Dehumidification and Planned Maintenance

Humidity control via dehumidification is vital in so many businesses, across a wide variety of business sectors. From the creation of charcuterie products, the storage and protection of classic cars and valuable artefacts, through to the manufacture and packaging of tablets and powders in the pharmaceutical sector. The need for dehumidification is wide reaching, and the applications are varied.

But choosing the right dehumidification solution isn’t that simple. It takes specialist knowledge and skill to select the correct dehumidifier – with either refrigerant or desiccant technologies – for each project. And while we can’t share all of that with you today, we can explain some of the differences, and what each entails.

Refrigerant Dehumidification

Refrigerant dehumidifiers work by drawing in air and passing it over a cooling coil, which drops the temperature to below its dew point. You can achieve extraction rates between 25 and 3000 litres per 24 hours, depending on the size of the unit, and can be drained using either a fitted condensate pump or simple drained out via duct work. Some units can also be placed on castors for portability, but they are more commonly fixed wall mounted models, or fixed bracket ceiling mounted versions. There is even a through-the-wall solution available, which means they can be fitted in pretty much any environment.

Other positive features of the refrigerant dehumidifiers include:

  • Sound-proofed compressors, meaning low operating noise
  • Easy access panels for simple maintenance
  • Coated internal components, which can withstand aggressive environments

This opens up a huge variety of different applications for refrigerant dehumidification solutions, from warehouse storage, the protection and storage of documents or artefacts, a variety of manufacturing processes, all the way through to managing swimming pool plant rooms. The only catch is that refrigerant dehumidifiers can’t operate at very low temperatures – anything below 1⁰C – which means if your environments are low temperatures, you will need a desiccant dehumidifier instead.

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Desiccant Dehumidification

Unlike refrigerant dehumidifiers, desiccant dehumidifiers will operate at a much lower temperature than refrigerant ones, which means they will continue to extract moisture from the air even in very cold and sub-zero conditions (although the air doesn’t hold much moisture in these conditions.

Desiccant dehumidifiers use a silica gel desiccant rotor to remove moisture from the air, and are ideally suited to cold, unheated environments like storage facilities and cold rooms, where the temperature can get as low as -10⁰C. This technology stops the humidity from dropping moisture onto the cooling coils and causing them to ice up, or to achieve very low humidity in areas like the pharmaceutical sector. One area this would be a benefit is the manufacturing or lithium-ion batteries – a large, growing market requiring a very low humidity (we’re talking a -40⁰C dew point and 0%rh) in order to protect the components.

Just like with refrigerant dehumidification, desiccant dehumidification units are available in a wide range of sizes, in permanent and semi-permanent installations, to provide a solution for all scenarios.

Investment vs Reward

Of course, investing in something as major as a humidity control system will come at a cost in any scenario, but in almost all cases the savings and benefits are worth it, and often the investment will end up paying for itself.

For example, the protection of rare books, priceless artworks and valuable documents is clearly essential to preserve value for individual investors or national/global organisations. Indoor trampoline parks, swimming pools and ice rinks (or really any business in the leisure sector), all require humidity control – primarily dehumidifiers – to prevent mould, odours or the unwanted dripping of condensation from ceilings. Apart from being generally unpleasant, water on the floor is a health and safety issue, and could be an expensive mistake to fix. In food processing or storage areas, dripping condensation might carry bacteria into or from the food product, leading to more serious health and safety issues.

Storage of documents, which could be on paper or on film, need to be kept in the best possible condition – especially for things like geological data from the oil industry. Film can turn brittle and be unreadable if the environment isn’t kept within tightly controlled parameters, and to lose this data would be a massive cost. Without the appropriate humidity control cooling coils, cold rooms might frost up, using extra energy, impact the operation of machinery, which has a knock-on effect on productivity, cost and quality of product.

Maintenance Commitments

Of course, every piece of machinery requires some level of maintenance. Once installed, dehumidifiers will need routine maintenance work done, which mainly includes changing filters to ensure airflow through the unit is maintained and no pressure drops happen.

We generally recommend a planned maintenance programme for all dehumidification solutions, as this ensures you get the best quality of service from the equipment, with minimal disruption. And while you might view it as an unnecessary expense, repairs when something goes wrong, along with any potential losses to your business, will be much more expensive. When we say loss to your business, this could happen in a couple of ways:

Over time, the air filters in your units become dirty, and the fans have to work harder to push the air through the dehumidifier. This takes more energy and creates more wear on the fan and fan motor, shortening its operating life. Unchecked, the system also becomes less efficient at generating the precise conditions required, resulting in a deterioration in production or the climate trying to be created as time progresses. If left still even longer, the airflow could eventually cause the fan to stop or overheat which creates an equipment failure making the situation critical with loss of production or control of the humidity.

Typically, an emergency call-out will cost more than a planned maintenance visit, so it will save you more money in the long run to plan your maintenance. We understand that humidity control isn’t always necessary throughout the whole year for many sectors, which is why we adjust the timing of our visits to reflect your peak unsafe.

Remote Monitoring

If a planned maintenance contract isn’t quite right for you, an alternative is to opt for remote monitoring. This is where the maintenance company monitors the units from their own offices, and provide maintenance only when needed. For example, if the unit triggers an alert saying that the pressure drop across the filters has started to increase, or that the operational hours run above the recommended level, or a fault code is activated. The maintenance company will be notified, and they can take the appropriate actions.

The required actions might be as simple as a phone call instructing a restart, or sending a service engineer to fix the issue. In this case, the service engineer already knows what the issue is, and can come prepared with the appropriate equipment and parts. And because alerts are often set to sound before the dehumidification system actually fails, everything is kept running efficiently – saving you time and money while still maintaining the humidity control you need.

By choosing the most appropriate technology for your application, installing it correctly and having a good maintenance plan in place, you can access excellent dehumidification at a reasonable cost.

