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Six common grocery store microclimates and the related humidity issues.
General Ambient Environment
This is the non-perishable area, and generally the largest part of any store, making up roughly 75% of total square footage.
- Stores, especially those that are part of a chain, are relatively cookie cutter. This means they’re not customized for different climates (Southeast vs. Pacific Northwest) or to handle special areas, such as prep rooms.
- Thermostats generally are located here. That means no specific controls over problem areas like coolers.
- High energy costs to fight humidity issues if you use standard AC units
- Use roof top air conditioners to manage sensible conditions (temperature).
- Add a DOAS (decoupled, overhead dehumidifiers) to satisfy ventilation requirements.
- Incorporate DOAS to address latent conditions (humidity).
Large coolers that allow customers to easily enter and exit. They’re often used for produce, milk and eggs. These coolers use air curtains to reduce outside air from entering the environment. It’s far from perfect.
- Fog on glass
- Wet floors
- Frost on product
- Slips and falls
- Lowering the ambient store dew point can help. Dehumidifiers can assist with this.
- Duct a desiccant dehumidifier into the cooler. It can operate effectively at much lower temperatures than their refrigerant counterparts.
Frozen Goods + Freezer Section
Depending on the store, often a mix of coffin coolers and sealed coolers with glass doors.
- Coffin coolers are prone to developing hoar frost, which creates a customer experience and quality perception issue.
- Glass doors develop fog and frost, making it difficult or impossible to see product.
- Energy inefficiency. Fighting these humidity-related issues with existing air handlers is costly and doesn’t work well.
- Lowering the ambient dewpoint can reduce the amount of frost on freezer walls and glass. It also may reduce/eliminate the need for desiccant dehumidifiers.
- Overhead refrigerant dehumidifiers are the most efficient and effective way to lower the ambient dewpoint.
- Desiccant dehumidifiers are the most effective, consistent solution if fog and frost persist after addressing the ambient dewpoint.
Any room where food is prepared in house. Most often in the meat and bakery departments.
- Lingering moisture from cleanup leads to sanitation issues and FDA violations.
- Slips and falls.
- Potential to produce humidity and heat unaccounted for in building design (only applicable when food is cooked. I.e., in-store restaurants).
- Wasted energy costs from fighting humidity with standard AC.
- Humidity issues in produce and butcher prep rooms, which typically maintain a temperature less than 60 F, because semi-refrigerated, ACs aren’t set low enough.
- Dedicated desiccant dehumidifiers to manage latent loads in semi-refrigerated prep rooms.
- Small refrigeration dehumidifiers placed where food is cooked to reduce humidity from infiltrating the store.
- Portable dehumidifiers to remove excess humidity after washdown cycles.
Beer Coolers + Walk-in Coolers
Different from shop-in coolers because they have doors “sealing” them, rather than using air curtains.
- Glass fogging
- Customer entry/exit adds uncontrolled humidity and temperature load to the entire store.
- Lowering the ambient dewpoint will reduce or eliminate the need for dehumidifiers.
- Desiccant dehumidifiers should be considered if fogging and condensation persists because the temperature is too low for refrigerated units to work.
A mix of cold and regular storage for excess and/or incoming inventory.
- Black mold.
- Not customer facing, therefore not nearly as controlled. But, the backroom environment can impact the rest of the store.
- Air flow is difficult to predict and manage because of variety of products stored.
- Dedicated dehumidification to lower the dewpoint.
- Portable equipment for seasonal humidity spikes.
- Desiccant dehumidifiers for cold storage to remove ice and frost.