BSEE Installation News April 2021

Improvements at Ash Safety with Humidity Solutions’ Dehumidifiers

Humidity Solutions Ltd recently installed a desiccant dehumidifier and controller for confined space and height safety specialists – Ash Safety – as part of a major upgrade in their chemical re-breather service area, to ensure that the humidity control consistently remains within the workable limits for MSA 30-100 and MSA Savox re-breathers.

The specialist service room used by Ash Safety to service their MSA units must be kept at a relative humidity consistently below 19%, in room temperature of around 18⁰C, due to the chemicals in the re-breathers. Previously, this was only maintained for limited periods, and fluctuated out of range as engineers entered or exited the room, significantly reducing the number of units that could be serviced in a day.

Following site visit and consultation, Humidity Solutions’ dehumidification specialist, Lindsey Henderson, recommended the Cotes All-Round C30 desiccant dehumidifier with a DA 20 Controller to adjust the set point.  Since installation, the system has held condition consistently below 15%rh at a temperature of 17⁰C and the customer is very happy as he can now service many more units each day, which in turn means better service to their customers.

Ash Safety commented “we now have a specialist industrial dehumidifier that takes into account the person working in the room and delivers humidity levels that are constantly within the working range.  It also looks pretty cool – no pun intended!”

Humidity Solutions design, install and maintain a comprehensive range of humidification and dehumidification systems of all capacities to suit a wide variety of industrial, commercial and domestic applications.

If you would like to discuss your own requirements or arrange a call back, please complete the form below:

Riding High in Air Purification

Air Purifiers protect against Covid and pollution risk and boost public confidence in enclosed spaces.

Thorpe Park and Warwick Castle – both under the banner of Merlin Entertainments – are recent customers for Humidity Solutions’ new range of Mia Air purifiers.   The units are to be used in areas which are judged to benefit from additional safeguards and improved air movement and filtration, many of which are service areas for the rides and attractions. Operations staff can spend several hours a day in these areas so the company is keen to improve the indoor air quality of their environment and protect them against the potential risk of Covid.

 

The Government’s most recent slogan to ensure we all continue to manage the Covid risk notably now includes Fresh Air, and, as businesses in all sectors are starting to reopen, and employees and visitors are returning to the workplace in larger numbers, focus is on how to ensure this, particularly when immediate sources of ventilation and/or fresh air from outside are less practicable.  This is an issue for many spaces, given the increasing popularity for ‘air-tight’ buildings such as office blocks, hotel rooms, gyms etc., and where mechanical ventilation may not be installed.

In these circumstances free-standing, mobile air purification units are the solution, and they also offer the added visible reassurance to staff and visitors that measures are in place to protect their health and wellbeing.

The need for effective air filtration in helping limit the spread of COVID-19 is based on growing evidence that Coronavirus can be spread by tiny particles called aerosols.  Breathing, talking, coughing and sneezing all produce droplets and aerosols that may, if the host is infected, contain pathogens. Larger droplets fall by gravity onto surfaces within 1 – 2m from the source, which is why 2m social distancing is recommended along with regular hand washing and hygiene measures. Smaller aerosols however can stay airborne for hours, especially when humidity is low, which enables them to travel longer distances where they could infect secondary hosts, particularly in poorly ventilated spaces.

Room air purifiers are generally standalone devices containing a fan to pull air through a high efficiency air filter. To be effective a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter should be used, which can filter out the COVID-19 virus. There is a wide choice of units on the market now, but many are only effective over a small area so it is important to consider both the capacity of the unit and the type of filter used.

The Mia Air has one of the larger capacities currently on the market, with the ability to clean an air volume of up to 900m³ per hour.  A practical panel display allows the user to continuously monitor VOCs, PM1 / PM2.5 / PM10, CO2, temperature and humidity.  Surprisingly quiet, the unit can either automatically switch between operating levels according to the ambient air quality, or be manually adjusted directly or remotely via an App.  The unit also has a built in UV light which has proven fast, reliable, ozone-free and chemical-free disinfection.

Air purification not only protects against the Covid-19 virus, but is also beneficial in removing dust particles, pollen, allergens, chemical vapours and odours from the air, and is therefore recommended for many commercial, hospitality and leisure facilities.  The Mia Air range includes units which can safely and efficiently handle air volumes from 350m³ up to 2000m³ per hour.

Find out more here, or contact our team to speak to a specialist about your own requirements.

Britain’s Growing Cannabis Industry

The UK is the world’s largest producer of legal cannabis, the growth of the market being in response to a swelling market for cannabis products. The emergence of approved and regulated drugs to treat conditions such as epilepsy, along with a gradual relaxing of legislation around medicinal use – including in the UK in November 2018 – has contributed to a growing demand for high quality, carefully grown cannabis plants. According to the publication Health Europa, the global medical cannabis market was worth $13.4bn (£10bn) in 2018 and is projected to grow to $148bn by 2026.

Vast greenhouses are expanding throughout the UK, from Dumfries and Galloway, to Lincolnshire, Wiltshire and Norfolk. One of the most important factors in the cultivation of cannabis is humidity control.  Humidity impacts almost every aspect of a grow operation – including photosynthesis and transpiration, vapour pressure deficit (VPD) and nutrient uptake, pest and pathogen pressure, room temperature and leaf temperature, and ultimately the yield and quality of the product grown. Accurate and consistent humidity control will reap great rewards in the increasingly competitive arena of indoor horticulture.