If you would like to know more about your dehumidification options, just get in touch with the team today, and we would be happy to help.

Brewery Hygiene and Controlled Humidity

Brewing any kind of alcohol is a complex and multi-faceted craft. There are a lot of different factors to take into account, and the entire process from start to finish is very sensitive to environmental conditions. This means that carefully controlled temperatures and conditions are often crucial for many stages of the brewing process, from mixing the ingredients at the beginning, to how the end product is stored. But with high sensitivity comes a lot of problems, which require a lot of care to solve.

Problems In Breweries

The air outside of a brewery is, almost inevitably, full of water vapour. This water vapour is constantly fluctuating, with the amount of water vapour changing with the weather, the season and even the time of day. This is known as ‘humidity’, and it’s one of the (many) reasons the UK weather can feel so different day by day, even if the temperature stays the same.

When this water vapour enters the building holding the pipes, tanks and other structures used by breweries, it quickly turns into condensation and moisture. In such a sensitive environment, this causes a number of issues, including:

  • Condensation forming and pooling on vessels, pipes, equipment, cold surfaces and even floors
  • Corrosion and other damage to buildings, structures, fittings and equipment
  • Bacterial growth and mould, resulting in hygiene issues and compliance difficulties
  • Problems attaching labels to bottles due to the excessive moisture
  • Higher servicing and maintenance costs as a direct result of uncontrolled humidity

All of these are generally annoying and inconvenient, and can cause delays or even a complete stop in production. But one of them is particularly unpleasant, and can actually cause a lot of hygiene problems – a big nono in the manufacture of any consumable product. And that issue is mould.

If mould develops in a brewery’s storage rooms, it can cause stains, nasty smells, material damage, and can even lead to health problems for the room’s occupants. While the mould isn’t acutely harmful, the long-term effects can be, so it should be taken very seriously. In addition to the damage and destruction of the labels used in your brewery, mould is a sure symptom of moisture problems and a clear sign of moisture problem and a bad indoor climate – since a very high level of humidity is required in the room for mould to grow.

It goes without saying that this is an unhygienic situation, and it only gets worse with any steam cleaning you do for the equipment – since this creates even more uncontrolled moisture in the air, and while things might look clean immediately after, they probably won’t stay that way. Fans, ventilation and air conditioning are rarely the answer to this, because all they do is replace one body of air and uncontrolled humidity with another – with just as little control.

How Dehumidification Helps

For the unique ecosystems of breweries, we recommend desiccant dehumidification technologies. This type of dehumidification enables brewery to maintain control over air conditions at every stage of production and storage.

Desiccant dehumidification is a specialist technology, and is used to determine the dew point of the air so that condensation (and all the problems it causes) simply can’t form in the first place. When the relative humidity is brought below 65% at 20 oC, condensation problems will be completely eliminated.

Humidity Solutions offers specialist humidity control advice and equipment for a wide range of industrial and commercial applications.  We are the exclusive UK distributor for Cotes AS, a Danish manufacturer of high-quality desiccant dehumidifiers. These systems have been designed and installed in a number of breweries throughout Europe, where master brewers have previously tried different solutions to solve these problems with no success. But after deciding on dehumidification to control the air humidity, the issues clear up very quickly, never to return.

We chose the Cotes range of desiccant dehumidifiers to promote in the UK due to their reputation for quality and reliability. They are compact and robust units, available with automated precision control systems, compliant with good hygiene practice, and are energy-efficient with minimal operating costs – which makes them an ideal solution. They also feature a unique add-on heat recovery module, which makes them the only humidity management solutions able to comply with the most stringent energy requirements currently in force anywhere.

A Case Study

We spoke with Dirk Stapper from the Ernst Barre private brewery in Germany, who had experience of this kind of issue. Before a desiccant dryer was installed, the air humidity in the pressure tank cellar in the brewery sometimes reached values of over 80%rH, which could even be seen in the masonry of the building. He said:

“We had major problems with the formation of condensate and the tanks started to ‘sweat’ after filling. Our steel tanks are coated on the inside but have shown corrosion due to the moisture in the outside area. Before we installed the dehumidifier, mould always formed in the room which we naturally wanted to prevent. We tried different vaporizers to distribute the air in the room and it was a big effort that didn’t work in the end”

But just by installing a desiccant dehumidification system, Dirk was able to see an improvement after just a few days. The relative humidity in the brewery’s pressure tank cellar quickly reduced from over 80% to below 60% very quickly, and this started combating the mould and other issues very rapidly.

The impact of excessive humidity in breweries are far reaching and expensive for the master brewer and the company. With a humidity of over 80%, mould growth is often an issue in basements and warehouses. Although this rarely leads to direct health damage, breweries have to take mould seriously, because it’s a clear sign if bad indoor climate and excessive humidity in their manufacturing and storage environment. This problem can temporarily be solved by removing mould in individual cases, but if you don’t focus on controlling the source of the humidity, you run the risk of these moisture related issues coming back time and time again. By dehumidifying the air through the desiccant technology, the brewer not only avoids condensation, corrosion and mould, but also ensures a good indoor climate, better hygiene conditions and a healthy working environment.

To find out more about how humification solutions can impact breweries.

Or if you have any questions about humidity control in general, we would love to help out.

Just get in touch with the team at Humidity Solutions today.

Protecting Electronics In Manufacturing With Humidity Control

When it comes to the manufacturing process – for any product- there will be a finely-honed process to follow. Part of this process will include how to avoid damage to components as they are handled, and reduce the risk of any injuries to the people working in the facility as well. For some products these risks as quite low, but in other settings – like the manufacture of electronic components and devices, the risks are much, much higher. So, what can you do to avoid those issues, and control the environment to reduce the risk of damage and injury in a consistent way?

