Most cool room managers are familiar with several condensation triggers. A troublesome door or door seal allows air to seep into the chilled enclosure, or maybe a new staff member has been propping a hinged panel open for several long minutes at a time. Be that as it may, there could be several unknown causative factors for every easily explained condensation instigator, so we need to work smart here.
The Science Behind Condensation Challenges
Warm air stores heat, which is probably why wet and warm countries get so humid. The air literally becomes heavy with tiny beads of water. Now, on returning to a cool room, cold air cannot hold moisture. That’s just how the laws of thermodynamics work. Because of that scientifically verified precept, airborne moisture in a cold room will collect on a chilled surface. And that’s what happens when ambient temperature airflows get into a cool room. Through a cracked seal or slightly open door, ordinary levels of humidity, as contained in the air we breathe, get into a cold room and end up dropping onto exposed surfaces. These “droplets” generally collect on chilled materials, such as glass panels and stainless steel fittings.
Condensation Headaches: Weighing the Causative Factors
As was mentioned in this post’s opening passage, door problems aren’t the only troublemakers here. Poorly insulated walls are potential culprits too. Or perhaps the insulation is functioning, but a crack has opened up between a pair of poorly aligned cool room wall panels. Is this a newer piece of equipment? If so, composite panels of high-tech insulation stop enclosure breaches from occurring. On the other hand, older units, loaded with fibreglass and other old-style insulation materials, can absorb dampness. That’s no good, for now the insulation isn’t only failing as a heat rejection barrier; the material is also trapping water and generating condensation.
Left unresolved, beads of water can raise the temperature in a cool room. The droplets get into equipment, or they become a breeding ground for mould colonies. So, what’s the solution? Beyond keeping the doors closed and the seals intact, how does a site manager deal with the above condensation producing triggers? A call to a service engineer is recommended, then a check of the chamber’s wall insulation can be given action. If this is a warehouse cold zone, there’s another solution that can be implemented. Let’s say trucks pull up to an open dock door. Plastic curtains, if not already fitted, should be added as a warm air buffer. It’s the same outside a walk-in or glass-panelled unit, this time with dehumidifier equipment keeping the outside air dry.
Although restaurateurs would wish otherwise, mould can survive inside a chilly cool room. That’s clearly an unacceptable situation. If a hardy mould strain somehow finds its way towards a rack of cold-stored food, the opportunistic growth could very well cause inventory spoilage. And that’s the least of a walk-in unit’s worries, for contaminated foodstuff constitute a significant health risk. Using a know-thy-enemy mindset, though, we can subdue this pernicious threat.
Know About Mould-Friendly Conditions
If a cool room engineer were to sit down with an HVAC worker, they’d probably share tales about their worst jobs. Right away, they’d discover they shared common ground. In both walk-in cooling chambers and heating and ventilation work, humidity issues can get out of control. They’d also agree on this one dismal fact, the notion that mould and bacteria growths love humid conditions. Alas, cool rooms produce condensate films, so they’re regarded as naturally damp enclosures. As a side note, a humidity level of 70% or above will cause mould patches to flourish and spread.
Growth Terminating Preventative Measures
In other rooms, that troubled HVAC engineers can introduce a heater, one that’ll dry out a wet air stream. Okay, so that’s not a workable option inside a chilled cold room, but that doesn’t mean we’re stuck for solutions. First things first, is the inventory wet? Fresh flowers and seafood both produce water, so use the following moisture reducing measures to keep the humidity level low. With a sharp-eyed staff member inside the chamber, have this alert individual check for patches of standing water or condensation build-ups. Using an absorbent cloth, one that’s not contaminated, wipe up the wet patch. As part of a staff training seminar, standard operating procedures should also be driven home. For example, enclosure doors must be kept closed, not ajar and certainly never left wide open for several long minutes.
At least half of the humidity triggering causes can be laid at the feet of incautious staff members. Spills must be cleaned up immediately. Even if the wet puddle is water, it must be washed up straight away, for mould and bacteria colonies use wet conditions to accelerate their spread. If the above measures don’t seem to make any impact whatsoever, perhaps the problem is closer at hand. In this case, a phone call to a professionally accredited refrigeration service is the answer. Dispatched to find the source of the humidity, the technicians clean the condenser and evaporator coils, plus the fans that draw in the chill airflow. Just in closing, special sanitation mists are now available. They reach into inaccessible spaces to sterilize cool room corners and cavities.
C&M Coolrooms can create a custom solution for your specific needs. Talk to one of team members today.