EXAIR Cabinet Coolers vs. Air to Air Heat Exchangers

At EXAIR we’ve been providing enclosure cooling solutions for decades, and in many cases those cooling solutions have remained in place for decades as well.  In the time we’ve been in the market with industrial enclosure cooling solutions we’ve encountered a number of alternative means for enclosure cooling.  One of those methods is an air-to-air heat exchanger.

heat exchanger 1
Heat exchanger

An air-to-air heat exchanger uses the temperature differential between the ambient air surrounding an enclosure and the hot air inside an enclosure to create a cooling effect.  A closed loop system exchanges the heat inside the enclosure with the outside air in an effort to maintain a set internal temperature.  The heat exchange of most air-to-air unit relies on a heat pipe, a heat-transfer device which converts an internal refrigerant liquid into vapor by placing one end of the pipe in contact with the hot environment.  The heated vapor travels to the other end of the pipe which is in contact with a cooler environment.  The vapor condenses back into a liquid (releasing latent heat) and returning to the hot end of the pipe and the cycle repeats.

But, this type of a solution does give some cause for concern, especially when considering their use in an industrial environment.  Here are the key points to keep in mind when comparing an air-to-air cooler to an EXAIR Cabinet Cooler.

Cabinet Cooler Family
EXAIR Cabinet Coolers

Required temperature differential based on ambient air temp

An air-to-air heat exchange relies on the ΔT between the ambient air temperature and the internal enclosure air temperature to produce cooling.  If this ΔT is low, or the ambient temperature rises, cooling is diminished.  This means that as the temperatures in your facility begin to rise, air-to-air heat exchangers become less and less effective.  Larger air-to-air heat exchangers can be used, but these may be even larger than the enclosure itself.

EXAIR Cabinet Coolers rely on the ΔT between the cold air temperature from the Cabinet Cooler (normally ~20°F) and the desired internal enclosure temperature (normally 95°F).  The cold air temperature from the Cabinet Cooler is unaffected by increases in ambient temperatures.  The large ΔT and high volume cold air flow produced by a Cabinet Cooler results in more cooling capacity.  And, we can increase cooling capacity from a Cabinet Cooler without increasing its physical footprint, which is already much, much smaller than an air-to-air type of unit.

 

Cooling in high temperature environments

Due to their nature of operation, an air-to-air heat exchanger must have an ambient temperature which is lower than the desired internal temperature of the enclosure.  If the ambient air has a higher temperature, air-to-air units provide zero cooling.

Cabinet Coolers, on the other hand, can be used in hot, high temperature environments up to 200°F (93°C).

EXAIR's High Temp Cabinet Cooler Systems
High temperature Cabinet Coolers

 

Cooling in dirty environments

Dirt in the ambient environment will impact cooling performance with an air-to-air heat exchanger.  In order for the air-to-air unit to effectively remove heat, the heat pipe must have access to ambient air.  With any exposure to the ambient environment comes the possibility for the ambient end of the heat pipe to become covered in ambient contaminants such as dust.  This dust will create an insulation barrier between the heat pipe and the ambient air, decreasing the ability for the heat pipe to condense the vapors within.  Because of this, most air-to-air devices use filters to separate the heat pipe from the ambient environment.  But, when these filters become clogged, access to ambient temperatures are reduced, and cooling capacity of the air-to-air unit reduces as well.

Cabinet Coolers have no problem operating in dirty environments.  In fact, it is one of their strengths.  Without any moving parts to wear out or any need to contact ambient air for cooling purposes, a dirty environment poses no problems.  In fact, check out this blog post (and this one) about EXAIR Cabinet Coolers operating maintenance free for years in dirty environments.

exair-cabinet-cooler-03-2002-2008
NEMA 12 Cabinet Cooler in a Dirty Environment

Size and time required to install

Air-to-air heat exchangers vary in size, but even the smallest units can have large dimensions.  Many applications have limited space on the enclosure, and a large, bulky solution can be prohibitive.  Couple this with the time and modification required to the enclosure to install a large air-to-air unit, and the “solution” may end up bringing additional problems.

Another key aspect of the Cabinet Cooler is its size.  Small, compact, and easy to mount on the top or side of an enclosure, Cabinet Coolers install in minutes to remove overheating problems.

 

Heat within an electrical cabinet can be a major issue for manufacturing companies. The costs associated with down time and repairs on sensitive electronics that fail due to heat or environmental contaminants, are an unnecessary burden. If you have any questions about how an EXAIR Cabinet Cooler can solve problems in your facility, contact an EXAIR Application Engineer.

Jordan Shouse
Application Engineer
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Calculate Heat Loads from the Sun for Outdoor Control Panels

I am always happy to see the sun rise each morning. But, electrical panels that are exposed to the sun are not.  Solar heat adds significant BTU’s to the overall heat load in an electrical panel.

