Let’s Size A Cabinet Cooler System!

I can’t remember the last time I put an exclamation point in the title of my blog, but it was probably the last time I got to talk about doing math. Or write about heat transfer.  Insert your favorite engineer joke here…I’m sure I have it coming.

We’re in the dog days of summer (in the Northern Hemisphere) for sure…or, as we call it, “Cabinet Cooler Season.”  If you’re having heat related problems with a control panel, give us a call; we can help.  If you’d like to know what we’re going to talk about, read on.

Heat can cause real problems for electrical and electronic components, in a hurry…we all know that.  Fortunately, we can also specify the right Cabinet Cooler System for you in a hurry too.  And since we keep them all in stock, we can get it to you in a hurry as well.

You can access our Cabinet Cooler Sizing Guide online, here.  You can fill in the blanks and submit it, or you can call in your data.  We do it over the phone all the time, and it only takes a minute.  Here’s what we’re going to ask for, and why:

Enclosure dimensions.  We need the length, width, and height of your enclosure to calculate the heat transfer surface, and the volume of the enclosure.

Current Internal Air Temperature.  How hot is it inside your enclosure?  This is the starting point for figuring out the internal heat load…how much heat the components inside the box is generating.  This needs to be the air temperature – don’t use a heat gun, or you’re going to give me the surface temperature of something that may or may not be close to what I need.  Just put a thermometer in there for a few minutes.

Current External Air Temperature.  How hot is it in the area where the enclosure is located?  We’re going to compare this to the internal air temperature…the difference between the two is actually proportional to the heat load.  Also, if there’s anything cooling the enclosure right now (like circulating fans; more on those in a minute,) this reading is key to figuring out how much heat they’re removing.

Maximum External Air Temperature.  How hot does it get in the area on, say, the hottest day of summer?  We’ll need this to calculate the external heat load…how much heat the enclosure picks up from its surroundings.

Maximum Internal Temperature Desired.  Most electrical and electronic component manufacturers publish a maximum operating temperature of 104F (40C) – it’s kind of an “industry standard.”  Based on this, a lot of us in the enclosure cooling business set our products’ thermostats to 95F (35C) – if we’re maintaining the air temperature a decent amount cooler than the components are allowed to get, history and practice has shown that we’re going to provide more than adequate protection.  If your enclosure houses something with more sensitive temperature limitations, though, we can work with that too…that’s the only time you’re going to want to put something other than 95F (35C) in this field.

Cabinet Rating.  This is all about the environment…we offer three levels of protection, per NEMA standards:

NEMA 12 – oil tight, dust tight, indoor duty.

NEMA 4 – oil tight, dust tight, splash resistant, indoor/outdoor duty.

NEMA 4X – oil tight, dust tight, splash resistant, corrosion resistant, indoor outdoor duty.

The NEMA rating does not affect the cooling capacity at all.

Other:  If the enclosure is mounted to the side of a machine, or a wall in the plant, you really don’t need to put anything here.  If it’s outside and exposed to direct sunlight, tell us what the surface finish (i.e., polished metal, painted grey, etc.) is so that we can account for solar loading too.  If anything else is unusual or peculiar about the application, let us know that too.

My Cabinet Is…Not Vented, Vented, Wall Mounted, Free Standing, Fan(s).  We’ll use what you tell us here to verify heat transfer surface (a wall mounted cabinet’s back surface isn’t a radiative surface, for example.)  Also, I mentioned fan cooling before, so without further ado…

Fan diameter or SCFM.  If there are fans circulating air into (and/or out of) the enclosure, they’re providing a finite amount of cooling right now.  Proper installation of a Cabinet Cooler System is going to require their removal.  Running a Cabinet Cooler System on a vented enclosure is just like running your air conditioner with the windows open.  So, if we know the size (or the SCFM…sometimes there’s a label on those fans, and we LOVE those folks who do that) then we can use that, and the temperatures you gave us above, to take the fan cooling into account.

Once we have all this information, it’s down to the math. Like I said, we do this all the time (especially during “Cabinet Cooler Season”) – give me a call.  Your heat problem isn’t waiting; why should you?

Before I go…here’s a nice little video, walking you through the Cabinet Cooler Sizing Guide.  Yes, I just made you read the book before watching the movie…feel free to tell me which one you liked better.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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EXAIR Offers Cabinet Cooler Sizing Guide

DSCF6228
Front face and panel of enclosure to be cooled

A common misconception about heat load in an electrical enclosure is that the amount of heat is relative to the volume of air within the cabinet.  While the volume of air is important, it is also dependent on the enclosure size as a whole, and a much more fitting approach is to consider the amount of heat transferring through the surface area (of the enclosure).

An end user recently reached out to me with an overheating enclosure (shown above), facing the problem which plagues all overheated electronic devices – downtime.  And, in this particular case, the customer was concerned about the size of the enclosure, considering it to be rather large.

DSCF6229
Complete enclosure in need of cooling

Truth be told, they were right!  But, the size of the enclosure isn’t the only variable we consider when calculating heat load and recommending Cabinet Coolers.  We also consider the temperature differential currently in place, and the maximum (worst) possible operating conditions (and subsequent ΔT under those conditions).  We also consider whether any fans are currently in place, using their diameter to determine flow and calculate the heat each fan is removing from the enclosure.  We then use this data to offset the heat load calculated based on surface area and temperature differential.

Using the Cabinet Cooler Sizing Guide to gather these details and determine heat load, we can definitively calculate BTU/hr., Watts, kcal/hr., or any other heat load variant.  If you have an overheating enclosure and need a hand determining the best method to cool it, contact an EXAIR Application Engineer.

Lee Evans

Application Engineer

LeeEvans@EXAIR.com

@EXAIR_LE