Electrical Manufacturing Concerns

In all electronic manufacturing facilities, reducing the risk of electrostatic discharge (or ESD) is a priority. It’s an essential step to avoid damage to the sensitive components and production equipment – not to mention the people working in the facility as well!

Electrostatic discharge is the sudden flow of electricity between two electrically charged objects. It can be caused by contact, an electrical short, dielectric breakdown, or a drop in humidity levels in the environment.

They will typically occur in manufacturing when the air humidity drops below a certain, critical value. Workplaces and other indoor environments with low relative humidity (RH) are particularly prone to ESD, since there is less moisture vapour in the air. Normally, the airborne moisture would help the static electricity to dissipate without an issue – minimising the risk of ESD. If there’s not enough water vapour in the air, then electricity will accumulate in ‘pockets’, which will discharge when an object of opposite charge is nearby. None of which is very good for electrical manufacturing!

The Impact of Humidity Control

For an electronics manufacturing environment, the normal range of humidity is between 30%RH and 70%RH. However, some facilities will try to maintain a constant, moderate RH (~50%), and others will prefer a lower % RH if they are using or producing more humidity-sensitive parts. In general, electrostatic discharges are the enemy of electronic manufacturing, which is why it’s important to have a minimum level of 30%RH to prevent damage.

This means that the ideal humidity level for electronics manufacturing can vary depending on the ambient environment and is usually decided by the specific devices and components each facility is using. This isn’t ideal if you just want an out-of-the-box solution, which is why many electronics manufacturers will bring in a humidification expert (like us) to help them create the ideal environment for their specific set-up. Ultimately, controlling the air humidity successfully will minimise the risk of ESD in the plant, protecting both the equipment and personnel within the plant – and increasing productivity by preserving a consistent quality of output.

Humidity Control Solutions for Electrical Manufacturing

In order to achieve the optimum level of humidity control in a manufacturing environment, your best option is to install an adiabatic air humidifying system. This system will not only ensure that static charges are kept to a minimum, but has the added benefit of free cooling to reduce excess heat generated locally by the production processes.

Another key benefit is that it provides you with documentation for your health and safety policies. In most cases, electronics producers are required to document that their production takes place under strict indoor climate control, and humidity control plays a key part.

Humidity Solutions can:

  • Provide you with documentation of your compliance with regulations around production environments
  • Reduce the risk of ESDs, protecting personnel and products
  • Create adiabatic cooling of the environment to remove unwanted heat gains
  • Extend the lifespan for components and manufacturing machinery

At Humidity Solutions, we provide tailored humidification and dehumidification equipment for all forms of manufacturing plant, including electronics.

With our help, you can simply and effectively alter the air quality, temperature and humidity of your environment to achieve optimum comfort and safety.

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.

Educate yourself in Humidity control… to a degree

Some of the greatest minds in the country work, study, and research in our Universities.  So, it is always a pleasure and of enormous interest to see how these people operate and what is required to facilitate their work.

From trying to find a cure for cancer to the eradication of malaria, the preservation of the Magna Carta to priceless collections in university museums, or studies into nano science to electrical engineering faculties – the research and work carried out by the UK’s leading Universities is truly fantastic.

One common element of all these areas of research or conservation is the need for a stable environment in which to store, test and carry out research.  Conditions need to be consistently replicated to ensure the stability of the artefact or the consistency required for traceable testing.

Humidity is a vital part of this, so we need to use the best equipment on the market to suit the application. What is required? Tight control? Stable and consistent output over a wide range of set points? Long maintenance-free period with no down time?

The answer, and solution, to these questions is often the Neptronic SKE4 resistive humidifier with its ability to operate with all types of water, to achieve +/- 1%rh under the right conditions, its connectivity to BMS, MODBUS, BACNET and remote monitoring to facilitate the most cost- and time-effective planned maintenance. Super-short evaporation distances with the X Stream multi lance system reduces section lengths of AHU’s or ductwork to save money on new installations or make achievable with tight retro fits.

It is Neptronic’s quality and reliability, proven over its four generations, that has led our top education establishments to invest.

The Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine do phenomenal work with the Bill Gates Foundation to look at ways in which malaria can be reduced, and in the insect rooms Humidity Solutions have supplied, installed, and maintain the Neptronic SKE4 resistive steam humidifiers. These in-room units deliver humidity control directly into the space where the insects are housed, replicating their perfect tropical environment.

In the University of Oxford, many such humidifiers are installed in several critical conservation areas such as the paper conservation department where documents and books are cared for and preserved for future generations. Dimensional stability of the paper and leather is essential to assisting in the work being carried out, as well as creating the perfect environment for the curing of glues and moist content of the material involved.

The Museums and Libraries house some of the finest collections in the world so the environment that they are kept in is critical. One example I was shown was a centuries old bible which had been kept in the crypt of a French cathedral in totally stable conditions created by the thick walls which act as massive heat sinks, therefore providing incredibly consistent temperatures and humidity. When the bible was removed and placed in a poorly controlled museum the document showed signs of distress in a very short period. Creating stable conditions around this significant piece of history quickly stabilised the issues to ensure continued preservation without decay.

At the University of Cambridge, Humidity Solutions have been called upon to provide humidity control to a wide range of applications, but one where we are constantly in awe is the area of biomedical science, used in areas such as the search for  cures for cancer. This is carried out at the Biomedical campus at Cambridge where several of buildings house the Neptronic humidifiers, providing a vital part of the consistent conditions required in this type of research.

Fascinating applications where humidity plays an important role. This is what makes our job interesting at Humidity Solutions. The wide variety of projects and challenges which, even after 35 years in the industry, continues to raise new and interesting projects. Fortunately we have too many years to mention of experience in the company which allows us to draw on this knowledge to adapt  the great range of products and options that we have available to us to create exactly the right environment.

