How to Best Apply Vortex Tube Cooling

So, you have found yourself with a little bit of a conundrum. You need to cool a part but don’t know where to start and there are so many different options to choose from. In most cases when it comes to cooling with compressed air there are two different paths you can take. First is using a large volume of air at room temperature to blow across the surface area of the product. The other option is to use cold air from a vortex tube to drop the part’s temperature. In most case a large volume of air can be used to cool things down to relatively cooler temperatures; think cooling a cup of coffee using your breath. The issue you run into is when the temperature of the room air gets closer to the temperature you want to achieve in the end. In other words, when the temperature difference between your cooling air and your desired end temperature is small there is less cooling taking place with that same volume of air.

Mini Spot Cooler cooling down a bit used in milling plastic

This can be explained by looking at the cooling power formula:

Btu/hr = 1.0746*(CFM)*(Delta T)

In this case the Delta T is the difference between the temperature that you want to cool the product down to and the temperature of the air. This means the smaller the delta T is the higher the CFM flow will need to be to counteract the effect of the temperatures are so close to one another. Here are some examples of cooling a product and you are providing 1000 CFM of air to cool it.

Btu/hr = 1.0746*(1000 CFM)*(150F – 130F)

                Btu/hr = 21,492 Btu/hr

Btu/hr = 1.0746*(1000 CFM)*(150F – 100F)

                Btu/hr = 53,730 Btu/hr

As you can see the closer the Delta T is to 0 the less Btu/hr you get. Getting this kind of CFM flow is easy if you use something like EXAIR’s Super Air Knife or Super Air Amplifier. These systems take a small amount of compressed air and entrain the surrounding ambient air to increase the volume to a large blast. Take a look at model number 120022 which is the 2” Super Air Amplifier, this unit can produce 1,023 CFM while only using 15.5 CFM at 80 psig. But when you get close to cooling the temperature down to that room temperature or below it gets much harder; which only means that the temperature of the air being used to cool needs to be dropped. Dropping the air temperature can only be accomplished by using outside means like air coolers or in this case EXAIR’s Vortex Tubes and Spot Coolers.

EXAIR Air Amplifiers use a small amount of compressed air to create a tremendous amount of air flow.

Vortex Tubes and Spot coolers have some limitations. Generally they are not thought of products that produce large volumes of air (even though we make them up to 150 SCFM). And they are best suited for smaller areas of cooling, spot cooling, if you will. However, EXAIR Vortex Tubes do have one key feature that can help compensate for the lack of volume. LOW TEMPERATURE! The vortex tube can produce temperatures lower than 0F while stile retaining a good portion of air volume from the inlet.

Sub-zero air flow with no moving parts. 3400 Series Vortex Tubes from EXAIR.

For example, let’s look at model number 3240 running at 100 psig with 70% of the air from the inlet exiting the cold side (aka 70% cold fraction). At 100 psig the 3240 will use 40 SCFM at the air inlet and will have a temperature drop of 71F. If the compressed air has a temperature of 70F that means you will be seeing a temperature of -1F. Also, when using the 70% cold fraction you will see 28 SCFM of cold air flow. Now let’s plug those numbers into the cooling power formula.

 Btu/hr = 1.0746*(28 CFM)*(150F + 1F)

                Btu/hr = 4543 Btu/hr

As you can see, using a small amount of compressed air you can still net you a good amount of cooling if the temperature is lower. All in all, the best option for cooling products down to temperatures that are above ambient temperatures is something that can produce a large volume of air. For small areas that require cooling the product down to temperatures to ambient temperature and below, use EXAIR’s Vortex Tube.

If you have questions about our Air Amplifiers and Vortex Tubes, or would like to talk about any of the quiet EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air® Products, feel free to contact EXAIR or any Application Engineer.

Cody Biehle
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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Calculating CFM of Air Needed for Cooling

It’s easy to know that EXAIR’s vortex tubes can be used to cool down parts and other items, but did you know that our air knifes can be used to cool down these same things? It’s the same process that we do every day to cool down hot food by blowing on it. Every molecule and atom can carry a set amount of energy which is denoted by physical property called Specific Heat (Cp); this value is the ration of energy usually in Joules divided by the mass multiplied by the temperature (J/g°C). Knowing this value for one can calculate the amount of air required to cool down the object.

Starting out you should note a few standard values for this rough calculation; these values are the specific heat of Air and the specific heat of the material. Using these values and the basic heat equation we can figure out what the amount of energy is required to cool. The specific heat for dry air at sea level is going to be 1.05 J/g*C which is a good starting point for a rough calculation; as for the specific heat of the material will vary depending on the material used and the composition of the material.

