Temperature control is one of the biggest maintenance requirements of running a warehouse. Too much heat causes heat stress, which can make employees less productive. Extreme cold also has its shortcomings, including exposing employees to cold-related illnesses. Depending on the nature of the warehouse inventory, extreme heat can cause damages and hefty losses.
The vast space in a warehouse makes temperature control complicated – and expensive. This article addresses the complications of air conditioning in a warehouse and suggests efficient remedies.
The Complications of Temperature Regulation in a Warehouse
There are dozens of complications when regulating temperatures in a warehouse. The most common include:
The biggest difficulty of controlling temperature in a warehouse is keeping the heat or cold in or out, depending on the seasons and preferences. This is because the extra space creates more opportunities for leaks. Common leak points include the large doors (it doesn’t help that these doors open and close frequently) and windows, in addition to any other open points. Warehouses have more leak points compared to smaller spaces, so tracking them all may prove difficult.
Air in a warehouse tends to settle owing to the large, enclosed space. Unfortunately, even powerful HVAC systems working at full power are not sufficient to tackle this problem. The stagnant air creates a myriad of problems. In addition to the complications it creates for temperature control, the stagnant air also makes employees more susceptible to the sick building syndrome. And, of course, sick employees are not good for business.
Expensive Energy Bills
It takes a lot of energy to conventionally heat or cool a large warehouse. It also doesn’t help that the extra space means that most of the heat or cold is wasted. In fact, it is reported that heating, ventilation and air conditioning accounts for about 30% of the total energy costs of operating a warehouse.
Efficient Heating and Cooling Tips
There are strategies to get around all the big complications of regulating temperatures in a warehouse. These strategies are smart and more convenient. Most importantly, they are also cheaper. Following are some tips from HVAC experts:
As per the laws of science, hot air naturally rises to the top while cold air settles at the bottom. This phenomenon is especially common in large warehouses, and it is referred to as air stratification. The extra space enclosed on all sides means that airflow is poor, so the stratification is quite significant compared to smaller spaces.
Air stratification is a major hindrance for heating. This is because all the air rises to the top when heated. Without countermeasures, most of the energy used on heating goes to waste.
Destratification involves mixing the hot air with the cold. This means pushing the hot air down to the bottom. There are two solutions: high-velocity diffusers and ceiling-mounted fans. Air rotation technologies will also do, but they may seem excessive for most standard warehouses.
Experts recommend using large fans with high volume and low speed as opposed to many small fans. One large fan will cover up to 20,000 square feet and create more ventilation compared to a smaller fan. If large fans do not cut it, consider using high-power industrial fans. Dozens of small fans are not only largely ineffective but also expensive to run, and the goal here is to cut energy costs.
Temperature control measures should be mostly focused on spaces occupied by people. Most of the space in a warehouse is used to store inventory. This means that, unless the inventory requires temperature regulation, such as cold storage to avoid perishing, temperature control in such spaces is not really necessary – it is, in fact, wasteful.
Zoning is recommended to prevent waste and improve efficiency. It involves sectioning off the parts occupied by employees and concentrating heating and cooling measures there. Experts recommend using radiant unit heaters to heat the specific zones to optimize efficiency as they consume less energy compared to central HVAC unit heaters.
Zoning does not work in warehouses with large human traffic. In such cases, warehouse operators should consider coming up with new organization systems that minimize traffic and bring employees together in set space for zoning to work optimally – smart organization is a basic necessity in any warehouse. If zoning is not an option, then consider using efficient heating systems – experts recommend high-powered air conditioners or high-efficiency condensing unit heaters and furnaces.
As mentioned, containment of heat or cold is mostly compromised by leaks. Insulation is an effective way to seal off leaks and, consequently, improve temperature control. Unfortunately, the size and number of doors, windows, and other open spaces in warehouses make insulation difficult – but not impossible.
Nothing should be left to chance. All doors, windows, and other functional openings should be lined with deals – if seals are already in place, they should be checked to leaks. Some seals work better than others – warehouses require high-grade seals. The windows should also be replaced with double-pane windows to improve insulation – coincidentally, air is one of the best insulators there is.
In addition to seals, the doors should also have a vinyl strip installed. As mentioned, a lot of air and cold is lost by the frequent opening of loading dock doors. Vinyl strips, also known as air curtains, create a barrier between the outdoors and indoors when doors open. They are good insulators that keep the heat in and cold out – they also come in handy for keeping the heat out during summer.
In addition to using air curtains, experts also recommend replacing the doors with fast-mechanism ones. These doors open and close quicker, thus reducing the heat/cold lost to the outside.
Any and every other open leak in the warehouse should be sealed. The roof should also be insulated – if possible.