Lindsey Henderson – Sales Director

When did you first become interested in engineering?

I have always had a very curious and inquisitive mind, always been interested in figuring out how something works. I like to use logical thinking and reasoning to work out a problem. Maths was always my thing when I was younger, probably why my spelling is atrocious now! I remember being told at a young age ‘If you look at something long enough it will tell you the answer’

What qualifications do you have and where did you study?

I actually left school at 16 because I wanted to study maths, physics, chemistry and biology, my year head said I needed to do a better mix and include home economics and things I wasn’t interested in, so I left and went straight to college to study a Diploma in Science and Technology, which I loved.

From there I went on to study an HND in Electronic Engineering, it was a scheme the Government was running to encourage women into engineering. It was run by the EITB and TESS (Technical Engineering Scholarship Scheme). They were sponsoring 75 women in the UK to get into engineering. I applied, sat the exams and got in, it was a really exciting opportunity for me. I had the choice of studying in Edinburgh, Blackpool or London. As I had a part time job in Edinburgh already I decided to stay there as it was such a vibrant fun city to be in. The scholarship was fantastic as I was funded for all my studies, travel and materials which really helped me support myself. The year after my scholarship started, they never ran the program again as not enough women applied for it, which was such as shame. That of course was some time ago now and we do see more women in engineering these days, however there is still a lot more work to be done in informing young girls about what a career in engineering involves, and the variety of paths it can lead to.

What was your first job?

My first job was as a test engineer in Electronics; I worked at a large factory in South Queensferry, Edinburgh.  However it wasn’t for me, as I was sitting in front of electronic machines all day long testing equipment. I am a real ‘people person’ and I remember thinking I needed to have more interaction. So I packed up and left the windy city of Edinburgh and moved down to London in search of my future.

That’s when I fell into the humidification industry, which actually has more of a mechanical engineering bias.  However, if you have an engineering mind you can turn your hand to most problem solving. It was an ideal job for me as a sales engineer as I got to meet new people all the time and started to design the solutions to solve their problems.

What do you think are your best skills in the industry?

My depth of knowledge, I have over 30 years’ experience in the industry now covering all technologies, design and such a varied amount of applications. I like to know how something works, so my technical understanding and expertise on each system is strong, this allows me to discuss all projects with 100% confidence in the solutions I am recommending, whilst also being able to put them across in layman’s terms when dealing with customers.

What parts of the job do you enjoy the most?

I enjoy the diversity of the job: we get involved in so many different applications it’s always interesting, and there is always a challenge or a new application to get my teeth into. And of course people, not just the people I work with but meeting new people, listening and understanding to their business needs and issues. I am a real believer in the fact that we should remain teachable; Albert Einstein said ‘once you stop learning, you start dying’ I think this is important in all aspects of our lives, whether it be the work we do, or our social and emotional intelligence.

Funniest moment in the job?

There are many funny moments, I’m sure we could write a book between us. One that does spring to mind is when I had just worked with my colleagues to get a system installed in the factory to demonstrate to some customers arriving. As usual it was time critical, and we only just finished it with 10 mins to spare until they arrived. My colleague ran into the sales office and said “Lindsey hurry! There’s a massive leak on the humidifier!” I ran down to the factory only to find they had taped a huge leek (yes, the vegetable) on to the front of the humidifier!

Advice to other girls/women thinking about going into engineering career?

I would say follow your intuition and stick with it, don’t be pushed to do things that don’t interest you. Think outside of the box and dive into it; we are in a changing world and society and employers are working together to break what is considered the norm. To see more women slowly moving into the engineering sector is really exciting, so if it interests you and you know it will push you to be the best you can be, then step up and go for it. We should all be doing something we enjoy and that we feel makes a difference.

It takes a pandemic to talk about humidity.

‘A nice to have extra’, ‘Who will notice if we don’t include it?’, ‘Leave a space and we may put it in later’.

All phrases we hear on a regular basis as reasons to NOT include humidity control into a building’s air conditioning system.

The recent global pandemic has changed this view as we realise that good humidity control (50%rh) will reduce transmission of viruses and reduce its life.

There is lot of scientific evidence to show why the transmission of the virus is less in a humidity-controlled environment – there are numerous research papers and studies produced by doctors and scientists to support this.  I am neither doctor nor scientist, but I do have considerable experience in humidity control and I will keep the reasoning straight forward.

In dry air the virus will fly around, travelling relatively long distances transmitting the disease from person to person.

Humidified air contains tiny water droplets – these collide with the virus making them heavy so they drop down to a surface rather than remaining airborne. Once on the surface they can be cleaned and sterilised, reducing further transmission.

The government have suggested increasing fresh air to flush out the virus before it is transmitted. This is great during the summer months when windows can be left open, but come the cold winter months this will not be so pleasant.

Mechanical ventilation has been sized to bring in a certain percentage of fresh air and to heat it to a comfortable level. It is not feasible to just turn the fans up and to achieve the air flows required or at the temperature desired. Not to mention the vast additional energy that would be required to achieve this if possible.

Furthermore, cold air holds less moisture than warm air, so once this fresh, cold air is brought into the office, care home, living room or classroom and heated, the natural relative humidity in winter can become close to 20%rh which we should be avoiding. Raising rh will actually make people feel warmer and hence reduce the required level of temperature control, saving energy.

So in winter months we have 1) low humidity which encourages the extended life of the virus and allows the virus to travel unchallenged through the air; 2) low ventilation rates as fresh air is limited and 3) lower performance of our bodies’ natural defence mechanisms as airways and mucus membranes are drier.  This all leads to the perfect environment for spreading disease.

Can the solution be introducing humidity into the air? Could it be that simple?

