When it comes to food quality control, humidity and temperature are often primary concerns. Left unchecked, moisture can plague a facility with spoilage and mold as well as pose fall risks to employees—challenges that are only exacerbated when a facility’s temperature levels are irregular.
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Explore This IssueDecember/January 2019
Managing these risks often begins by managing your facility’s indoor air quality. Establishing consistent air quality throughout the various sectors of a structure—from its cold storage to its packaging areas—is paramount to create a steady indoor climate that will support optimal product and employee safety.
Indoor Air Quality
How exactly is this done? Indoor air quality typically refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures. With proper circulation, a majority of air quality concerns can be eliminated—and HVLS (high-volume, low-speed) fans are particularly adept in this area due to their ability to move large volumes of air with minimal energy.
By consistently providing large-scale airflow, HVLS fans accompanied by HVAC systems are critical tools in regulating a facility’s temperature and humidity while preventing stagnant air and a dust-riddled environment. The fans’ high air turns can also eliminate toxic airborne chemicals at a more rapid pace.
Moisture is a daily concern in many food processing, packaging, and manufacturing environments. With frequent washdowns and products that may contain moisture, managing humidity can feel like an uphill battle. Condensation can easily form on the floor in between two different climate-controlled environments, presenting a significant safety hazard.
By increasing a facility’s air circulation and adjusting HVLS fans to an adequate, steady speed, condensation evaporates much more quickly–reducing the risk of slips, trips, and falls as well as pollutants and bacteria associated with unchecked moisture.
For example, Hunter Industrial worked with an award-winning beverage distributor in central Florida whose loading area often experienced condensation buildup on its concrete floors. The team would attempt to scrub the moisture from the floors, but its efforts only provided a temporary fix.
“Due to the condensation on the floors, our employees were constantly at risk of a safety hazard,” says the distributor’s operations manager. “When our team would operate forklifts, they would need to exercise extra caution because of the machines’ tendency to slip on the damp floors. I had a couple small exhaust fans in the facility, but their air movement was only within a few feet of the fans, which doesn’t help to dry the floors at all.”
After installing two 24-foot Hunter Industrial HVLS fans, the operations manager noticed an immediate difference with the fans operating at just half-speed. There was no longer condensation buildup and employees were able to operate forklifts and execute daily tasks more efficiently.
In another instance, a microbrewery in Tennessee saw a need for better airflow and a proper cooling mechanism in its facility, particularly during the hot summer months. While it had ventilation fans installed on the apex of its roof, there was no way to move the air throughout the 12,000 square foot building. Because of the large amounts of water used in the facility, moisture control was a primary issue; the warehouse floor was consistently wet with stagnant moisture, but installing a 16-foot HVLS fan from Hunter Industrial remedied the issue.
In addition to moisture management, most food manufacturing facilities require set temperatures specific to cold storage, dry storage, packaging areas, and more to maintain optimal product safety and quality. In buildings that are expansive and/or have multiple sectors, maintaining these temperature requirements can be a challenge at best.
With the ability for speeds to be programmed systematically or to fit the tailored needs of a specific space, HVLS fans can be efficient solutions in regulating room temperatures—optimizing the operation of HVAC systems and increasing far-reaching indoor air flow to previously underserviced areas.
Additionally, for manufacturing and warehouse spaces that have lofted ceilings, HVLS installations can be particularly useful in de-stratifying an environment. To break this down, when heat is introduced into a space, it forms temperature levels, or strata. The warmest air rises to the ceiling while the coolest air remains at the floor level. HVLS fans can level out these variations, de-stratifying the air so that the desired space achieves a consistent, sustainable air temperature—ultimately stabilizing HVAC costs and helping ensure required temperatures are maintained.
HVLS Fans vs. Conventional Options
Not all fans are created equal. Some of the key differences between HVLS fans versus traditional high-speed fan options are the reduced noise, reduction in energy consumption, and ergonomic safety.
The design of an HVLS ceiling fan allows for a safer working environment, eliminating trip hazards from electrical cords found with high-speed fans—a key factor considering many facility and plant managers identify cords as one of the top workplace hazards. However, with many models of HVLS fans, the overall direct interaction between an employee and a fan is virtually eliminated. This feature is compounded by the maintenance-free aspect of those HVLS fans with direct drive motors, which also eliminate the risk of oil leaks posed by traditional gearbox motors. This particular characteristic has been one of the most beneficial to manufacturers, distributors, and processors in the food and beverage sector.
For instance, Hunter Industrial replaced a food distributor’s HVLS fan after its gearbox motor leaked oil onto its products. The distributor attached a makeshift drip pan underneath the fan to catch leaking oil, which also posed a risk of introducing contaminants into the facility and thereby causing spoilage, so a replacement was clearly needed. After installing a series of industrial fans with direct drive motors, the distributor experienced no further maintenance problems.
Investing in a Comprehensive Solution
Considering all these factors, HVLS fans are emerging as a comprehensive solution to improve energy savings, cost savings, workforce health, and product quality and safety conditions across the board and across industries. The importance of a facility’s air circulation and air management can’t be underestimated, and investments in the right HVLS solution for your facility can make radical transformations in realizing quality assurance standards, while boosting worker productivity and your bottom line.
Chastain is senior vice president and general manager at Hunter Industrial. Reach him at email@example.com.