As difficult as warehouses and factories are to keep warm in the winter, maintaining a cool and comfortable working environment in the summer is an even thornier issue. Working in a warehouse during the hottest summer months is often like trying to work in a greenhouse. The air conditioning system may be puffing away valiantly to keep the space cool, but despite seemingly limitless energy bills, the goal of a comfortable and sustainable working space may seem unattainable.
The Warehouse (Greenhouse) Effect
This July, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire have experienced some of the hottest summer weather for 10 years, so we can only imagine the conditions inside some warehouses and factories in the area. We mentioned above that a poorly air-conditioned warehouse can feel like a greenhouse, and for good reason. In a similar way to a greenhouse, heat from the sun easily penetrates the roofing of a factory or warehouse, warming up the air within.
However, as the hot air rises, it is unable to escape through the roof insulation, which is designed to keep the factory at a workable temperature during winter. The result is a gradual warming of the air within. So, if the air temperature outside is 29°C, as it was at times in July, the air temperature in the upper areas of a warehouse could be as high as 39°C. These are stuffy and dangerous conditions for people to work in, and are detrimental to many stock items.
Traditional air conditioning systems that work well in offices and houses, based as they are on vapour compression, are completely unsuitable to the large open spaces of factories and warehouses. Fortunately, there is a greener, more efficient and cheaper alternative for warehouses and factories: evaporative cooling.
How Evaporative Cooling Works
A typical air conditioning system uses refrigeration to lower the temperature of air. This works either by using chemical refrigerants (vapour compression) or by using an engine to drive a physical cooling process (absorption refrigeration). All this takes energy, whether it comes from a fuel-burning generator, mains electricity or solar panels; and so is not always cost-effective for cooling large spaces. Furthermore, some refrigerant chemicals used in typical systems have a detrimental effect on the environment, making them even less desirable for use in warehouses and factories.
Evaporative cooling is a greener, more cost-effective option as it eschews the use of heaters and chemicals to take advantage of the natural heat conductive properties of water itself. An Evaporative Cooling system uses water vapour to cool the ambient air before it circulates it throughout the internal environment. It is the water vapour itself that lowers the temperature of the air due to waters high heat capacity. The warm stale air is then extracted and discharged back to atmosphere.
The Practical Results Of Evaporative Cooling For Warehouses And Factories
In terms of effectiveness, evaporative cooling systems are the best option for factory air conditioning. When set up correctly, they have the potential to lower the ambient air temperature by 8- 16°C. This means that on a hot summer day of 30°C, the internal warehouse temperature could be a comfortable 22°C. Moreover, to achieve this, an evaporative cooling system uses up to 80% less power than a traditional vapour compression system. They also require less frequent air conditioning servicing, giving them a longer effective working life.
Is Your AC System Fit For Purpose?
With more hot summer weather on the cards, factories in Oxfordshire and Milton Keynes should check to see whether they are getting the best deal from their air-conditioning. To help facilities managers determine how well their AC systems are performing, we have written a free ‘Commercial Air Conditioning Assessment Checklist’, which you can download as an eBook from our website. Please click here to claim your guide today.