Keeping humidity under control

Energy efficiency, reliability and low maintenance costs are key factors for consideration when selecting the appropriate humidification unit for any given environment. Maintaining the right level of humidity to match the specific requirements of a room necessitates precision control and is just as paramount to the health and wellbeing of occupants as it is to the protection of items with special values. Andie Chessun, HygroMatik’s National Sales Manager and FETA’s “Humidity Group” Chairman, explores what to consider when installing units for different environments and the benefits of specifying humidifiers.

Consideration to humidification

There are rigorous humidification standards across a variety of sectors including in the medical, textile and pharmaceutical industries. Likewise, humidity control in places such as offices, educational institutions, shopping centres and spa and wellbeing environments can have a significant impact on health and productivity.

Take museums for example, fluctuating humidity levels can cause paintings to peel and antique furniture and musical instruments to be susceptible to cracks or warping. Variations in humidity may also result in frames becoming twisted and can also cause splits and shrinkage to occur in natural materials such as sculptures. These materials require a consistent level of air humidity that meets the bespoke needs of each artefact in order to safeguard their intrinsic value.

Similarly, rare books and the survival of anything made of paper typically require a humidity level of 40-50%rH. As paper is hygroscopic, it reacts to changes in humidity and can become frail; a fluctuation of more than 5%rH being enough to lead to irreversible damage.

The Association of Art & Antiques Dealers advises against exposing items to any drastic changes in temperature, humidity or brightness and recommends dealers check humidity levels during transport and storage. With many museum pieces owned by private collectors, monitoring humidity levels and regulating air conditions is important for both the preservation of the artefact and to meet insurance criteria.

Once under display conditions, there remain other challenges. Artefacts in buildings open to the public are more likely to come into close proximity with outside air and body heat. Humidity control is vital in effectively managing display conditions and in nullifying externa linfluences. As a recent example, the National Museum Bangkok opened up an exhibition at the start of the year to mark 130 years of diplomatic relations with Japan. To display the precious artefacts, Japanese and Thai experts spent 18 months installing humidity and temperature controls, suitable lighting and secure glass cabinets.1

In the pharmaceutical industry meeting temperature and air humidity is imperative to adhere to legal standards and key to preventing the contamination of drugs. For laboratories and clean rooms, optimum humidity contributes to a stable and controlled environment and plays an important role in influencing the viscosity of materials and the speed of chemical reactions. In the textile industry, modern air humidity systems can increase productivity by reducing electrostatic charges and the risk of thread breakage.

Fo ran office, optimum humidity provides the ideal basis for a healthy climate. When it’s considered that the Health and Safety Executive identified 25.7 million working days lost to work-related ill health in 2016/172, the impact an unhealthy work atmosphere can potentially have on productivity and the bottom line is evident. The importance of a healthy climate is also applicable to schools and shopping centres in that the more comfortable the atmosphere, the easier it is for students to learn and more likely customers will stay for longer.

The heatwave recently experienced in the UK has seen many employees question just how hot workplace conditions need to get until it is officially too hot to work. Currently there is no legally defined maximum or minimum temperature for offices but guidelines suggest a general minimum of 16C, or 13C for those undertaking physical work such as in factories. Employers are obliged to ensure conditions are “reasonable” but by applying the right humidification equipment, work environments can go beyond this and ensure a level of comfort that means productivity is unaffected regardless of outside temperatures.

Advancements to meet bespoke needs

From optimising indoor air conditions for industrial, commercial, cultural, domestic and leisure facilities to controlling and stabilising air humidity for industry and processes with precision, the latest humidification equipment is capable of meeting all bespoke needs.

Today’s humidifiers continue to evolve as exemplified by the launch of FlexLine, the latest generation of steam humidifiers by HygroMatik. The units function as a construction system which means that starting from a basic model only those add-ons needed to meet the specific humidification requirements of an environment are selected.

Modern humidification units also see users being offered the most diverse choice of customisable options available to date. The advancement of touch screen control systems means setting up a humidifier to match the exact functions as required by the environment is simple. Likewise, monitoring operating conditions and running a diagnosis with individual configuration is easier to perform than ever before.

Maintenance

As with any equipment with moving parts in constant use, maintenance is essential to keeping the apparatus up and running. In addition to an intuitive touch screen alerting you to any issues or highlighting upcoming servicing requirements, the latest humidification units available feature more durable parts than their predecessors.

For example, some humidification units now uses reusable cylinders for a longer life cycle, while the inclusion of features such as a blow-down pump to remove scale deposits helps to reduce maintenance. Units like FlexLine also feature durable parts which include the use of an improved base material that has been specified to deliver better performance than the material traditionally used.

Increasing environmental concerns, Government regulations and the demand from both user and industry for energy efficient units to combat rising energy costs means there is a greater call for manufacturers to provide maintainable rather than disposable options. Systems with individual components that can be replaced and serviced can drastically reduce maintenance costs. This also reduces the unnecessary waste produced by disposing large groups of components or even whole systems.

Strong consideration must be given to humidification control in order to create a comfortable and compliant environment. There are a wide range of systems offered by a variety of manufacturers. In order to ensure the right unit is utilised to meet the specific demands of your project it is best to refer to industry guides and to consult with a manufacturer that specialises in humidification.  www.hygromatik.com

1 http://www.nationmultimedia.com/detail/art/30336677

2 http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/dayslost.htm

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