Keeping temperatures low when producing and storing food is essential for the conservation and hygiene of the product. So, needless to say, maintaining those conditions is an established priority in safeguarding the quality of your production. But low temperatures do not automatically mean low humidity. In fact, a cooler production climate and the subsequently greater temperature difference between the production facility and the outside air leads to the increased formation of condensation and ultimately higher humidity levels.
The problem with condensation
Image above: Activity in water in relation to humidity levels
Condensation causes major problems in 3 key areas of your production:
- Sanitation issues for the unpacked food: When condensation occurs even a single drop can contaminate your food and compromise entire production batches. Bacterial or chemical contamination arises in your foods as a result of the impurities in the water from the production environment. That environment is further compromised by the formation of mildew or mould on the walls and ceilings due to prevalent condensation. The dangers hereof, such as listeria and other illnesses, are especially high if you are producing ready-to-eat food.
- Package damage: The condensed water also accumulates on your package surfaces which leads to ice formation due to the cold storage temperatures. When the ice melts later on it can cause a range of problems from the unsticking of labels to soggy and even mouldy cartons. Additionally, this compromises the quality of the goods the packages contain, as well as their transportation.
- Workplace safety and health: Both the ice formation and sanitation issues pose problems for the safety of your workplace as well. Ice formation also occurs on the floors, which is a huge liability for your employees’ safety and increases the risk of injuries in your production areas. On top of that, the sanitation issues directly affect your employees, as they do the food. Mould, for example, produces allergens which contain sometimes toxic irritants and substances. If inhaled, these substances can cause a range of health risks like asthma, rashes and allergic reactions, as well as exacerbate pre-existing conditions in employees.
The effects of condensation on your business
Condensation droplets accumulate on the surfaces of your production equipment and increase the risk of contaminating surrounding food
Though it is very common for production facilities to have condensation problems, especially within the food industry, the gravity of said problems varies based on factors such as how efficient your cooling system is or the effectiveness of the isolation in your cooling rooms. However, due to the severity of the consequences of the aforementioned issues, implementing preventative measures is a worthwhile consideration to avoid substantial monetary and quality repercussions later on.
What are those consequences exactly?
Poor sanitation conditions can lead to hefty fines from health authorities, the forced halt of production and even recall of produced goods. This means not only wasted labour hours and sunk costs but also additional expenses to ratify the problems and make up for lost production time and quantity.
Managing ice formation is also a costly and time-consuming task which will draw away resources and personnel from your main operational activities. And employee health issues, stemming from poor working conditions, lead to less effective and satisfied labourers and ultimately a lower production output and quality.
All of this is counterproductive to reaching your optimal production results and can heavily impair production processes in the long run. If condensation related problems occur, especially within hygiene, it takes a high expenditure to fix the issues once the damage is already done. By being proactive and eliminating the risk of condensation occurring in the first place you can save yourself and your employees a lot of time in the management and costs in the remediation of condensation related problems.
So, how do you do that?
Low temperatures, high humidity — Finding a dry-air solution
To get rid of condensation related problems, you need to eliminate condensation all together by removing excess moisture from the air and thereby obtain very low relative humidity levels. As you cannot simply increase temperatures or clean more frequently to do so, the most effective alternative to remove moisture is with a dehumidifier. However, the most efficient way to do so is with an adsorption dehumidifier, which is more reliable and consistent in maintaining the exact relative humidity levels that you need for your food production.
By not just cooling but simultaneously dehumidifying your production areas you eliminate the possibility of condensation occurring in the first place and thereby automatically avoid the risk of mouldy walls, water related food contamination and ice formation. Dehumidifying also reduces the drying times of production areas after being cleaned, so you can optimise your production processes without inefficient and costly manual temperature manipulation.
Cotes’ adsorption dehumidifiers offer your business a sustainable, energy-efficient and cost-sensitive dry-air solution to its condensation problems:
By offering a customisable model that can easily adapt to your production needs and be incorporated into existing energy systems, by, for example, repurposing waste heat from elsewhere in your facility as an energy source, our adsorption dehumidifier integrates into your production with a very low environmental impact. On top of that, our innovative three rotor models generally draw much of their required energy from low exergy, and therefore cheaper sources, like solar panels or other low-cost thermal inputs which substantially reduces energy costs. The set up also allows our dehumidifiers to be more efficient with regards to how much of that energy they need to create the desired effect, which bodes well for your overall energy consumption.
Cotes provides solutions for the food production industry from meat to dairy and everything in between
The exact dry-air solution needed for food production varies from business to business depending on facility size and location and specific conditions like production volume, prevalent temperature and desired humidity loads (how much humidity needs to be removed). Additionally, the exact relative humidity levels that are right for your production need to be determined.
One way of doing so, is by using the Mollier diagram, a tool we use when consulting with clients to identify their current conditions and future needs. You can use our free, printable version to see for yourself when condensation occurs in your production.
Cotes prides itself on finding tailor-made dry-air solutions in collaboration with our clients across multiple industries, from food and beverage production to technically engineered wind turbines. The sometimes meticulous conditions that need to be met put a lot of stress on our clients that we aim to alleviate by finding ways to safeguard those conditions through innovative and reliable solutions.
Over many years and thanks to our own highly trained technical professionals in the area of dehumidification, we have acquired the experience and confidence necessary to provide all our clients with a sustainable, cost-sensitive and customised solution that brings them closer to reaching their optimal production output.
If you want to know more about how relative humidity and condensation may affect your production or you would like an explanation of the diagram in relation to this please feel free to book tentative consultation with one of our experts or reach out to us on LinkedIn
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