Demystifying The Dehumidifier

When it comes to choosing a dehumidifier, for either your home or your work, you will not be short of options! The market is full of different makes and models of dehumidifier, each designed to do something slightly different, or to work in a specific environment. This range means you are more likely to find exactly what you need, when you need it. But with so many options available for both industrial and domestic dehumidification, how on earth do you choose between them all? In today’s article we wanted to explain what some of the most common types of dehumidifier are.

 

Refrigerant Dehumidifiers

 

A refrigerant dehumidifier works by passing air over a cooling coil repeatedly, dropping the overall temperature to below its natural dew point. This means that they condense the moisture out of the air, which can then be pushed over warm coils and then out into the room at pressure, at the correct humidity.

 

Meanwhile the condensation from the air is collected in the cold coils and dripped into a large pan, which can then be emptied. In some models of refrigerant dehumidifier the water will be emptied directly through a hose mechanism instead of being emptied manually.

 

Building Dryers

 

Building dryers are any model of dehumidifier specifically designed (or well suited to) use at a building site. The term ‘building dryer’ tends to apply to any dehumidifier providing two key functions: portability and robustness, both of which make them perfect for tough building site environments. They are commonly used to dry concrete and water damage leaks on construction sites. They are also popular in the restoration industry, particularly with flood damage, as they can extract between 40 and 70 litres of water every 24 hours.

 

Standard Refrigerant Dehumidifiers

 

Standard refrigerant dehumidifiers will come in a range of brands, but each offers a more permanent solution than building dryers. These can usually be found in fixed wall mount versions, fixed bracket ceiling mounter versions, and even through-the-wall solutions. This means there are a wider variety of end-user applications for them, from warehouse storage to manufacturing and even swimming pool plant rooms. These are most attractive for commercial applications because moisture extraction rates of 25 to 3000 litres a day, with extraction via ductwork and pumping. They also come fitted with sound-proofed compressors (making them low-noise), easy access panels and coated internal components to withstand even the most aggressive environments. However, a standard refrigerant dehumidifier won’t operate at temperatures below 1 degree, so they aren’t suitable for cold environments.

 

Desiccant Dehumidifiers

 

Desiccant dehumidifiers work in a slightly different way. They use a silica gel desiccant rotor to remove moisture from the air, and are ideally suited to cold, unheated environments – like storage rooms or cold rooms. They are also perfect for achieving a very low humidity, which is why they are also used in the pharmaceutical sector. Because desiccant dehumidifiers will operate at a much lower temperature than their refrigerant cousins, they will continue to extract moisture from the air even in a very cold or sub-zero environment (although the air doesn’t hold much moisture under these conditions.

 

There is a very large range of desiccant dehumidifiers for you to choose from, from small, portable units to large capacity, semi-permanent units that have to be placed by crane. With 2 separate fans handling the regenerates and reactivated air, 40ml rockwool insulation (for quiet operation), and multiple hose outlets, these units can be used in all scenarios.

 

At Humidity Solutions, we provide a full range of dehumidification solutions, including all of those listed above. In fact, we are the only independent specialist in humidity control, and have access to the whole of the market of humidifiers from the world’s leading manufacturers. If you would like to find out more, just get in touch with us today.

Data Centre Humidity Control (And Why It Matters)

Every piece of data centre equipment and every human on earth is engulfed by an ocean of air. This fact is taken for granted to be good for humans, but under certain circumstances the air surrounding IT equipment can be harmful to internal electronic components and lead to failure and downtime. That’s why humidity is one of the main issues on the mind of data centre operators across the UK, and today we’re going to show you why it should be on yours too.

 

What Is A Data Centre?

 

Before we get into the details of humidity and atmospheric control, it helps to understand what exactly a data centre is, and what they do. On the face of it, a data centre is simply a large building full of computer equipment, which by itself would need a fair amount of monitoring. But inside, a data centre is a network of computing and storage resources, enabling the delivery of shared software application and data across the world. Many businesses use data centres to store their back up data, run complex applications or access cloud computing space. In short, data centres support businesses in staying operational.

 

When you step inside the average data centre, you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve accidentally walked into a spaceship from Star Trek. The doors will be sealed with a number of security measures, from card readers and passwords to biometric scanners. Once you get inside, the atmosphere is cool and dry, and the walls are lined with blinking, coloured lights and racks of computer equipment. If you get into the bowels of the building, you will likely discover multiple backups for everything from power to basic utilities like water and gas. Data centres are used to run some of the biggest businesses and processes on the planet, so they need to be secure, redundant and resilient at all times.

 

Why Does Humidity Matter?

 

Because data centres have such a critical role, a lot of care is taken to ensure everything within them is maintained in top condition. For data centres, the main case for humidification lies in preserving that computer equipment. Humidification control can be used to combat electrostatic discharge in the environment, which can damage sensitive electronics.  Not only that, but air in the IT environment containing the proper amount of water plays an important role in maximising the availability of computing equipment. Too much or too little water vapour has been proven to directly contribute to reduces productivity and equipment downtime – both of which need to be avoided.

 

The Recommended Humidity

 

So, since humidity is so important for data centres, what level of relative humidity should you be keeping yours at? Generally, maintaining ambient relative humidity of between 45% and 55% is ideal, and is optimal for performance and reliability.

 

When the relative humidity levels are too high you can get water condensation, which causes issues like hardware corrosion and early system and component failure. If it’s too low, then computer equipment becomes vulnerable to electrostatic discharge, which as we know causes a lot of damage to some very sensitive components within almost any electronic device.

 

This is also the reason we recommend that data centre humidity is closely monitored, with alarm systems in place to detect when the humidity is rising above 60% or dropping below 40% – the two early danger points. Critical alerts should then be set up for 30% and 70% rH, so that the issue can be dealt with before any damage happens. Monitoring is critical for such important businesses because relative humidity is exactly that – relative. It’s directly related to the current temperature, and so will change regularly. And as the value of the IT equipment rises, so does the risk and costs associated with getting the humidity wrong!