The answer is yes. Not only can humidity assist with reducing the transmission of the virus – whether this be the common cold or Covid-19 – it also makes the environment more comfortable for human occupancy. Dry air dries out your mucus membrane in our nose and throat which is your defence mechanism again catching airborne viruses if moist. Dry eyes, eczema and asthma are all exacerbated by low humidity, and concentration levels and productivity also fall when we start to dehydrate.

Maintaining air at 50%rh will relieve this.

Installing a humidifier is not big money, it is straightforward to install with the correct advice, and provides all the benefits discussed above.  In addition, however, maintaining a stable relative humidity at typically between 40-60% can have significant benefits in terms of the performance of equipment and machinery, by reducing static, providing dimensional stability to hydroscopic materials such as paper and wood, ensuring consistency in quality of output in food production and storage, to name but a few.

From a contractor’s viewpoint it is another piece of equipment to install and maintain.  From the end user’s point of view this could be a game-changer in both occupant health and business performance.

These are not new arguments, and the documentation has been around for many years but it has taken the Covid-19 pandemic to raise the profile once again – even getting airtime on the BBC evening news. The good news is that systems can very often be retro-fitted, can often be unobtrusive, and are frequently less costly than is expected, with a fast and clearly identifiable return on investment.

Health, productivity, profit.

Humidity may be invisible, but its effects are considerable.

Indoor Air Quality And Virus Control In Care Homes – What’s The Link?

There have been many debates over the years over the importance of indoor air quality, and the significance it plays in not only overall health, but also in infection and virus control. Now, with a pandemic in full swing, this debate has become more important than ever. But the biggest question on anyone’s mind is, do we really know the role humidity control can play in indoor air quality? And if it does, what kinds of solutions can we put in place to protect our most vulnerable, at-risk people working and living in care homes, hospitals and other places of work? Today, we examine this important question. 

 

The Issue

Clearly, since Covid-19 swept the globe, the emphasis on infection control has never been more important – in any setting. Individuals and business owners are doing everything they can to control the spread of the virus and protect themselves and their customers. But in that mix there are a few areas where infection control is even more important – places that vulnerable, at-risk people spend a lot of time. In particular, this includes care homes and hospitals. These industries are looking for any way to help limit the transmission of airborne viruses within their walls, which means looking beyond the standard PPE and hand sanitization protocols.

This forms part of the greater discussion around indoor air quality, and how we can protect people who are working, studying or being cared for in increasingly airtight buildings for the majority of their day. We already know that the quality of the indoor air we breathe can have a huge impact on our health, and we know that effective humidity solutions can help control infections, so the impact it could have with Covid-19 could be the difference between a huge spike in infections, or no infections rise at all.

What Does the Data Say?

Thankfully, there is a lot of data on hand to help us understand why appropriate humidification solutions could have a massive impact on virus transmission. Studies have shown that maintaining a humidity of 50%rh will effectively reduce the transmission of viruses. It does this by keeping the bodies defence mechanism (the mucus membranes in your nose and throat) moist, so they are able to catch airborne bacteria and viruses, trapping them before they enter the body. Over time, maintaining a relative humidity (rh) of between 30% and 60% has been shown to significantly influence the survival rate of viruses (both airborne and not), as well as reduce the transmission and infectiousness level of viral diseases. 

More recent research has also been done into the impact of relative humidity on specific families of viruses, like influenza and even coronavirus. These studies focussed on the survival of the disease on surfaces and in the air column- and the rates on infection under different environmental conditions in these places. The key findings from these studies are:

Figure 1: Effect of pathogens, microbes, and environmental contaminants on human beings. From Sterling et al. (1985).

  • Maintaining an indoor relative humidity between 40%-60% may help to limit the spread and survival of novel coronavirus. Humidification maintains hydrated and intact mucosal barriers of human occupants, resulting in an increase resistance against any microbial attack. (Dietz et al., 2020).

  • While coronaviruses are durable on surfaces relative to influenza viruses, survival rates are reduced at moderate RH of 50%. (Casanova et al., 2010)

  • The infectiousness of airborne influenza viruses was significantly reduced when RH was above 40% (Noti et al., 2013)

  • Humidification in homes can reduce survival of influenza and promote recovery, by improving restfulness, in sick individuals (Myatt et al., 2010)

  • Maintaining 40-45% RH in hospitals reduced perceived air dryness and airway symptoms of patients and hospital staff (Nordström et al., 1994).

So as you can see, the relative humidity of the environment does play a significant role in the transmission and effectiveness of viral diseases.

How Does Humidity Control Help?

In some cases, humidity solutions will already be in place – grandfathered into a building, or specifically installed to control the environment for commercial purposes (like printing presses or meat curing). But where there isn’t a humidity control system in place, is there a practical solution to retrofit one into an office, care home, classroom etc?

Mobile humidifiers could be used, but they require a lot of maintenance, with regular manual filling, as well as taking up a lot of floor space. Commercial systems can also be installed directly into the fresh air supply (AHU), but sometimes this isn’t possible, or there isn’t an AHU system installed into the building to be used.

One excellent solution is to use something called a HomEvap. This is a cold water, evaporative humidifier, which can be fitted into a heat recovery unit in any house, or supplied with a fan to be neatly installed above a false ceiling in an office. Out of the way, plumbed in, and providing excellent control automatically. This system uses energy between 20-90 watts, depending on if you require a fan or not. A single humidifier can evaporate 5 litres of water per hour which will provide humidity control to a space with a volume of approximately 1200m3.  The result is a comfortable, healthier environment for net zero energy usage (temperature can be reduced by 2⁰C when the humidity is raised from 30 – 50%rh for the same thermal comfort).

In care homes specifically, the solution is often not to put the humidifier in the day room or bedrooms, but to control the humidity in the corridors serving these rooms and to allow the humidity to migrate to the areas of concern. This solution means there is no noise issue (although very low in a bedroom, a small fan can still be a nuisance), and maintenance doesn’t disturb the occupant of the room. It’s the perfect happy medium, allowing care homes to control the relative humidity of their environment and reduce infection, without requiring huge structural changes and generating big bills.