Heat Flow Equation
Using the standard heat equation above add in your variables for the item that needs to be cooled down. In the example I will be using a steel bar that is 25 kg in mass rate and cooling it down from 149 °C to 107 °C. We know that the specific heat of steel is 0.466 J/g°C therefore we have everything needed to calculate out the heat load using air temperature of 22 °C.
Calculating Joules/min
Using the heat rate, we can convert the value into watts of energy by multiplying the value by 0.0167 watts/(J/min) which gives us 16,537.18 watts. Furthermore, we can then convert our watts into Btu/hr which is a standard value used for cooling applications. Watts are converted into Btu/hr by multiplying by 3.41 Btu/hr/watt, giving us 56,391.77 Btu/hr.
Converting Joules to Btu/hr
Once you have Btu/hr you can plug the information into a re-arranged Cooling power formula to get the amount of CFM of air required for cooling.
Calculating CFM
As you can see in order to cool down this steel bar you only need to 343 CFM of air at 72°F. This can be done very easily and efficiently by using one of EXAIR’s Air Amplifiers or Air Knife. Sometimes you don’t need to use a vortex tube to cool down an object; sometimes simply blowing on it is good enough and its pretty simple to calculate out which product would fit your application the best.

If you have any questions about compressed air systems or want more information on any EXAIR’s of our products, give us a call, we have a team of Application Engineers ready to answer your questions and recommend a solution for your applications.

Cody Biehle
Application Engineer
EXAIR Corporation
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EXAIR Cabinet Cooler Systems – How Do they Work?

Cabinet Cooler systems eliminate heat related problems by providing a temperature controlled environment inside of electrical enclosures. Typically set to maintain 95F (but also adjustable) a Cabinet Cooler system can withstand harsh, remote environments with little maintenance. They cool heat loads up to 5600 Btu/Hr and are UL listed to maintain your cabinet’s NEMA integrity. 

Compressed air enters the vortex tube powered Cabinet Cooler and is converted into two streams, one hot and one cold. Hot air from the vortex tube is muffled and exhausted through the vortex tube exhaust. The cold air is discharged into the cabinet through the included cold air distribution kit. The displaced hot air in the cabinet rises and exhausts to atmosphere through the cabinet cooler body. The control cabinet is both cooled and purged with cool, clean air. Outside air is never able to enter the control panel.

How it works! 

EXAIR’s compressed air operated, Cabinet Cooler Systems are a low cost, reliable way to cool and purge electronic control panels. There are no moving parts to wear out and no filters to replace, eliminating the need for constant monitoring.

NEMA Type 12 (IP54) and NEMA 4 and 4X (IP66) models are available that are very compact and mount in just minutes through an ordinary electrical knockout.

Cabinet Cooler Family
EXAIR Cabinet Cooler Sizes 

Available in a wide range of cooling capacities, ranging from 275 Btu/hr. for our smallest system, up to 5,600 Btu/hr. for our largest Dual System.

Thermostat control systems are the most efficient way to operate a Cabinet Cooler as they limit compressed air use by operating only when the temperature inside the enclosure approaches critical levels. Continuous Operating Systems are recommend when constant cooling and constant positive pressure inside the panel is required.

Thermostat controlled Cabinet Cooler Systems are the best option when experiencing fluctuating heat loads caused by environment or seasonal changes. Thermostatically Controlled Systems include a Cabinet Cooler, adjustable thermostat, solenoid valve, cold air distribution kit consisting of tubing and self adhesive clips to duct the cold air inside the panel and a filter separator to remove any water or contaminants from the supply.

Thermostat and ETC

If you would like to discuss our cabinet cooler systems or any of EXAIR’s engineered solutions, I would enjoy hearing from you…give me a call.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
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Cold Guns for Spot Cooling or Replacing Mist Systems

By using only a source of compressed air, the Cold Gun and High Power Cold Gun produces a stream of clean, cold air 50°F (28°C) below your compressed air supply temperature. The Cold Gun is very quiet at only 70 dBA and has no moving parts to wear out. Just supply it with clean compressed air and it’s maintenance free.

How does it work, and what are the benefits?

  • The Cold Gun uses compressed air to produce a stream of clean, cold air at 50°F (28°C) below supply air temperature. Generally this will be 20°F-30°F outlet temperature.
  • They use Vortex Tube technology…no moving parts to wear out.

How A Vortex Tube WorksInstant cold air flow with no moving parts!

  • Cold flow and temperature are preset to optimize cooling capability, and are non-adjustable to prevent freeze-up during use.
  • Eliminates the expense of both the purchase & disposal of cutting fluids when replacing expensive mist systems.
  • Removes the potential for health problems associated with breathing mist & vapors, and the safety issue of slipping on a wet floor.

Cold Gun Aircoolant System selection is easy & straightforward…we offer a standard, and a High Power version to meet your specific needs.

Four systems to choose from, to meet most any need.

We also offer Single & Dual Point Hose Kits, to further meet the needs of your application.

One of the best applications I have seen with our cold gun came from a customer in Peru. They are a gold mining operation and they were having trouble with the liquid they were using to cool a saw. Read all about it here!


If you have an application that you believe would be better served by the use of an EXAIR Cold Gun, give us a call.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
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