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A customer had a VFD to control a 300HP blower motor for a dust collection system. The VFD was getting an over-temp error and shutting down the system.  He contacted EXAIR to get a Cabinet Cooler to keep the VFD cool.  We went through our normal questions to determine the heat load, i.e. the size of the cabinet, the temperature inside, the temperature outside, the maximum external temperature and the desired temperature.  As we went through the questions, he stated that the cabinet was located outside.  This is not an issue for our Cabinet Coolers as EXAIR has NEMA 4 and 4X (IP66) Cabinet Coolers.  It did stem another question; was it under cover?  He mentioned that it was not.

NEMA 4 Cabinet Cooler
NEMA 4 Cabinet Cooler

Generally in calculating cooling capacities with our Cabinet Coolers, we size the units by adding the ambient heat load and the electrical heat load. With the panel exposed to the sun, this adds another component to the total heat load.  To get an estimation on the amount of solar heat, color becomes a big factor as the darker colors will draw more heat.  Here is a good approximation to follow:

Solar heating by color
Solar heating by color

In this application, the customer had a gray panel, a common color. With an exposed surface area of 16 ft^2 (1.47 M^2), we would have to increase the heat load by 16 ft^2 * 7 Watts/ft^2 = 112 Watts.  This equates to 112 Watts * 3.41 BTU/hr/Watt = 382 BTU/hr of added heat.  (Or 112 Watts * 0.86 Kcal/hr/Watts = 96 Kcal/hr).

If an electrical panel is outside and cannot be shaded from the sun, we can still protect the sensitive components inside.  With the proper sized Cabinet Cooler, your equipment will remain running cool.  If you need help to determine the correct Cabinet Cooler, inside or out, you can either contact an Application Engineers at 800-903-9247 or fill out our Cabinet Cooler Sizing Guide.

John Ball
Application Engineer
Email: mailto:johnball@exair.com
Twitter: @EXAIR_jb

 

“The sun” image courtesy of Lima Andruška, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0

Using EXAIR Cabinet Coolers to Replace Fans

3050 with qs
Which device is causing the overheating condition?

When an electrical device mounted inside a control panel goes offline due to an overheating condition, it can be difficult to determine which component in the panel is the root cause.  There may be an intermittent heat load from a variable frequency drive that isn’t present when troubleshooting, making things appear to be OK.  Or, the overheating condition may only happen during peak operation on days with high ambient temperatures.

Fortunately, no matter the root cause, an EXAIR Cabinet Cooler can maintain temperature within the enclosure at a desired set-point, eliminating overheating conditions and lost throughput due to downtime.

IMG_3052
We investigate to determine what is housed inside of our customer’s electrical control panels.

When calculating heat load, EXAIR Application Engineers consider the components within the control panel.  We inquire with our customers regarding devices such as VFD’s, which may lead to temperature spikes, or fans, which actively remove heat (albeit that they often force dirt and debris into the enclosures they’re designed to be cooling).

IMG_3053
To accurately calculate heat load, we require the diameter of any fans installed on the enclosure.

Fans can be particularly important, because with the installation of any EXAIR Cabinet Cooler, all external fans will need to be removed, and their openings will need to be sealed (internal fans can remain in place).  So, this means we have to account for any heat the fans may already be removing from the application, even if it isn’t enough to keep the enclosure cool.

IMG_3051
Measure any fans used to bring ambient air into the enclosure.

In order to determine the amount of heat a fan is removing from an application, we consider the diameter of the fan, which corresponds to a typical air flow volume in CFM (cubic feet per minute).  We then consider that 1 BTU/hr. is the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of one pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit, and it is also the amount of heat needed to raise/lower the temperature of one cubic foot of air by 1 degree Fahrenheit in one minute.  This means that for every CFM the fan is moving, we are reducing the temperature of the air by 1°F .  To put it another way, we remove 1 BTU/hr. for every °F * every CFM the fan is moving.

As an example, a 3″ fan will move 22 CFM.  In an enclosure with a current temperature differential of 15 degrees Fahrenheit, this fan is removing 330 BTU/hr.

15°F * 22 CFM = 330°F*CFM

15°F

x 22 CFM X 1 Btu/hr = 330 Btu/hr

CFM °F

The fans holes should be covered up with sheet metal using rivets, caulk/sealant, duct tape or other ingenious methods you know of. But please cover and seal the cabinet as well as you can.

Using the Cabinet Cooler Sizing Guide and the experience of the EXAIR Application Engineers, we can accurately calculate heat load of an overheating electrical control panel.  When you need help with determining which Cabinet Cooler to use, contact an EXAIR Application Engineer.  We’re here to help.

Lee Evans
Application Engineer
LeeEvans@EXAIR.com
@EXAIR_LE