The HomEvap Direct

Ideal for buildings where no mechanical ventilation is already in place

At Humidity Solutions, we have a wealth of experience, expertise and practical knowledge in the field of humidity control.

If you would like to know more, please just get in touch to book your free consultation.

Let’s Buy British

With the out break of Covid 19 the country has battened down the hatches and made our best effort to limit the effect of the Virus on the population.  As we loosen the restrictions, hopefully we will manage to keep the situation under control until a vaccine can be successfully produced.

However, as has been widely reported, the UK economy will likely take the biggest hit it has ever experienced, leading us into recession and tough times ahead.

Staycations are being promoted to get the UK holiday sector back up and running and I am sure we will all support our local shops, pubs, and gyms when they can re-open to give them a boost.

The same can be done in business.  Supporting UK companies who sell UK produced goods should be considered, and changes made to support our home market and jobs.

To learn more about humidity control

British Made Steam Humidifiers

I may be accused of self-interest here and rightly so.  I started Humidity Solutions 11 years ago and whilst not all our suppliers are UK-based, we do represent Vapac who are the only UK steam humidifier manufacturer.  Made in Brierley Hill in the West Midlands, the company is British owned with a strong UK history, the founding company Eaton Williams being based just down the road from us in Edenbridge, Kent.  Most of the components are still locally sourced in the UK; circuit boards, steam cylinders, cabinets and valves are all UK manufactured, providing jobs and income for the UK economy.

Competitors to the steam humidifier from Switzerland, Italy and America are sold in the UK, but offer little or no technical or price advantage.  By comparison they have a large carbon footprint with the additional transportation and commonly have the disadvantage of longer lead times for delivery and poor technical back up.

This argument cannot only be made for humidifiers: in the HVAC sector the same could be said of Air handling units, close control air conditioning systems, controls, and sensors.

So, whether it be using your local butcher, having a holiday in the UK, or buying a steam humidifier – let’s pull together and consider buying British.

Humidity Control – A Day In The Life

When I meet new people, they often ask about what I do for a living. It’s just polite after all. And because I work in quite a niche industry, it’s often difficult to explain what an average day looks like for me. The truth is that since we service so many industries and sectors, a day in the life of a specialist in humidity control is never dull. And to prove it, I took some notes on what I did during an average day a few weeks ago, just to share with you today. After 31 years I still find it fascinating, and who knows, by the end of this you might too.

 

On this particular day I had been invited to survey three very different businesses, with different applications for humidity control and very different reasons.

 

The day started with a trip to an artisan producer called Salt Pig Curing. Ben Dulley (the owner) processes meat products to increase their value, and then created salami and other cured meats at relatively low volumes to sell on to local farm shops and restaurants. Tasty!

 

Charcuterie production typically requires both dehumidification and humidification at different stages. Dehumidification is needed at first when new, ‘wet’ produce is introduced into the storage area. As it dehydrates and moves through the curing process, humidification needs to be implemented to prevent the outer surfaces of the meat from drying out too quickly. Luckily, both of these processes can be controlled from a single controller, allowing the facility to achieve the ideal relative humidity for them – 85%.

 

Next up was a company called Lightning Source – a high-volume book producer and digital printer. They print over 5 million books a year on an on-demand basis, and run out of a factory the size of a football pitch, with state-of-the-art machinery and printers. It’s a fascinating place to visit! And it turns out that if you order a book from Amazon and it says it’s in stock – the chances are it probably isn’t. Instead as soon as you hit that buy button, a message is sent to printers like this, who will produce the book within a few hours and send it out to you the next day.

 

In this environment humidity control is essential to create the right conditions needed to achieve the volume needed without any excess waste. This means a stable 50% rh to prevent the paper from drying out or curling, and to prevent static from forming in the machines, keeping them moving quickly and keeping the end product stable and high-quality.

 

The final meeting of the day was with Monmouth Scientific, a contractor specialising in cleanrooms. In this instance we were called in to offer advice on creating an environment in a University lab that requires close control at 50%rh +/- 2%rh. In this room medical experiments would be run on a daily basis, so the humidity needed to be carefully monitored and controlled so that the experiments weren’t compromised. Repeatability and stability are key in this installation, so it needs to be planned and tested carefully. Humidity was to be introduced into the room through an air movement system, where the temperature and filtration is tightly controlled.

 

To summarise, I visited a local food producer, a state-of-the-art mass production printer and finally a high-tech cleanroom contractor. In itself this is a wide range of applications, but during that same fortnight I visited a hot yoga studio, the Tate gallery, a manufacturer providing glue curing for Jaguar Land Rover sunroofs and a data centre – so all in all it was an average day.

 

All these applications require humidity control, with humidifiers and dehumidifiers being the solution but requiring specialist application knowledge, experience and understanding to provide the conditions required.

 

And there you have it! That’s an average day for me. What do you think?

Why Wood Processing Needs Humidity Control, Not Just Temperature Control

If you’ve ever lived in a house with wooden doors and doorframes (and we’re going to presume you have), you probably know how much temperature can impact wood. When it gets cold, wood tends to swell, and when it’s warm out, it shrinks back. But did you know that it’s not really anything to do with temperature at all – but humidity?

 

 

Wood And Humidity

 

Let’s start with the basics. Wood is a natural substance, very common building material and attractive medium for building furniture, decorations and artwork in. Almost every home in the country will have wood in it somewhere, in some form or another.

 

But wood is a hygroscopic material, which means its internal moisture content will fluctuate based on the relative humidity (or rh) or the surrounding air. This means that as the humidity increases, the moisture content increases, and the wood expands. When the humidity drops, the moisture content decreases and the wood shrinks. This is why your wooden doors and doorframes might fit differently at different times of the year. During the winter the moisture content in the air is high, and so the wood in your home will swell. During the summer heat it’s low, and so it will shrink back down.

