Not a Fan of Fans Because Rising Air Temp Will Kill Your Electronics

Using a fan is a popular method for machine builders to provide cooling for an electrical enclosure.  The electrical panel stays cool for machine acceptance at the factory, and possibly for even the first 6-8 months of operation and then one day, there is a problem, and the machine shuts down due to an over heated component within the panel. This leads to opening up the panel, possibly placing an external fan, and operation of the machine in an unsafe condition, to meet the daily production needs.  What has led to this situation?  Summertime!

To better understand the situation, let’s review the heat formula.  The total heat content of air consists of the sensible and latent heat factors. Latent heat is the heat that is required to change the state of a material, say from liquid to solid.  Water to ice is an easy way to understand this type of heat.  When heat is removed from water at 32°F it turns to ice at 32°F.  There is no temperature change, but heat has been removed. Sensible heat is dry heat, it is a result in change of temperature, but not change in state or moisture.  For fan cooling, the air and moisture only change temperature and not state, we can focus on the sensible heat portion.

In English units:  Q = Cp x ρ x q x ΔT x 60 min/hr

And for air:

Q –  is the sensible heat flow in BTU/hr

Cp – is the specific heat in BTU/lb °F – 0.2388 BTU/lb °F

ρ – is the air density at standard conditions – 0.075 lb/ft3

q – is measured air flow in ft3/min – CFM

ΔT – is the temperature difference in °F – Final Air Temperature – Starting Air Temperature

Plugging in the constant values, gives us:

Q = 1.0746 x CFM x ΔT

It is common to chart the above formula for various ΔT values, plotting Q vs. CFM values on a dual logarithmic scale, as shown below-

BTU-CFMGraph4

As an example, for an internal heat load of 1300 BTU/hr, to ensure that the temperature rise (from ambient) in the cabinet does not exceed 20°F, 60.5 CFM of air flow is required (the red line above).  A fan with this CFM rating is specified and installed in the panel.

This works  when the ambient temperature is a comfortable 75°F, in a climate controlled factory, or the cooler months of the year.  The problem occurs when the ambient temperature increases to 95°, 100°, or even 105°F,  not uncommon in the summer, and in plants that create large amount of heat, like metal production, and near boiler systems and furnaces.  Under these conditions, the fan will still maintain the 20°F difference, but the internal temperature of the cabinet will rise to 115°-125°F, temperatures where electrical components start to fail or shut down.  The solution to this issue?  Lower the Starting Air Temperature.

The EXAIR Cabinet Cooler Systems use our Vortex Tube technology to take compressed air and provide a cold flow of air that enters the enclosure at 5o°F less than the compressed air temperature.  With a compressed air temperature of 70°F, common for industrial compressed air systems, the Cabinet Cooler will deliver cold air at 20°F.  Again using the chart above, flowing just 20 SCFM of this air will absorb the 1300 BTU/hr of heat (the green line), and result in an internal air temperature 80°F no matter the ambient air temperature.  The electronics in this enclosure will run trouble free, for a long time. This ambient air temperature problem is also true of air-to-air heat exchangers, as the ambient air temperature rises the ability to remove heat diminishes.

Another consideration, the fan system is bringing in air from the surroundings, which is hot and dirty, passing it through a filter (which gets clogged, reduces air flow, and needs to be replaced.) The Cabinet Cooler System, includes an automatic drain filter separator, which filters the compressed air to be free of dirt, dust and moisture. The air entering the enclosure is cool, dry and fee of dust and debris.

ETC CC
NEMA 4 Cabinet Cooler System with Optional Electronic Temperature Control

To discuss your application and how the EXAIR Cabinet Cooler System can be a benefit at your facility, feel free to contact EXAIR and myself or one of our other Application Engineers can help you determine the best solution.

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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