In addition to insulation, natural ventilation is another way to save on energy bills. Natural ventilation works best during the hot season as it allows hot air to escape the warehouse. With warehouses, the best form of natural ventilation is skylight and operable clerestory windows on the roof – remember, hot air rises to the top where the roof is. Other forms of natural ventilation are also welcome.
Ventilation is not only good for energy bills but also the employees’ health. It improves air flow, thus reducing the risk of other related health issues. Fresh air is also good for employees’ morale and productivity.
You can actually recycle heat by recovering existing heat. It is an aspect of ventilation that works with the air either outdoors or indoors. The heat and cold are recovered from the air and other components inside the warehouse. For instance, heat from machinery can be captured to supplement heat from the warehouse heater. This means less work for the unit heaters – and lower energy bills!
Heat recovery is facilitated using an energy recovery ventilator (ERV). The ERV conditions air from outdoors before it enters the warehouse, or regulates the air already in the warehouse. The ERV may be a stand-alone unit or come built-in for some of the modern, more sophisticated HVAC unit heaters.
Leveraging Smart HVAC Technology
Modern HVAC systems are more efficient, thanks to new emerging technologies. These new warehouse heaters are not only efficient but also cheaper – and definitely worth it for a busy warehouse. Here is an overview of smart HVAC unit heaters for warehouses that will ease the burden:
Sensors and Smart Thermostats
It is not necessary to air condition the whole warehouse – in fact, it is wasteful since it would take a lot of unit heaters and most of the heat would go to waste. The warehouse heaters should be directed to the areas that need them the most, which include places most frequented by employees. But how does one know where employees are at all times? Answer: smart sensors.
Smart sensors are designed to monitor employees’ movements through factors such as motion and heat signatures, among others. Coupled with smart thermostats, the sensors can send signals about which areas to heat/cool, and when to do so. Smart thermostats are highly programmable and can operate automatically. They switch the warehouse heaters off when there is no one in the warehouse, thus saving significant amounts in energy bills.
The roof is one of the main components that compromise air conditioning in a warehouse. Besides being a trap for hot air, it is also a major conductor of cold and heat. The roof absorbs a lot of heat in the summer, which undermines efforts to cool the temperatures – and results in wastage and unnecessary losses. This can be avoided using a cool roof system.
Cool roof systems are designed to keep the heat out. One of their properties is high solar reflectance – they are made using poor heat conductors, so they do not absorb too much heat from the sun. Another important property of cool roof systems is that they radiate excess heat out into the outdoors.
As mentioned, the roof is a weak point for air conditioning. This is why, in addition to installing cool roof systems, warehouse operators should also consider installing their warehouse heaters elsewhere. It is common practice to install HVAC unit heaters on the roof, but this exposes them to extreme temperatures all year round and consequently makes them less efficient.
Transpired Solar Walls
Solar energy is one of the best alternative clean energies. It is good for the environment – and conveniently cheap, especially for warehouses with high energy bills. This is one of the reasons why transpired solar walls are a common feature in most modern, heavy-duty warehouses.
A transpired solar wall is basically a perforated solar collector wall. The wall is heavy-duty, which means that it makes the most of any available solar rays to absorb and store heat. Cold air from the outdoors is passed through the perforated wall and heated in the process – the pre-heating range is between 300F and 550F. As such, the air is already hot by the time it enters the ventilation system.
Solar walls save substantial amounts of money on energy bills. However, it should be noted that these walls are expensive to install. On the plus side, however, the federal government has set a 10% investment tax credit as an incentive – this just goes to show how efficient solar walls are compared to conventional warehouse heaters.
HVAC Maintenance for Efficiency and Longevity
HVAC systems in warehouses work around the clock. This means that they are susceptible to complications and breakdowns. This is why they demand routine maintenance.
One of the basic maintenance requirements for HVAC systems is proper cleaning. The warehouse heaters should be kept clean at all times for a variety of reasons. For starters, dirt clogs the vents and other components, thus compromising the system’s efficiency – dust coating also increases the heat generated, this accelerating wear and tear. Additionally, HVAC systems channel breathing air, so dirt in the vents and other components can lead to breathing complications.
Besides cleaning, you should hire HVAC contractors to check the warehouse heaters for defects on a regular basis. Considering how much work unit heaters for warehouses put in, this should be on a monthly basis, at least. Professional technicians can check each and every component and make repairs or replacements where necessary.
Warehouses demand powerful unit heaters. Using warehouse heaters that are not up to the task only strains them, thus exposing them to a variety of complications and reducing their longevity. As such, operators are advised to invest in proper warehouse heaters – it may be costly now but cost-efficient in the long term.
Air conditioning a warehouse is not an easy task, but it is a necessary one. Extreme temperatures are definitely bad for employees’ welfare and productivity, and they may be bad for the inventory. However, proper temperature control is possible using proper HVAC systems.
Warehouse operators can improve air conditioning efficiency and slash energy bills using these warehouse HVAC tips and best practices.