 

At Humidity Solutions, we understand exactly how important it is for data centres to have the best in humidification technology (if nothing else so that it matches your high-tech centre). That’s why we provide the most innovative and reliable RH control solutions for data centres across the country, keeping your data safe and secure. Your solutions will be tailored to your needs, so you can be sure your RH is being managed and controlled effectively. For more information on our solutions, or to ask us about humidity in your data centre, just get in touch with the team at Humidity Solutions today.

How Humidity Affects Whisky

Once you discover a good whisky, it becomes very easy to amass a collection of bottles. Whisky can take you on a tour of the world, exploring the globe’s best whisky-producing nations and building up your pallet in a rich world of flavour. Even if you’re not a huge fan of the smooth, amber drink that is whisky, there is a certain appreciation for the craft of it, and what goes into making a good bottle. Making a good whisky is equal parts science and art – and part of the science is using humidity control to make sure your whisky arrives at your door tasting wonderful.

Heat

All alcohol is sensitive in some ways to temperature fluctuations. During the actual making and mixing of the whisky, the temperature and speed it’s distilled at affects the final taste of the spirit and is something each manufacturer has their own preference for. Temperature also determines the density of the alcohol and is carefully measured during distillation. During storage (also known as ‘finishing’), cold temperatures can cause clouding in the whisky, taking away that rich colour and transparent finish. Too warm, and the liquid density stays high, leaving you with a thicker whisky (which nobody enjoys).

 

Light

Like most alcohols, whisky isn’t a fan of prolonged exposure to sunlight. That’s one of the many reasons its kept in a barrel, and not in a big glass container to age. Sustained exposure to sunlight can bleach the colour from the whisky, leaving it much lighter in colour than it should be. Since colour is an important factor in a good whisky, barrels are kept in dark storage areas while the whisky ages. Even after the whisky is bottled, it is still kept away from sunlight, since it can bleach the ink from labels and affect the tone of packaging. It can even affect the integrity of the cork and increase evaporation from the bottles!

 

Humidity

Humidity is something that can make or break a good whisky, and a simple mistake could leave producers with a bad batch and years’ worth of effort going down the drain. But if used properly, it can also help manufacturers create several slightly different varieties of whisky from the same initial batch. As you may have seen in photos of videos, whisky barrels are often stored on racks in warehouses going up multiple floors, with wooden floorboards set wide apart. The barrels on the top floors are the hottest and least humid, while the barrels on the bottom are the coolest and most humid. This means that the barrels stored on the top floors are more likely to lose water through evaporation, making them a higher proof alcohol, while the barrels in the cooler, high humidity environment are less likely to lose water and will remain at a lower proof.

 

Blending

Whisky barrels are very heavy things, so when they’re stored for finishing, they aren’t moved from that location until they’re ready to be emptied. Since things like heat and humidity can affect the liquid inside the barrels, this can mean that one batch has a lot of different flavour elements to it. But whisky producers use these factors to their advantage. Each final batch of whisky will often be made from a blend of different batches, with varying humidity, heat and flavourings to create a final product. This allows the company to create a specific flavour and blend that suits them, without having to worry about rotating heavy barrels, or the differences in storage.

When it comes to making a good whisky, creating the right environment is essential. At Humidity Solutions, we supply humidity control solutions to alcohol production and storage facilities all over the country – helping provide the perfect environment for whisky and other alcohol production every time. If you would like to know more, just get in touch with us today.

6 Questions To Ask When Designing Your Humidity Solution

You might think that when it comes to humidity solutions, it’s all out of the box machines installed into different buildings. Sure, there are some complications, but mostly it’s pretty straightforward, right?

Wrong.

At Humidity Solutions, every single one of our installations has been custom designed to meet client requirements. Depending on what type of business they are, their location, the products or services they are providing, and even the type of building they’re in. Each element needs to be painstakingly planned to match the needs of the client, which is why we ask so many questions before we put pen to paper. To help you understand what kind of humidity solution you might need, and how we work that our, we’ve pulled together some of the questions we ask our customers when designing the specs for their humidification systems.

 

  1. What Level Of Humidity Is Required, And How Much Can It Fluctuate?

This is perhaps the most important question we ask, since different uses will need different levels of humidity control. For example, if we’re fitting a HVAC system for an office environment, then humidity levels between 40% and 60% relative humidity are perfectly fine – since this will keep people comfortable and keep static build-up down. But if we were looking at a manufacturing plant, then the level of humidity required would probably be much more specific, with much less room for fluctuation. For instance, printers need to control their relative humidity to between 50% and 60%, while textile manufacturers require 65%-75% for optimum performance. An ideal museum environment is between 45%-55% RH, but with a daily fluctuation limit of +3 to protect exhibits. Pharmaceutical manufacturers need to keep fluctuations even tighter, around +2, to prevent wasted product. By understanding the level of humidification and fluctuations you need, we can spec a system that has higher or lower speed responses, or tighter controls.

 

  1. How Long Will The System Be Running, And When Can It Be Shut Down

Some humidification solutions will only need to be run during set times of the day, like production times, while others will need to be running 24/7. This simple fact will change the number of humidifiers you need, along with where they are placed and what type they are. A critical humidification that needs to be constantly delivering a stable level of humidity needs to be able to cope with long running times, and must have standby humidifiers to take over the load when the main unit needs to be shut down for maintenance.

 

 

  1. How Important Are Running Costs?

There are many different types of humidifier, all of which incur different running costs, so understanding your budget and your environmental influences is important when choosing the right system for you. For example, some steam systems can use considerably more energy than more efficient evaporative humidifiers, and cost more in maintenance and spare parts. So while the purchase cost for a steam system might be lower, the ongoing costs can be higher, which should be factored into your decision.

 

  1. What Quality Water Is Being Used?

 

When it comes to humidity, water quality and maintenance requirements are heavily linked. Poorer water quality leads to more minerals being left behind in the humidifier once the water has boiled or evaporated, which in turn costs more to deal with. So if you are in an area with low-quality water, then a water treatment solution might also need to be included in the design.

 

  1. What Evaporation Distance Is Required?

 

For humidifiers providing moisture to ducts or to AHU systems, the humidifier needs to be able to evaporate the moisture into the air stream before it meets any physical obstacles, like duct corners. If it doesn’t, there will be a build-up of condensation in pipes, and this can cause its own set of problems. Depending on the distance evaporation is needed to travel, you may need to have specialist steam lances installed, or opt for a humidifier model with instant evaporation.

