Temperature and humidity control is more important in food manufacturing than almost any other industry, since food product quality is directly impacted by both. Long before any food item makes it onto anyone’s plate, it has probably gone through a myriad of facilities: from cultivation to processing to storage to delivery. The environments of these facilities are of vital consideration. Plant managers across the food industry supply chain must stay on top of all issues that influence their environments. Industrial coolers, freezers, air conditioning/ventilation systems and many other components of facility infrastructure all play a role in maintaining the proper temperature and humidity levels to protect food quality, prevent spoilage, and keep employees comfortable and safe.
HVLS fans for any season
While almost all building managers are familiar with the acronym HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning), they may not be familiar with a related term, HVLS. High volume, low speed (HVLS) fans can help HVAC systems work more efficiently and economically. In air-conditioned facilities, the breeze from an HVLS fan typically allows for an increase of up to 5 degrees Fahrenheit in the HVAC system’s thermostat setting with no change in comfort. Since electricity costs are reduced approximately 4 percent with each degree the setting is raised, in warm-weather climates, annual costs can be cut by 20 percent.
HVLS fans are also helpful in facilities without HVAC systems, helping to guard against heat stroke, heat exhaustion, and other heat-related maladies by providing workers with an evaporative cooling sensation. Just a 2¬-3 mph breeze can reduce the effective temperature by 7-11 degrees Fahrenheit, making employees safer, more productive, and less prone to quality compromising errors.
The benefits of HVLS fans are equally pronounced during the winter months. The fans, by gently circulating warm air from the ceiling back toward employees at the floor level, destratify the layers of heated air that otherwise would have accumulated and mitigated the rising heat effect. Facilities equipped with HVLS fans can reduce the burden on their heating system and lower the set point on the thermostat, thereby, reducing energy consumption, and saving money.
Many food industry facilities sprawl over tens (or even hundreds) of thousands of square feet, with different areas of the building facing different temperature and humidity challenges. Therefore, multiple fan networks may need to be used, with fans that operate independently of each other. To coordinate these networks, fan control systems have been developed that can control as many as 18 HVLS fans through a single device. The controller allows for independent speed adjustments, scheduled start/stop times, and the ability to start/stop based on preset temperature settings—a feature that can be very important in food operations, such as produce, cheese, or wine storage. It also ensures that fans are only running when they need to run, reducing energy use.
The most advanced HVLS network control systems, when hooked up to an Ethernet port, can be accessed remotely. That means managers can make changes or operate the network from a smartphone, should unforeseen changes in outside conditions (like humidity) occur when the plant is unoccupied. Additionally, HVLS fan networks can be programmed into a building management system (BMS) and connected to other infrastructure equipment such as exhaust fans. A “fire stop” option is also available, with which the BMS will automatically turn off the HVLS fans and activate sprinklers in the event of a fire.
Increasing Cooler and Freezer Efficiency
The same energy efficiency benefits that HVLS fans provide in public areas can be applied in another important area of many food storage operations: industrial coolers and freezers. Through destratification, HVLS fans can help stabilize temperatures in many coolers and freezers from floor to ceiling, allowing for greater accuracy in the thermostat set point reading.