A Great Article by Russ Bowman of Exair on Cabinet Cooling

Electrical Panel Heat Protection: Limitations of Fan Cooling

In preparation for some labor-intensive outdoor projects, I did some research into heat-related health risks, and their prevention. My first thought on prevention was getting someone else to do it, but my wife made a good case for “pride in ownership”, and I DO have a good many tools suitable for these projects. Also, I am notoriously frugal, so after getting a couple of estimates, I realized the value in a little DIY (do it yourself) and commenced planning.

High on that list of risks was the possibility of heat stroke. It’s recommended that the victim be taken to a cool space (someplace air conditioned, for example). Air flow (like from a fan) can help too, but only if they’re taken someplace where the ambient temperature is less that 95F (35C). If it’s that hot, the air flow can actually make things worse, since heat transfer requires a difference in temperature. If the cooling medium (air, in this case) is the same temperature as the object to be cooled (the human body, in this case), no heat will be transferred – and the heat stroke wins. That’s a bad day in the back yard.

This is, in fact, the exact same limitation with a popular method of electrical panel cooling: fans. We’ve been using mechanical methods of imparting motion to air for cooling purposes for a long, long time: Blowing on a spoonful of soup or a cup of coffee before a warm (but not scalding) sip, waving hand fans at oneself during indoor gatherings, installing electric fans in those same buildings, and the list goes on. Fans are inexpensive to purchase & operate, come in a variety of sizes & configurations, and are oftentimes used to circulate cooling air through occupied rooms, confined spaces, and, of course, electrical & electronic panel enclosures.

These are quite effective for panels with moderate-to-high internal heat loads, as long as the ambient area temperature is less than the temperature you wish to cool the panel’s internal air to. In those situations, the only real concern is the quality of the air in the environment. As you can see in the photo to the right, filters are an absolute “must”, and they’re going to require regular maintenance. This means cleaning or replacing the filters, as well as cleaning the fan grills and blades themselves. It’s still very likely that some of that dust is going to get inside the enclosure, and while we’re on the subject of environmental contamination, so will humidity. I probably don’t need to tell you that dirt and/or water, and electricity, don’t mix.

There are other methods of cooling (panel a/c, thermoelectric coolers, water cooled heat exchangers, heat pipes, etc.) that limit environmental contamination, but they’re still going to need periodic (oftentimes frequent) attention: filters will clog, refrigerant coils will get fouled and corrode, moving parts will wear, motors & switches will burn out, etc. Even with the advances made in refrigerant technology, the leaks that panel a/c and heat pipes are prone to are still bad for the environment.

If this sounds like your environment, and you’re looking for safe, dependable, durable heat protection, look no further than EXAIR Cabinet Cooler Systems. Using the Vortex Tube phenomenon, they generate cold air from your compressed air supply, with no moving parts to wear or electric devices to burn out. Systems are on the shelf & ready to ship in cooling capacities to 5,600 Btu/hr. We also “tailor-make” systems for higher heat loads, from stock products, that can usually ship right away as well. Once installed on a sealed enclosure, the only thing the internals of that enclosure are ever exposed to again is clean, moisture free, cold air. All of our Cabinet Cooler Systems come with an Automatic Drain Filter Separator – the only preventive maintenance that’s ever required for the systems is the periodic replacement of the filter’s particulate element.

Inside, outdoors, high temperature, dirt/dust/humidity, corrosive and classified environments are no problem for EXAIR Cabinet Cooler Systems

We can quickly and accurately specify a Cabinet Cooler System to meet your needs with just a few key pieces of information – you can fill out a Sizing Guide (or complete one online) and send it in to us, or you can call an Application Engineer with the data. It only takes a minute to do the calculations, and we do them over the phone all the time. Installation is straightforward and usually only takes a matter of minutes. We have a number of short “how to” videos on our website that cover all aspects of installation, and if you ever have specific questions or concerns, an Application Engineer is a phone call away. We look forward to hearing from you!

Russ Bowman, CCASS

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