 

  1. Where Do The Humidifiers Need To Be?

The positioning of the humidifiers within your building is also an important factor in deciding the spec. After all, you might find that not all areas of your building need humidity solutions, or if they do, they have different requirements. You may have an office space on an upper level of the building that requires one RH level, and a manufacturing plant on the lower flows that require another. This means the placement of your humidifiers will also change the solution chosen, and how it’s installed.

 

At Humidity Solutions we offer a variety of humidification and dehumidification equipment and solutions, all tailor made to suit your company’s needs. We specialise in humidity solutions for industrial manufacturing, commercial, food & beverage, health & leisure, conservation, and even residential solutions. With our help, you can simply and effectively alter the air quality, temperature and humidity of your environment to achieve optimum comfort. For more information on our solutions, or to ask us about humidity control in your organisation, just get in touch with the team at Humidity Solutions today.

Humidity In Food Production: Baking And Bread

Welcome to part 3 of our humidity in food production series, where we look at all the areas of food production that rely heavily on humidity control. If you haven’t read the first few already, you can read part 1 here (crops and harvesting), and part 2 here (meat production). But today, we wanted to look into a slightly different area of food production – one that requires a bit more human intervention. Baking and bread production.

 

Humidity and Baked Goods

 

In our previous articles, we’ve talked about how humidity control allows produce to be kept fresh and cool, improving quality for the consumer and profit margins for the producer. But in the baking industry, humidity control plays a slightly different role.

 

When you consider the types of breads found around the world, you will notice that their regional climate has a pretty big influence over their characteristics when baked. For example, crusty breads tend to come from arid dry, barren areas, while soft breads will come from more humid regions. And even if a bakery can import the best ingredients for around the world, they can’t import a climate to go with them. So if they want those characteristics in their bread, they need to be able to replicate those conditions in their bakery. That’s the primary purpose of humidity control in the bread baking world, and it impacts the production of bread in 3 ways: storage, dough proofing, and baking.

 

Bread Storage

 

The need for a controlled environment in a bakery actually starts before you bake a single thing. Many of the ingredients required for baking bread perform their best and maintain their quality when relative humidity levels are lower and temperatures are cooler. For example, yeast is extremely perishable when exposed to moisture and heat, so it needs to be kept in a cool, dry environment until it’s ready to be used. Other ingredients will start to oxidise as the relative humidity gets lower, which means they will absorb more water and begin to grow mould. Most baking ingredients will also last longer at cooler temperatures and lower humidity, so keeping them in a controlled environment will vastly improve their shelf life.

 

Storage can also make or break a bake once it’s cooked. Overly humid conditions will soften crisp crusts, make crisp crackers lose their crunch or inhibit the drying of dough (which is essential for good pasta). Baked goods will develop mould rapidly in humid conditions, but if the environment becomes too hot and dry, then you risk drying out goods that need to stay moist, like cakes and rolls. The only way to ensure a bakery environment stays at the correct humidity and temperature for the entire baking process is with a professional humidity control system.

 

Dough Proofing

 

A quick rundown – proofing is the process used to take bread-based products from a batter to a risen, air-filled dough. Once the ingredients have been mixed to form a dough, it will be left for a certain period of time to ‘rest’. During this time, the yeast within the dough ferments, creating air pockets and expanding the size of the dough. Without a good rise, breads can become flat, dense and chewy (and if you don’t believe us, just watch bake off!!) But yeast is a living organism, which means it’s very sensitive to its environment. Everything from the water content in the dough, the temperature of the room it’s being proofed in and the relative humidity can have an impact on how the yeast ferments. To ensure this process goes smoothly and produces a consistent result, many bakers will use a proofing cabinet or a dough fermentation room – in which they can exactly control the environment. To ferment properly the average dough requires a relative humidity of at least 75-80%, but it can vary depending on the variety of bread being baked. This means you not only need a tightly controlled environment, but one that you can change the temperature and RH of whenever you need to.

 

Baking

 

Then we get to the fun part – the baking! Baking goods involves a lot more than putting some dough in the oven. For example, did you know that the amount of water vapour in an oven affects the baking times, as well as the crust on the finished product? There are even some bread recipes that call for you to add a bath of water to the bottom of the oven to achieve a crispier crust. So the humidity of the air you’re baking in can have a big impact on the quality of your finished goods.

 

Bakerpedia explains that forced convection ovens have relative humidity levels of 30 to 60 percent with lower temperatures. Natural convection ovens have humidity levels of 90 to 95 percent with higher temperatures. When humidity levels are higher, baking times are longer because moisture evaporation and gluten coagulation in the crust slow. Arid conditions can cause goods to over-bake, making them too tough.  So really, the best humidity level for a bakery depends on what it’s baking at the time. That means they need to be able to control the conditions of their bakery at all times, regardless of the actual weather conditions outside.

 

That’s what we do. At Humidity Solutions, we supply humidity control solutions to farms, cold stores, bakeries and more – helping provide the perfect environment for proofing and baking, every time. If you would like to know more, just get in touch with us today.

The Role Of Humidity In Indoor Air Quality

We all know that humidity is vaporized water in the air. Relative humidity refers to the percentage of water vapor in the air at a given temperature, compared with water vapor that the air is capable of holding at that temperature. When the air at a certain temperature has all the water vapor it can hold at that temperature, the relative humidity is said to be 100%. When the relative humidity of a place is too high or too low, it can cause health problems, discomfort and generally less hygienic atmosphere. This is called ‘low air quality’, and it’s a problem for many office spaces across the UK.

 

Why Is Indoor Air Quality Important?

An average employee will probably spend around 90% of their time indoors, and 38% of that will be spent sitting in your office space. All that time, they are breathing in air that other people are breathing, that fluctuates in heat and humidity, and that may even have to be plumbed in if there are no openable windows or ventilation. A lot of business owners out there will probably be wondering why this matters. After all, it’s the same wherever you go – especially in office-based businesses.

