There are few things worse than downtime when running a food processing or pharmaceutical facility. It cuts into production and at its most basic level, means you’re temporarily not making money (we’re not fans of that).
One of the most common times for production to be offline is during clean-up cycles due to rigorous requirements from regulatory organizations such as the USDA and FDA. Luckily, it’s possible to reduce dry down times after those cycles by taking a few simple steps.
Included in those steps is the use of dehumidification during warm, humid months when outside air is already packed full of water. Hint, when the air is like that it means it won’t dry your facility quickly and you’re stuck with a longer-than-optimal dry down time.
So, how do you reduce dry time and why does dehumidification play a role? Let’s get into it.
1. Mechanical removal of water
The significance of this step, while basic in theory, is the most important part of the drying process.
When done incorrectly, you’re left with puddles of water. Standing water is much more difficult, time consuming and costly to remove with ventilation or a dehumidifier. Using a squeegee, your cleaning team needs to push as much water as possible down the drain so you don’t have to consume energy converting it to vapor.
“We always like to make sure facilities are effectively removing as much water as possible before adding dehumidifiers, because it’s the most efficient way to remove bulk water,” said Dan Dettmers, an applications engineer at Quest who has helped leading food processors manage humidity and moisture issues. “If you leave a bunch of water, it’s going to take longer for your fans and dehumidifiers to work.”
2. Crank up the air handlers and fans
Generally, the next step is to put your air handlers in “hurricane” mode to bring in as much outside air as possible to help all the water evaporate.
This works fine on days when the air is dry. But, when humidity is high, it’s far from effective.
“When the air is humid, it’s difficult for that water on the ground to evaporate because the air is already full of moisture – meaning the water you’re trying to get rid of has no place to go. So, your floors stay wet and take longer to dry,” Dettmers said.
3. Bring in the dehumidifier
To elaborate, air handlers and fans aren’t efficient when the relative humidity is high.
Here’s one way to picture it:
- When the temperature is 70 degrees with 50% relative humidity, the air can hold more moisture so water evaporates quickly.
- But, on a rainy day (95% relative humidity) at 60 degrees, the air is saturated. Like sponge full of water, it can’t absorb any more from the floor.
“In those instances, you want to bypass the air handler and bring in a portable dehumidifier, like the Quest Hi-E Dry 195,” Dettmers said. “This helps you effectively and efficiently remove that remaining water without having to take up space with permanent units.”
A portable unit also acts as a “humidity ambulance,” able to be deployed to wherever you may need it in your production facility.
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