivity

 
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