But poor air quality has a pretty big knock-on effect on both employee health and productivity. For example, pollutants in the indoor environment can cause chronic illness (such as higher levels of CO2), low humidity can cause dry eyes and sore throats, and poorly filtered air can cause allergic reactions. General low air quality has been known to cause headaches, physical fatigue, sinus infections, respiratory issues and a general lack of concentration among employees. All of that adds up to a higher rate of absenteeism for the workforce, and a much lower level of productivity when they are present. The research has shown time and time again the links between air quality, work performance and health, yet many office users are still unaware of the issue.

 

Humidity Levels In Offices

If you want to improve the health and productivity of your workforce, you need to create an environment that is healthy and comfortable for them to work in. A lot of this has to do with the levels of humidity in their air around them, and how they change over time.

In general, the human body is most comfortable when the relative humidity of the room ranges between 20% and 60%. The recommended average relative humidity for an indoor area is around 30-50%, when the outside temperature anything above 0.  If your rH goes above 60%, you will start to get mould and mildew forming, which creates its own range of health problems for your employees.

Similarly, if your rH goes below 30%, you are open to more health risks. For example, rH of 30% or lower can cause static electricity problems, irritations of the skin, dry eyes and drying out of the mucous membrane, which leads to upper respiratory illnesses among staff.

The key thing to remember about relative humidity is the word relative – meaning it can change over time. As the weather gets warmer or colder, you need to adjust your humidity solutions to keep the environment at a comfortable level.

 

Ways To Improve Your Air Quality

As we’ve already learned, the best way to improve your health is to improve the quality of the air you’re breathing. Since the average UK adult will spend approximately 13 years and 2 months of their life at work, ensuring high-quality air in the workplace is crucial. So, here are a few things you can do to improve the quality of your indoor air:

·  Open your windows so that they provide cross ventilation. This will also reduce moisture and odours that tend to hang around in offices – particularly kitchens.

 

·  Replace your air filters regularly. If your filters are clogged, air flow becomes non-existent, and dust and debris will build up in the air ducts, causing problems down the line.

 

·  Introduce some office plants. Plants are biological air purifiers, and have been proven to improve the air quality in homes and offices. So the more greenery – the better!

 

·  Have your air quality tested. Experts in air quality (like us) have the right tools and know-how to measure the air quality in your office, from air flow to humidity levels, ventilation and more. So they will be able to tell you exactly what you need to do to improve your air quality.

 

·  Install a humidity control solution. Humidity control is the biggest factor in indoor air quality, and it is easily solved with the right solution. It’s a simple way to ensure your office stays at a consistent and beneficial RH level, preventing dry eyes, sore throats and reducing the spread of airborne viruses.

 

At Humidity Solutions, we specialise in providing humidity control solutions for all sorts of commercial environments, from printing rooms to chemical labs, office spaces and meeting rooms. We work closely with you to identify your needs and create a bespoke solution to fit them. We don’t believe in ‘off the shelf’ – just as no two businesses are the same, neither are out solutions. What you get will help you achieve your goals and improve your air quality, in the way you need it most. To find out more, get in touch with the team today.

The Role Of Humidity Control In Meat Production

In our last blog, we talked about the role humidity control plays in our produce industry. More specifically, how humidity control systems help keep crops fresh from the moment they are picked to when they hit your dinner table. If you haven’t read that one yet, you can find it here. Today we wanted to carry on this series by looking at a different area of the food production cycle – meats! You see, humidity control isn’t just essential in the crop growing industry. It’s also important for meat production, specifically in abattoirs and charcuterie facilities to hugely reduce financial losses and waste.

 

Abattoir Humidity

Abattoirs are an essential part of the meat production industry, but the main problem most facilities face is waste. As meat is brought in and processed, it is also cooled – taking it from a body temperature of 37°C down to 12°C in a 12-hour period. This helps the meat last longer, and preserves the quality of the cuts as they go through packaging and shipping. The problem is, during the cooling process a carcass can lose up to 3% of its total weight. While this might not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, it can make a real difference to the abattoir’s bottom line.

Let’s break that down a bit. On a full side of beef, 3% weight can be as much as 3kg. Meat products are generally bought and sold by weight, so 3kg loss on one side of beef is a pretty significant loss of profit. In fact, there is a calculation used to work this out:

Reduction in weight loss (kg) x the value of the product (£/kg) = money saved

Expand this over the course of a year, thousands of carcasses and hundreds of thousands of kg in lost weight, and the financial losses add up quickly. So naturally, abattoirs want to find ways to reduce the amount of moisture lost during prep and production. Humidity control is by far the simplest answer.

By installing humidifiers that produce very fine sprays from high-pressure water systems, abattoirs can surround carcasses with high humidity air – around 95%rh. This reduces the amount of moisture that evaporates from the meat and limits the amount of weight lost during refrigeration. Because the higher humidity air contains more water, the air around the carcass becomes a source of moisture, rather than a drain on it.

 

Charcuterie Production

Then we get to other sectors you might not have thought about. Charcuterie is one of those areas that humidity is often forgotten about. After all, it involves curing and drying meats, so why would you need to add moisture to the air? Well, it’s mainly because the environments for curing require strict levels of humidity and environmental control that can’t be achieved through domestic air conditioning systems. The meats used in charcuterie are predominantly made of muscle, which has a water content of around 75%. This means that in order to achieve proper drying, a RH of below 75% is essential. However, keep it below 70% and you risk drying the outside of the meat, which traps moisture inside the muscles and causes it to rot from the inside out. Regular temperature control systems simply can’t provide the level of close control charcuterie needs to be effective, which is why specialist humidity control systems are in such demand.

Humidity Solutions have delivered a bespoke humidification solution to the Chiltern Charcuterie in Buckinghamshire, which provides humidification for salami fermentation. Chiltern Charcuterie is a leading artisan producer, with award-winning salamis and air-dried charcuterie – butchering, curing, smoking and airdrying its own products using locally sourced meat. Their chosen solution uses an electrode boiler, compact steam humidifier that serves a 12m3 sealed fermentation room, using precise humidity controls to maintain the necessary conditions for quality and consistency. The humidifier provides up to 3kg/h of steam to maintain a precise 85% relative humidity and a temperature of 25°C. In a separate room designed for the drying process, a humidifier is working alongside a dehumidifier, which has been installed to ensure that the heavily moisture laden new product in the first stages of drying does not produce so much airborne moisture that it creates a mould problem. The desiccant dehumidifier controls the space at 80%rh, whilst the temperature is dropped to 12C. Chiltern

Charcuterie owner John Miller approached Humidity Solutions because of the company’s experience of designing tailored humidity control solutions. He recalled: “Humidity Solutions took the time to fully understand our requirements and propose the best solution – delivering the equipment within a few days. We are very pleased with the system and the service we received.”

