I had a call the other day about a Cabinet Cooler System that was not working properly. In talking over the problem, the customer decided a picture might help me understand what he was trying to explain, so he sent one for to me to look at it. When opened, the picture did not show what I expected. Instead of the EXAIR Cabinet Cooler System, I was looking at an EXAIR Vortex Tube mounted to the top of a cabinet. Further discussion revealed that I was talking to the maintenance manager and he had no idea who had installed this and for what reason. He only knew it was reported that 2 cabinets were having issues – one was continuously leaking (the initial call and picture) and one was not as cool as it should be. Now there were two problems!
Starting with the initial, the vortex tube was actually working as it should. It is supposed to “leak” air. Vortex tubes will push cool air out on one side and hot air out the other. Per the picture, this vortex tube was installed to allow the hot air to exhaust from the cabinet, thus it would “leak” air. In this case, the cabinet was cool, but to what standard? No one knew what temperature was to be maintained. The maintenance manager, and for that matter the workers who reported the defect, did not know what the device was or how it worked. After describing how a vortex tube functioned, I directed him to look at the EXAIR website for more information and adjustment instructions if needed. The manager was surprised, and happy, that it was actually working as it “should be” so he could take it off his To-Do list.
PLEASE NOTE: A Vortex Tube is typically recommended for cooling a small area (spot cooling) or small volumes of gas. We do not usually recommend them for cooling electronic enclosures, EXAIR’s Cabinet Cooler systems are the best choice for an enclosure. Cabinet Coolers will provide quick and easy installation while maintaining the NEMA integrity of the cabinet. They are preset to provide maximum cooling and efficiency, and they are available with a thermostat and solenoid to turn themselves on and off as needed to maintain a specific internal temperature.
Now to the second unit. Again, it was determined to be a vortex tube, not a cabinet cooler system as originally thought. This unit was deemed to be working since it was not “leaking” but the cabinet was not cool. To my thinking, this unit was NOT working and explained why. I informed the customer that they may need to check their supply pressure and/or look to see if the unit had been adjusted to the point that the hot end airflow had been closed which would produce cold air. He replied he would look into it and then mentioned that he would have a word with the workers reporting the defects and investigate who and why the installations were done in the first place.
Throughout the conversation, one question kept coming up . . . were these the correct tools for the application? I was unable to answer this directly. I passed on that EXAIR would normally recommend actual cabinet cooler systems. These would provide more control for what they were apparently trying to do (cool the cabinets) and also keep them dirt and moisture-free. However, without more knowledge of what the customer was truly trying to accomplish and insufficient data available, I suggested the manager seek more information and call us back. He agreed. Although the vortex tubes in this application are usually not the choice, we know not all applications are the same. If the environment was extremely hot or space exceptionally tight, a vortex tube may be the best answer.
In my eyes, and to a degree the customer’s, the conversation was satisfactory but may not have provided the most effective and efficient solution. More data was needed, more understanding of the applications, and a better plan of action instead of putting a bandage on the problem. Based off how we left at hang-up, I believe the maintenance manager will be doing a little digging into what is going on in his plant and I foresee a call back to discuss his the best option to cool the cabinets.