 

While this might seem like nothing worth writing home about for you, when it comes to manufacturing or processing anything to do with wood, it can present real problems.

 

 

Drying Wood

 

The manufacturing process of wood starts when the tree is felled, and already moisture and humidity control is a key factor. In a tree that’s just been felled the wood is ‘green’, and free water (otherwise known as sap) fills the cavities. This free water accounts for around 72% of the total moisture content of the tree, depending on the species. The remaining 28% of water volume is within the wood fibres, saturating the cell walls. This is called bound water, and it’s what causes the fibres to swell – just like a sponge swells when you get it wet.

 

As the green wood dries, the free water evaporates first, and then the bound water. The shape and size of the wood generally won’t change (this is called being ‘dimensionally stable) as it loses the free water, but as soon as the bound water starts to evaporate it will contract and shrink. Generally wood will dry to a moisture content of between 4%-11%, but it never really comes to a rest. The amount of bound water in the wood will continually change with the amount of water in the surrounding atmosphere, gaining or losing about 1% of moisture content for every 5% change in relative humidity. So for wood manufacturers the key is to try to create a stable environment so the product changes as little as possible during creation.

 

 

Why Control Humidity In Wood Manufacturing And Processing?

 

So the first, and maybe most obvious reason you would want to control humidity within wood manufacturing, is to create a stable, repeatable product without imperfections. Creating that perfect, controlled environment with the right level of rh has a huge impact on the final product, so humidity solutions can help you to create higher-quality results with minimal investment.

 

Not only that, but dry air can result in the wood textile fibres becoming fragile and breaking as they run through looms, causing massive delays to manufacturers who need to continuously repair machines. Dry air also creates something called micro-dust ‘flocks’, which are formed from the dust particles of the wood clumping together. These can get caught in machinery and looms and cause significant damage.

 

Humidity control addresses every single one of these issues, creating the perfect environment for wood processing, manufacturing and treatment. This is one of the reasons humidity control is such an important issue for wood and timber manufacturing plants. At Humidity Solutions we provide a range of solutions to solve all of these problems and keep plants working at optimum. If you would like to know more, read out our timber and wood processing solutions here or get in touch with the team today.

 

Solving Humidity Issues In Manufacturing

As seasons change and temperatures begin to vary from day to day (don’t you love British weather?), manufacturing facilities, processing plants and other manufacturers may notice their HVAC system alternating between heating and cooling, sometimes on an hourly basis. But even with the best in-house climate control system, temperature swings can create unique issues for manufacturing facilities in terms of humidity. In order to keep their plants working as normal and prevent delays, they need to control the humidity variables properly.

 

 

Common Issues Caused By Humidity

 

Manufacturing is a delicate process, often with a lot of tight specifications to work to. But depending on what is being manufactured, a lot of the issues faced will depend on their individual specialisms. For example:

 

  • Machine shops will often suffer, particularly during big swings in outdoor humidity. The build-up on indoor moisture can cause condensation on equipment, wet floors and saturated electrical panels – all of which are an accident waiting to happen.

 

  • Plastic injection moulding machinery is often water-cooled. Any moisture forming on the machines can result in product discolouration.

 

  • Printing facilities can suffer from paper wrinkling, shrinking or expanding, all of which cause ink registration problems.

 

  • Drying cycles, or more specifically any product that requires a specific drying cycle during the manufacturing process. Examples include plants that manufacture or store dry foods like spices, cereal and candy, or producers of recycled rubber mulch. If air moisture levels are too high, drying times can be longer than needed, slowing production, losing productivity and increasing energy consumption. Dry food packaging plants also risk compromising food quality if a consistent indoor environment is not properly maintained.

 

But overall, the main issue for manufacturing is keeping the excess moisture in the air at a minimum so that it doesn’t interfere with the final product. If it does, it can cost manufacturing companies thousands in ruined merchandise and work.

 

All of these small issues can quickly snowball into big problems for manufacturers on tight deadlines. So rather than wait for these issues to come about, they need to install a humidity solution to prevent them.

 

 

Solving Humidity Problems

 

So how can manufacturing plants ensure that their processes aren’t disturbed by fluctuations in humidity? First, ensuring the premises is properly sealed with a vapour barrier in the walls and ceilings. This step prevents moisture and humidity from seeping into your building.

 

The next, and perhaps most important step is to get a dehumidification system installed to control the humidity levels at all times. Depending on what is being manufactured, the level you need to keep the humidity at will vary, so an expert will be able to design a custom system to meet those requirements. They will also be able to ensure all air introduced into the manufacturing space is properly treated, with air run through the humidification system to remove excess moisture before it enters the building.

 

Ideal dehumidification solutions will allow for a perfect energy balance; by focusing on air extraction, heat transfer, maximum relative humidity in each season, temperature inside the building, and level of humidity caused by production, you can craft a customized dehumidification system for your unique needs.

 

 

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.

 

2019 In Review

Well. We’re nearly at the end of another year, and what a year 2019 has been.

 

For us at Humidity Solutions, it’s been a year of growth, change and exciting new challenges. The main feature of our year is that we have been able to report double digit growth for the 11th year in a row – something everyone in the office is very, very proud of. We’ve also grown our team, with a number of new staff members bringing some needed youth and life into the company – complete with the energy and ideas needed to fuel all that amazing growth.

 

We have become exclusive UK distributors for two new manufacturers. In April, we signed an agreement with Vapac, who manufacture electrode steam boiler humidifiers in the West Midlands – great to have a strong British brand as part of our range.  More recently, we now supply a superb range of desiccant dehumidifiers from Cotes, a Danish company with an excellent reputation for quality and reliability across a wide variety of applications.  Added to our existing brands, we are confident in the knowledge that we can source exactly the right equipment for any of the unique applications we come across.