 

So you see, humidity control is one of the most vital components in the entire food industry, and over the next few months we’ll continue to look at all the different areas humidification plays a part in protecting the food you eat. At Humidity Solutions, we supply humidity control solutions to abattoirs, cold stores, packaging plants and more – helping provide the perfect environment for meat production every time. If you would like to know more, just get in touch with us today.

 

Humidity Control – Keeping Crops Fresh From Farm To Table

The EU currently dedicated over 2.2 million hectares to growing vegetables and leafy produce, and over 3.2 million hectares to growing fruits. This produce is then picked, packed and shipped to countries all over the world – including the UK. But have you ever wondered how farmers and logistics companies manage to keep crops fresh and edible during this long process, and how they still have plenty of life in them when they arrive on your table? The answer is simple – humidification. Humidification solutions are important for two main areas of crop production: post-harvest crop care, and extending the shelf life of crops for purchase.

 

Post-Harvest Crop Care

Once crops have been harvested and other products created and packaged, they need to be transported to stores with enough life left in them to survive on the shelves. Humidification (also known as fogging) promoted faster, more efficient cooling, using less energy in the process. In post-harvest, ultrasonic humidity control solutions are the tool of choice, mainly because they use a finer water droplet size than high or low-pressure systems.

Keeping crops hydrated post-harvest is incredibly important, as it has a huge impact on their quality, their flavour and their lifespan. Once you separate the plants from their roots they will quickly dray out, especially in refrigerated environments that are designed to keep them from spoiling. You can’t avoid the refrigeration elements of harvesting, so instead farmers needed to focus on how to reduce the amount of moisture list post-harvest.

Trying to reduce the temperature of produce without dehydrating it is a common problem, especially when the main market uses refrigerated air-cooling systems to get the job done. If not handled properly refrigeration could damage delicate crops like herbs or other baby-leaf varieties through harsh cooling methods like blast chilling, leaving you with weak, dehydrated and broken produce. If you don’t believe us, one of the ways to tell how much your crops are being dehydrated is to measure the defrost water from the refrigeration system. It’s often alarming just how much water is being removed from products, simply through blast chilling. Of course, they could just add covers to their crops to manage airflow and minimise damage, but this isn’t a perfect solution.

The solution they came up with was called ‘fogging’. By ‘fogging’ the environment, transporters can sustain the life of these foods through natural hydration, using ultra-pure water in fog particles to reach into every corner and stop dehydration from occurring. This also allows producers to maximise the pick weight and yield, since the produce won’t lose its weight (and flavour) through dehydration. You can get both wet and dry fogging solutions, so produce can be protected at every stage, regardless of environment.

 

Extending Shelf Life

Once crops have gone through picking and packing, they need to be stored ready for transportation and somehow still arrive in shops with enough life to survive on the shelves and in the homes of buyers. With delicate crops like lettuce, this can present a real challenge – particularly if the crops were harvested a long distance away, or in a hot climate. Deterioration of produce can and does happen in transit, which just leads to more waste and reduced profits for farmers.

To overcome this, humidity control systems are needed at all stages of the produce’s life, starting in the picking trailer. By misting the field trailer, farmers can start the cooling process while the produce is still in the field, as soon as it had been picked. These misting devices produce a thin layer of moisture which can then evaporate during transit, stopping moisture being drawn from the produce itself.

Once the crops have been delivered into cold storage, most major growers, packers and shippers will then use an adiabatic crop hydration system to extend shelf life before shipping. These systems are now a standard part of all new-build cold storage units, but they can be retrofitted into old ones too. The idea is to humidify the air in the cold room to about 95% RH (Relative Humidity), and then fill the room with superfine purified water – to the point that it creates a visible fog. This allows moisture to fill every corner of the room using a vapour pressure system. Because the vapour pressure in the room is higher than the vapour pressure of the plants, it encourages the plants to draw in moisture through their stoma. This means that baby leaf crops, salad and brassicas can stay hydrated and field-fresh for up to 11 days, often coming out of cold storage in better condition than when it started! Given that most leafy produce will start to wilt after just 2 days in a normal environment, this is a huge improvement and a great way to improve the shelf life of produce, with no artificial chemicals or processes.

Humidity control is one of the most vital components in the entire food industry, and over the next few months we’ll be looking at different areas humidification plays a role in producing and protecting the food you eat.At Humidity Solutions, we supply humidity control solutions to farms, cold stores, packaging plants and more – helping provide the perfect environment for crop harvesting every time. If you would like to know more, just get in touch with us today.

It’s Time To Standardise Workplace Air Quality

Over the last 5-10 years, people have been working indoors a lot more, for longer periods of time, and spending less time outdoors. This change in behaviour has had a knock-on effect on a lot of things, from our overall activity levels to vitamin D deficiency becoming much more common. But one of the things most people don’t realise is that the quality of the air we breathe when we’re at work for 9 hours a day can have a real impact on our concentration, our productivity and our health. We spend 90% of our time indoors at work, so the impact of poor air quality is pretty severe. Which is why we ‘re amazed that there is still no legislation out there setting an acceptable Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) standard for the workplace.

 

Gradual Decline In Air Quality

Innovation and new technologies are great things, but when they are at the cost of our environment, you have to start asking some questions. Our cities are becoming increasingly polluted by with car fumes, airborne industrial waste and even particles from log burners. All of that heavily polluted air is then being pulled into our buildings through windows, doors and ‘fresh air’ ventilation systems. Some of that air is filtered, but since there is no standard requirement for the level of filtration, there is no way to tell. And with most air conditioning units being used for temperature control instead of air quality, a lot of employees are spending 90% of their time in a workplace with substandard air quality. That might not seem like a major issue, but breathing low-quality air day in, day out can have some pretty negative effects.

