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Whether it’s moisture ruining food products or ice creating safety issues, it’s rare for a humidity problem not to strike at some point. Knowing the symptoms of high humidity and how to address it is critical. For years, many plant operators have tried an assortment of “fixes,” only to waste time and money.
Know the symptoms of high humidity
In the cold chain, frost and condensation are the tell-tale signs that you have a humidity problem. That may seem obvious, but sometimes folks simply assume it’s just a byproduct of working in cold environments where moisture is present, opting to ignore it rather than address it.
It’s important to also look for:
Frost buildup on ceilings, walls and racking
Ice buildup on the floor
Excessive frost load on evaporators
Ice/frost on refrigeration system components
Wet ceilings and staining
Additionally, mold and mildew are clear signs that you have a humidity problem. However, they’re generally more common in smaller facilities where resources to address humidity problems aren’t as readily available.
“Mold and mildew are signs of an advanced humidity problem, where someone has missed the warning signs of high humidity and frost,” Dettmers said.
Developing holistic humidity solutions
Dettmers has built a reputation in the industry as an expert who approaches humidity problems with an unmatched thoroughness and attention to detail, while simultaneously working to simplify and provide the most efficient solution for each project.
After spending time understanding the details of a facility, including its size, production process, primary symptoms, and the HVAC&R design, Dettmers walks through several steps, many of which work in conjunction with desiccant dehumidification.
“I always walk through the entire design with a contractor,” he said. “I try to offer multiple solutions, ask them what they’ve tried. I always want to first work within the parameters specific to their problem.”
Adjust temp set points on evaporators
“Is the problem due to an operational change to the space or could an adjustment to evaporator temperature solve the issue?,” Dettmers said. “Always explore operational set point changes to alleviate the issue before buying equipment.
This may sound obvious but it’s one of the trickiest areas for cold chain facilities to manage. Whether it’s a torn strip curtain or a door propped open, doors need to be properly maintained and used properly.
When issues of frost build up or infiltration still exist, a small desiccant dehumidifier can provide a localized solution.
Investigate air balance for the problem area
Determine the source of the moisture. Often, the moisture originates elsewhere and is drawn into the problem area by an air balance issue
Capture the moisture before it reaches the problem area
If preventing the moisture from entering a problem area is impossible, why not address it at its source? An often simple fix is to place a refrigerant dehumidifier, similar to a Quest 506, in an adjacent room which may be contributing to the moisture problem. Once humidity is controlled in that space, it can stabilize the relative humidity in the cold chain facility, Dettmers said.
Desiccant Dehumidifiers provide another option
Once Dettmers has optimized a facility, working through the steps above, he’ll add desiccant dehumidifiers as needed, rather than trying a handful of other solutions that may or may not work. The reason?
“Desiccant Dehumidifiers are going to get the job done; it’s just that simple,” he said. “Historically, contractors didn’t like the idea of having to add more equipment to a design, because it costs more. But a majority of the time, they’re going to need them regardless, so it’s best to avoid wasting time and money and install them sooner rather than later.”
Another reason desiccant dehumidifiers aren’t the first option is that sizing and pricing has largely been a mystery to contractors. That’s changing, as folks like Dettmers and his team at Quest are pushing transparency and holistic solutions.
“We want to be transparent about how we size and work with customers to solve things. Often it’s a back-and-forth to help customers be informed and know how we designed the solution,” Dettmers said. “That means you don’t have to just hope the money you’re spending on dehumidifiers will fix the problem.”