 

We were delighted and honoured to be asked to contribute to the 2019 Parliamentary Review, to share our expertise and knowledge of the benefits of humidity control in industrial and commercial processes as well as general health and wellbeing. It is essential that politicians have a firm understanding of the challenges with which British organisations must contend, and The Review once again provides a perfect platform for this.

 

Of course, it’s about more than just us. Nationally, two stories have dominated the deadlines. Brexit, that seemingly never-ending saga has been keeping everyone on edge, keeping uncertainty looming over the country for yet another year. We’re quite lucky in that it’s not affected us directly too much, other than a few more customers being wary of investing, uncertain of the future of the country.  Whatever your view of the outcome of the recent election, I hope that we will now at least have a period of more certainty and the government can get on and honour some of their pledges.  The markets’ initial response appears to be favourable.

 

The area that interests us more as a business is the second story – something that’s been floating around the headlines at various points during the year, and that we can actually help with – Indoor Air Quality. Humidity control is a key part of the solution in creating a pleasant and healthy environment for employees, reducing employee absenteeism through things like colds, flu, eczema and sore eyes, and generally improving performance. Of course there are far more severe repercussions of poor air quality, its effect on internal organs and the spread of airborne bacteria and viruses.  We need to work together to set clear standards, both indoor and outdoor, to improve this.

 

We’re noticing that this message is getting spread more and more through two international pharmaceutical companies, who are actively carrying out studies into office environments and measuring the productivity differences between those with and without humidity control. We’ve actually been involved in these studies ourselves, and it’s been a fantastic and really interesting experience. Of course, the commercial side of things is the driver, but it’s wonderful when it also means a healthier environment for people to work in. After all, many of us don’t generally have a choice but to be in an office for the majority of our waking hours in what can be a highly polluted atmosphere – up to 5 times more polluted than the outside air!!

 

And so Humidity Solutions enters 2020 with exciting new opportunities ahead of us as we continue our growth in the humidifier and dehumidifier sectors, along with the rapidly growing after sales servicing and planned maintenance services, which have continued to get high praise year round.

 

May I take this opportunity to wish you all every best wish for Christmas and the New Year – what does 2020 hold for you?

Lithium Battery Manufacturing – Why Is Humidity Important?

There are plenty of examples we could give of mainstream product manufacturing or use that are obvious candidates for humidity solutions. Pharmaceuticals, food and even IT equipment to name a few. But what if we told you that sometimes it’s the least obvious areas of the industry that require the most support, and it’s one of those we want to talk about today. The manufacturing of the simple lithium battery, like the ones you would put in your TV remote, takes place in ultra-low humidity dry rooms, from small R&D labs for newer models all the way through to large scale mass production facilities. But why is this, and what would happen if the humidity wasn’t right?

 

 

Changing Technology

 

Like many things in the modern world, lithium battery technology is changing all the time, and in quite dramatic ways. New materials and chemical reactions are being tested every day, all in the name of reducing costs and meeting the ever-growing demand. But in order to be done efficiently and safely, it’s important that these tests be done in a specially designed, ultra-low humidity dry rooms. This is primarily because of the chemical reactions that can happen if they aren’t.

 

 

Chemical Reactions

 

Whenever you’re working with chemicals the environment you work in must be very carefully considered. With batteries, you have chemical components like lithium-ion, lithium iron phosphate, graphene and more, which means you need a stable environment with less than 1% humidity, as these particularly chemicals are highly sensitive to moisture.

 

Here’s where it gets scientific. A reaction between lithium and water is exothermic, which means it generates heat, and produces a substance called lithium hydroxide, along with hydrogen. The heat from that reaction can, if left unchecked, potentially lead to burning or an explosion. In order to minimize this risk manufacturers need to minimize the water content in the air at all times, maintaining an ultra-ow humidity environment.

 

On top of the safety concerns, keeping air moisture levels low is necessary to help achieve high levels of product yield, better quality control, energy efficiency, cycle life and even end storage capacity for every batter produced in the plant. In short, it might be the single most important element in creating a manufacturing space for lithium batteries.

 

 

Dry Room Applications

 

When we look at this kind of installation ‘known as a dry room’, the applications are actually much wider than just lithium batteries – all it takes is a unique angle. With the advent of consumer electronics, electric vehicles, solar power and grid storage applications, there is a huge variety of battery production processes, each using a unique chemical process and needing its own environmental controls.

This means that as well as the chemistry side of things, a lot of other things factor in to deciding what the dehumidification capacity needed for a dry room. The dehumidification system must be custom designed with enough drying capacity to be able to maintain the dry room at the specified condition.  Most battery manufacturers require that a room’s humidity/average moisture level be maintained as low as -40°C dew point (0.5% Relative Humidity at 72°F) and sometimes even lower. Some of the factors that need to be taken into account include:

 

  • Dry room size
  • Type of chemistry and process
  • Moisture infiltration
  • Personnel activity within the room
  • Airlocks for material and personnel movement

 

 

And that’s just the beginning. All of that means that it is very difficult to find a single solution that can address all of these issues, falls within budget and is reliable enough to stand up to the rigorous safety standards required by the industry.

 

At Humidity Solutions we love a challenge like this. Because we produce bespoke solutions, we can design a dehumidification system that can address every single one of your concerns without having to buy multiple systems from multiple places. Instead, we are your one stop shop for dehumidification and environmental control, ensuring you have the perfect environment for lithium and other kinds of battery manufacturing. If you would like to know more, just get in touch with us today.

 

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.

To learn more about humidity control

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.

To learn more about humidity control

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: https://www.humiditysolutions.co.uk/humidity-solutions-print-book-form/