 

The Unseen Effects Of Bad Air Quality

Bad air quality doesn’t just make you cough – the impact is far more widespread than that. For example, having a low relative humidity (below 40%) environment increases the lifespan of airborne pathogens, helping them stay suspended in the air for longer and travel further, spreading infection throughout the workplace. Viruses such as influenza and norovirus survive longer at an RH of 20- 30%, whilst a mid-range RH between 40% and 70% will minimise their survival. Tests also indicate the infectivity of the influenza virus is increased by both low and very high RH, with minimum infectivity at 50% RH. RH has been shown to have a similar effect on airborne bacteria, with intermediate RH levels increasing the mortality rate of airborne pneumococci, streptococci and staphylococci. RH below 40% will also make people feel cold, leading to a rise in heating bills, a wide range of health problems and increased absenteeism.

But, you can’t have your RH too high either. Above 60%, people will start to feel uncomfortable and out of proportion with the actual indoor temperature. This will make people a bit edgy, sweaty and generally unable to focus. This causes people to turn on air conditioning or comfort cooling, sending energy costs through the roof. High humidity also encourages mould growth and condensation, which at best is a temporary slip hazard and at worst can create mildew, mould and all of the associated health-related problems for your employees.

 

Lack Of Regulation

At the moment there is no specific legislation around air quality in general workplaces. However, a lot of organisations have started to realise the impact air quality can have on employees, and so have been recommending a RH of 40-60% in all commercial workplaces as a standard. These organisations include:

  • Humidity Group Of The Hevac Association
  • The World Health Organisation
  • The National Association Of Optometrists

It’s also the range recommended by BS EN 29241 as the optimum for visual display terminals. Not only that, but these organisations have also recognised the importance of good RH control in office environments, and how much it contributes both to the thermal comfort of employees and the indoor air quality of the workplace.

At Humidity Solutions, we believe that the main barrier to properly addressing these IAQ issues is commercial. We seem to shy away from setting coordinated regulated standards to ensure excellent IAQ as this would result in extra investment in plant and slightly higher running costs due to higher maintenance requirements. Really, what we should be considering as an industry, employers, employees and society as a whole is whether improving IAQ to underpin improved health and wellbeing is worth that investment. Of course, we believe it is. If you would like to find out more about how to improve IAQ in your workplace, just get in touch with us today.

Controlling Infections Through Relative Humidity

It’s a generally agreed fact that infections are bad. We go to extraordinary lengths to avoid getting infected, whether it’s a common cold or something much more serious. Out in the world, there might not be too much we can do to prevent it, but in certain environments infection control and prevention is an absolute necessity. Think of a hospital, an operating room, food processingor a pharmaceutical facility. Where a simple infection could not just make one person a little ill, but potentially infect thousands of people, or cause complications and even death for a patient. In these environments, infection control is at the top of the priority list. Over the last few years there has been a growing awareness of the relationship between relative humidity in an environment (otherwise known as RH) and pathogens like bacteria or viruses that can cause infections. But to really understand this, we need to look at the interactions that can happen between pathogens (airborne and surface) and the RH of a room.

 

Airborne Pathogens And Viruses

One of the most common causes of infection from viruses is the inhalation of contaminated air. For example, speaking, coughing and sneezing can all expel large numbers of ‘aerosols’ (suspensions of solid or liquid particles in the air), which could include viruses and bacteria. The smaller the particles are, the longer they will stay in the air and the further they will travel when expelled. When exposed to dry air, most of the moisture content in the aerosol will evaporate instantly, making the suspended particles smaller and lighter, able to travel further and survive longer. But both temperature and relative humidity affect the airborne survival of viruses, bacteria and fungi. Being able to control these variables and keep the temperature and RH at an optimum level can drastically reduce the survival (and therefore transmission of) all kinds of airborne infections. This will vary depending on the area or the infections most likely to be present. For example, viruses like influenza or norovirus can survive longer at an RH of 20-30%, while keeping the RH between 40-70% will minimise their survival rate. Tests also show that the infectivity of the influenza virus is increased by very low and very high RH, with minimum infectivity at around 50%.  Similar results have been found for airborne pneumococci, streptococci and staphylococci. This is one of the reasons that hospitals and labs in particular need to be able to control the RH in different areas of their environment, to minimise the lifespan of various infections. For example, it’s recommended that operating theatres should maintain an RH of 60%, while newborn baby units and hydrotherapy areas should be kept at 40%.

 

Surface-Borne Infections

We then move on to the surface-borne infections. When RH is very low, static electricity can be an issue, and raising the RH above 35% allows surfaces to become covered in a thin film of moisture that dissipates the static charge. This thin film of moisture also makes surface cleaning much more effective. Studies have shown that the impact of RH on surface infections and cleansing is high – with the survival of viruses like MRSA (Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) are significantly reduced when contaminated surfaces are kept between 45-55% RH. There are also some bacteria that will form protective spores when the RH drops below 40%, which makes them more resistant to surface disinfectant and more likely to survive. So keeping the RH at appropriate levels will dramatically improve the effectiveness of surface cleaners and reduce the presence of infectious bacteria, viruses and fungi.

 

Infection Resistance

Maintaining a consistent and appropriate RH also has an impact on patients and workers and their ability to become infected. Studies show that when RH is kept consistently below 40% individuals are more susceptible to infections, mainly due to the fact that the moist tissues in the body (like the nose, throat and lungs) become dried out. So, maintaining mid-range RH levels not only impacts the survival rate of viruses and bacteria, but it also helps boost the body’s natural infection resistance.

 

Why Will Controlling RH Help?

Overall, controlling the RH of an environment can help significantly reduce the likelihood of infections from viruses, bacteria and fungi on multiple levels. From controlling the lifespan of infectious particles in the air, boosting the body’s ability to resist them and ensuring surfaces can be properly disinfected, RH has much more of an impact than many think. In fact, it’s such a critical thing that there are regulations in place for hospitals, including what the RH should be for certain areas. For example, the Health Technical Memoranda (HTM) Guidelines 7.48 and 7.50 define the acceptable range of humidity as between 35% and 60% saturation. The Scottish Health Facilities Note 30 – “Infection Control in The Built Environment” states that control and physical monitoring of humidity can help ensure that environmental conditions do not contribute to the spread of infection.

