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.

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.

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.

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/