Transpiration is an important physiological process that plants go through to take in nutrients and maintain turgor pressure. Transpiration results in plants releasing water into the air, which has a significant environmental impact on both temperature and relative humidity. Transpiration directly impacts VPD, or the pressure difference between the intracellular membrane of a plant’s leaf and the air of a grow room. VPD is the physical force drawing water vapor up the stem from the roots and out of the leaf. A VPD that is too low will inhibit transpiration, decreasing the rate at which water and nutrients flow through a plant, which ultimately will slow growth.

Relative humidity and the plant life cycle

Genotype + Environment = Phenotype.

Plants need several basic inputs in order to grow: light, water, nutrients, oxygen, root zone temperature, microbes, temperature, humidity, airflow and carbon dioxide. Plant systems are interconnected in such a way that growers must understand the impact of one input on potentially several others.

Some plants grow better in different relative humidity ranges during different stages of growth, so growers must control relative humidity specific to each stage of the plant life cycle. Doing so can influence plant vitality, product quality, genetics, and overall yield.

In general, the ideal humidity for cannabis plants in seedling form is 70%, dropping to 50%-55% while in flowering and vegetative form, and reducing furthermore for the drying purpose to around 40-50%. As stated, these figures could differ depending on the genetics of the cannabis plant, but with any drying process it is important not to dry too quickly so a gradual drying process is required.

Conversely, if relative humidity levels are too high, the transpiration process will slow down and there may be many other negative impacts on plant health and secondary metabolite production.

In all stages of growth, cannabis plants need a constant intake of water, but the amount of water they need will fluctuate based on a variety of factors. Because humidity will directly impact how much water the plants take in, controlling the humidity gives growers increased control over nutrient uptake and therefore control over plant growth and plant health.

Humidity also has a direct effect on disease and pest infestation issues such as powdery mildew and botrytis. Mould can be problematic for cannabis production so it is vital the correct humidity is adhered to as mould can spread quickly through the crop and, once present, can lead to the whole crop being rejected as strict standards need to be adhered to in order to ensure the consistency and quality of the products that medical practitioners prescribe to their patients.

Controlling Relative Humidity

Effective and efficient humidity control begins with selecting the correct level and combination of environmental control systems like heating, ventilation, air conditioning and humidity control specific to each unique operation. The correct equipment can be used to maintain temperature, manage humidity levels and minimise threat of disease at each stage of the plant growth cycle.

Right-sizing cultivation and drying systems means balancing capital costs with risk tolerance to maximise profit and optimise long-term operating expenses, all while ensuring the system has the capacity required to manage the growing environment and meet production goals.

Even small changes in humidity setpoints can have a dramatic impact on both plant growth and equipment selection. Humidity is one of the most critical factors in cannabis cultivation, yet many growers lack a complete understanding of controlling and manipulating humidity levels to maximize plant health and yield, minimise risk of disease, and increase revenue.

British Quality: Built to Last

What do the E-Type Jaguar and the Vapac Electrode boiler Steam humidifier have in common?

I have to admit that the Vapac Humidifier does not appear on the list of iconic designs of the 20th Century. Neither has it appeared in films such as the Italian Job or Casino Royale.

However, both share a significant anniversary this year. For the E-type it is 60 years since the first car rolled – or should I say roared – off the production line, as at the time it was the fastest production car in the World. Designed by Malcolm Sayer with its 3.4 litres of power travelling through the wire wheels and propelling the celebrities of the day such as George Best, Twiggy and George Harrison to the next social event or photo shoot.

Without David Bailey or Lord Snowdon turning up, and marginally less fanfare or press coverage, the Vapac Steam humidifier was first produced in 1971 in Edenbridge, Kent by Eaton Williams ltd with the Humidifier being designed by the company founder Ray Eaton-Williams and so celebrates its 50th Anniversary this year.

For Vapac the stars of the day didn’t turn out to be photographed with the latest trappings of their lucrative high-profile careers.

However, fashion has a limited life, the styles of the day change, the new ‘latest’ toys turn up and steal the limelight. The Vapac steam humidifier was not burdened with these concerns.

Unlike the E-type, the Vapac humidifier – whilst having had several revamps over the years – works on the same basic principles of generated steam in a controlled manner and is still very much in production providing the reliability and consistency of performance that became synonymous with its name.

Vapac quickly established itself as a market leader not only in the UK but across the globe, becoming the ‘Hoover’ brand in its field of air conditioning humidity control. The Industry did not speak about installing an ‘electrode boiler humidifier’ just as people did not think of buying a ‘vacuum cleaner’.  Air conditioning engineers and specifying consultants would simply ask for a Vapac’.

Today it is still holding its position as the longest standing and most well-known brand of electrode boiler humidifier, and the only unit of this type manufactured in the UK.  Italian, Swiss and German designs have come along to compete using the same technology, but the Vapac brand is still holding its own.

Whilst the stars did not cue up for the humidifier straight out of the show room, most people whatever their status have experienced the benefit of a humidity-controlled environment in their offices, creating ideal conditions in manufacturing plants or the steam for a steam bath in a hotel.

Both brands have their manufacturing base in the West Midlands – the Vapac units are now constructed in Brierley Hill – just west of Birmingham and only 35 miles from the home of Jaguar.

Interestingly the Vapac humidifiers are regularly used in the motor trade creating a climate that assists in the manufacturing of components such as dashboard displays, sunroof construction, veneer stores at the assembly plants or within paint spray booths.

Once produced the emphasis goes on to preservation and conservation with the climate control of garages to store this, and other classic cars – whether this be in residential premises or commercial facilities.

So:

  • Iconic look – no
  • Celebrity status – limited
  • Rock solid reliability – definitely
  • Efficient and effective design – absolutely
  • Value for money – extremely competitive

Combine that with home produced British manufacture and a leading independent UK distributor and you have:

AN IDEAL SOLUTION TO HUMIDITY CONTROL

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.