In the UK, most of our RH problems tend to be because of low humidity. Particularly during the winter months, buildings are heated to around 20°C, and as the temperature rises the RH falls dramatically. Where comfort air conditioning is used to cool us in the summer months, the cold surfaces within the system also remove moisture, leading to low humidity. This creates the perfect breeding ground for infections, and is why we will often see infections bouncing around air-conditioned offices in summer, and running rampant in winter.

To avoid this, we recommend using a humidifier to introduce moisture back into the air and raise the RH. But how you go about that will depend on the environment you are trying to regulate. For hospitals, Humidity Solutions can design and supply a sophisticated RH control systemto optimise the RH in individual zones, allowing for the complete control of the environmentacross a medical facility, which will minimise the risk of infection. At Humidity Solutions, we provide RH control solutions for hospitals, pharmaceutical labs, offices and much more. Your solutions will be tailored to your needs, so you can be sure your RH and infection are being managed and controlled effectively. For more information on our solutions, or to ask us about infection control in your organisation, just get in touch with the teamat Humidity Solutions today.

Creating The Ideal Conditions For Hot Yoga

Over the last few years hot yoga has grown in popularity, transforming from a single practice called Bikram Yoga dating back to the 1970s into a worldwide fitness trend. The idea is simple. You do yoga, but in a warm and humid environment. This is designed to make you sweat a lot, detoxifies your skin and burnsmore calories than in a dry heat environment. In fact, it was created to replicate the heat and humidity of India, the birthplace of yoga. But unlike traditional yoga, which can be practisedpretty much anywhere, hot yoga requires strict control over the temperature and humidity of the environment. So today, we’re going to explain how you can create the ideal conditions for hot yoga.

 

Why Are Humidity And Temperature Important In Hot Yoga

Unlike traditional yoga, which can be practisedpretty much anywhere, hot yoga requires strict control over the temperature and humidity of the environment. Typically, a hot yoga studio needs to be able to maintain a temperature of around 35°C to 42°C, with a relative humidity (RH) of at least 40% at all times. The humidity level is particularly important, because at 40% RH any perspiration won’t evaporate as quickly, so the body isn’t being cooled by the evaporation process, increasing the amount of healthy sweating. Increasing the heat keeps the body warm, which makes stretching more effective and prevents injuries. By getting the balance just right, you can get a fantastic and effective workout.

 

The Relationship Between Humidity And Temperature

The relationship between humidity and temperature is quite complicated, and there isn’t quite enough time to explain it all in detail in one blog post. But if we boil it down to basics, the most important thing to know is that when air from outside is heated, it’s relative humidity falls. This means that if you’re pumping fresh air into a hot yoga studio that’s been heated to the required temperature, then it won’t have the moisture needed to create that nice humid environment. Instead, you need to add in extra moisture to restore the balance and get the RH up to 40%. For a commercial studio, this means a lot of water that needs to be evaporated as well, which is why hot yoga studios need to have an industrial humidifier solution in place. A domestic humidifier simply isn’t up to the task.

 

Choosing The Right Humidifier Solution

Fortunately, there are lots of humidification solutions out there that can create the ideal climate for hot yoga. From humidifiers that use heat to generate steam through to high-pressure nozzle systems that spray cold water into the air as a fine mist, so that it evaporates instantly. Combine these with a range of heating solutions (including gas, electric, warm air or even infra-red radiant panels), and you can manage and tweak your environment to the degree. The only thing to bear in mind when choosing a solution is to make sure it suits the size of your studio, the nature of the building, the utilities available and space available for the humidification equipment. Often the best solution is an all-in-one unit, which is specifically designed for hot yoga studios to combine heating, humidification and air filtration, with an extra option for heat recovery. But of course, that’s just one option – and with our specialist design service, you can have a bespoke solution created to suit your needs.

Whatever solution you go for, we recommend you get in touchwith a specialist in the field who can help you develop a specification for the required temperature and humidity levels while taking into account all of the design issues that can crop up. We’ve even written a guide – ‘Hot Studio Design: Humidity and Heat’,to help you choose the right solution for your studio. To request your copy, just email info@humiditysolutions.co.uk.

Humidity’s Hidden Impact

It might not feel like it right now, but the UK is once again facing some recording-breaking temperatures this summer. And so the main question on everyone’s mind’s will soon be, how do we keep our workplaces cool and comfortable, without wasting money, energy or resources? It’s a question that comes up every year, so this time, we wanted to give you some inside info on how to keep your environment cool by remembering one important factor – humidity.

 

The Relationship Between Temperature And Humidity

The relationship between temperature and humidity (along with the relationship between humidity control and good air quality) is something that’s often overlooked in the world of heating and cooling, being left out of specifications for new installations 8 times out of 10. But it’s one of the most important factors in determining how comfortable people are in your environment.

Think about it. When it gets really humid in this country, you can feel hot, clammy and uncomfortable in your own skin – and much warmer than the actual air temperature. That’s because the comfortable and acceptable relative humidity range for humans is around 40-60%. If it goes above this level, people start to feel uncomfortable and out of proportion with the actual indoor temperature. This leads to distraction, difficulty concentrating irritability and lots of instances of ‘turn the cooling systems up’, increasing your energy consumption.

At the other end of the spectrum, relative humidity below 40% makes people feel colder than the actual temperature is. They will shiver, struggle to get comfortable, and – you guessed it – they’ll turn the heating up, once again increasing your energy consumption. Lower relative humidity can also cause health problems for you and your employees, including higher susceptibility to coughs, colds and other viruses, sending our absenteeism rate skyrocketing.

Now, your workplace’s natural relative humidity will be somewhat determined by your environment. Newer buildings that are more airtight rely on mechanical ventilation, and so are easier to control, and will usually have a lower RH. Older, ‘leaky’ buildings will be more influenced by the variations of humidity from outdoors, since air tends to leak in and out. One of the biggest problems in the UK is low RH, particularly in winter, where heating systems send the RH through the floor.

The ideal solution to all of the above? Install a humidifier.

 

The Impact Of Humidification

Humidification is essentially the process of adding moisture into the air to achieve the desired humidity balance. This can be done in a number of ways, but the most popular (and traditional) approach is still to heat water to produce steam. There are a number of different ways to do this depending on your project, budget and environmental concerns. But clearly in a carbon-conscious world there is an appetite for solutions that use less energy than these traditional steam solutions. And so we’re seeing an increase of high pressure, low energy systems using cold water. These are perfect for conserving energy and can be easily installed to existing buildings of all ages.

These systems work by injecting water into the air under pressure through multidirectional, fan assisted nozzles. The pressure ensures the water is atomised and absorbed quickly into the air – within 1.5m of the nozzle itself. These systems can be used on ceiling heights as low as 2.4m, with nozzle heads the size of a CCTV camera, making them the perfect option for almost any property.

 A key benefit of this approach is that it uses cold water, so there is no extra energy needed to heat the water. For every 500 litres of water that’s evaporated the system provides around 345kW of cooling power for just 4kW of input. Not only that, but the quick absorption into the air (known as adiabatic humidification) also has a free-cooling effect, which reduces the load on comfort cooling systems and increases energy efficiency.

With a system like this, you can simply and effectively alter the air quality, temperature and humidity of your environment. But installing the right solution for you requires some knowledge of how to alter the properties of the air, and the various options available to achieve optimum comfort. At Humidity Solutions, this is exactly what we do. We use years of experience to create a bespoke solution that’s tailored to your needs. For more information on our solutions, or to ask us about humidity control in your organisation, just get in touch with the teamat Humidity Solutions today.

Protecting Print With Humidity Control

Printing presses are fickle things. So is finishing equipment, cutting equipment, and all the other equipment that a printing company uses on a daily basis to provide their services. This equipment can be very sensitive to changes in temperature, humidity and atmospheric pressure. The problem is, printing companies have invested a lot of money in their equipment and paper stock, and the last thing they want is for it to be ruined by humidity. A good print company will be willing to invest slightly more to ensure the long life and efficiency of that print equipment, whether it’s digital or litho.

Without some sort of humidity control, machines and paper stock are exposed to uncontrolled environments where the climate could change on an hourly basis. Low humidity can draw moisture from paper causing curling and tight edges. High humidity will affect the performance of both paper and machines. But a stable humidity reduces static and improves the dimensional stability of the paper – creating a seamless and consistent print environment. It’s so important that press manufacturers actually require effective humidity control to maintain effective performance of their equipment, and detail the exact levels you should be maintaining in the operating manuals.

So, how can printing companies control their print environment to get the best out of their machinery, equipment and people?

 

Air Quality

Just as importantly, humidity is a big contributor to indoor air quality. Poor air quality can lead to illness in staff, a lack of productivity and a much higher rate of absenteeism and employee turnover. To give you an example – low humidity (which is the most common problem in the UK) can make your eyes itchy (particularly for contact lens wearers), dry out your respiratory surfaces and dehydrate your body. Drying out the mucous membranes in your body also means you can’t fight off airborne infections like colds and the flu as effectively, so you’re more likely to catch bugs. On top of that, if your environment has a relative humidity of under 40% then you will feel a lot colder than it actually is. Your natural response will be to turn up the heating, increasing energy consumption and lowering the humidity even further, creating a cyclical problem.

 

Tailored Approach

Here’s the thing – no two print environments are the same. So no two solutions should be the same either. It’s important to make sure that the humidity solution you put in place is tailored to the conditions of the building and the types of machinery being used – which requires a specialist. At Humidity Solutions, we don’t believe in a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Instead, each project is evaluated against a number of key criteria, so that the best solution is identified from all options available on the market.

 

Ideal Options

So what’s the ideal solution? Well, for litho, large digital and web-based printers, a high-pressure system is perfect. High-pressure systems inject water into the air under pressure through a multi-directional, fan assisted set of nozzles. The pressure helps ensure the water is atomised and absorbed rapidly and evenly into the air within 1.5 metres of the nozzle. The systems can be used with ceiling heights as low as 2.4 meters, with nozzle fan heads around the same size as a CCTV camera, so they are unobtrusive and can slot into any print environment. They can also be controlled by zones or individually, helping control the rate of humidification for each unique space from one control panel.

 

A key benefit of this approach is that it uses cold water, so no additional heat energy is required to run it. The absorption into the air (adiabatic humidification) also has a free cooling effect, which reduces the load on comfort cooling systems and helps them run more efficiently. For every 500 litres of water that’s evaporated the system provides around 34 kW of cooling for a power input of just 4kW. High-pressure systems have been successfully installed in many renowned web press publishing houses including the New York Times, News International, and the Daily Mail.

 

For smaller, digital print rooms Humidity Solutions have designed a bespoke unit – the Eiger.  It provides temperature and humidity control plus air filtration, air movement and fresh air from a single unit to ensure conditions remain in the Quality zone for optimum machine speeds and print quality.

 

So Why Is Humidity Control Important?

It’s not just important, it’s an essential part of the printing process, and all press manufacturers require humidity control to ensure the effective performance of their equipment. Print halls are rarely seen without humidity controls in the rest of Europe, and now the UK is catching up with the benefits of humidity control and its implementation. It’s also worth noting that it’s not an overly expensive solution to implement – despite what you might think. And besides, compared to the cost of under-performing machines, constantly re-buying equipment and high staff turnover, it’s the cheapest solution you will ever implement.

 

At Humidity Solutions, we provide effective humidity control solutions for all shapes and sizes of print company, from small independent units to large-scale print houses. Your solutions will be tailored to your needs, so you can be sure your RH and infection are being managed and controlled effectively. For more information on our solutions, or to ask us about print control in your organisation, just get in touch with the teamat Humidity Solutions today.

John Barker has published a guide to designing climate control systems for print: ‘Humidity and Temperature Control for Print’. To receive a free electronic copy of this book, please visit our website www.humiditysolutions.co.ukor use the following direct link: http://www.humiditysolutions.co.uk/humidity-solutions-print-book-form/