In addition to temperatures within cold storage units and warehouses, moisture levels are of considerable importance. When relative humidity levels are too dry, goods dehydrate and shrink. When condensation levels are too high, electronics may experience problems, goods deteriorate and products may experience mold, bacterial or insect contamination that may pose health risks to workers and consumers. By being proactive about condensation prevention, you will protect the safety of the goods processed and worker health, as well as extend the life of equipment.
Condensation and Food-Borne Illnesses
Condensation forms when an area experiences high levels of relative humidity, poor ventilation and low temperatures on walls or surfaces. Along with clean working conditions, appropriate storage temperatures and safe handling, condensation prevention and control is one of the top ways to control food-borne illnesses, such as listeria, salmonella, shingella, Escherichia coli, vibrio and cryptosporidium. Such pathogens can survive for long periods in food processing environments, particularly in moist areas.
Microorganisms, such as fungi, may naturally grow where food is grown, processed and stored. Fungus, or mold, is associated with numerous health-related problems, such as upper respiratory illnesses. When ingested, the mycotoxins in mold may cause allergic reactions, respiratory illnesses and digestive illnesses. Some molds produce aflatoxins, cancer-causing toxins, in foods. It only takes as little as a couple hours for pathogens and microorganisms to grow in cold storage areas and facilities.
Dangers of Condensation to Cold Storage Units and Warehouses
Electronics designed specifically for cold storage areas experience difficulties when exposed to humidity and condensation. For example:
- Screens accumulate frost, making it difficult for workers to be productive, see prompts and input data.
- Barcode readers and other image-capturing devices accumulate frost on optical ports, making workers resort to manual entry.
- Condensation can accumulate behind a computer or LCD screen or a scanner’s window, making a device more vulnerable to short-circuiting, corrosion and failure.
- Buttons and keys on electronics can stick in the presence of condensation, increasing error rates.
- Condensation can promote mold growth to form on wood, paper products and within gaskets, requiring their replacement.
- Electronics and storage components may not meet environmental safety requirements.
- Condensation can shorten a battery’s life.
- Wireless technologies may not work as effectively when exposed to condensation, rendering wireless sensors, for example, useless.
Condensation Prevention and Safety Tips
- Maintain refrigerators at or below 39°F (4°C). Freezers should be at or below 0°F (-18°C).
- Keep cold storage facilities or units clean. Dry the area as soon as possible after cleaning.
- Ensure adequate ventilation within cold storage spaces.
- Ensure adequate insulation within a cold storage facility to limit thermal conduction.
- Depending on your geographic location, ensure that the building has an efficient vapor barrier or sub-floor heating to prevent frost heave.
- Position evaporators to reduce airflow, snow formation and wind chill in appropriate areas.
- Use rapid roller doors or air curtains for workers to enter and exit through to maintain the ideal environmental levels in cold storage warehouses.
- Ensure that cold storage units are equipped to accommodate the maximum level of individuals in a space as well as electronic equipment.
- Use battery-charging systems, such as those needed for electric forklifts, designed to work in cold storage environments.
- Ensure that all refrigerated trucks, staging areas, freezers and cold rooms have a design that prevents snow formation and the buildup of ice on floors and walls.
- Monitor oxygen levels and air quality regularly.
- Use safety equipment that detects and isolates leaks in refrigeration units or cold storage facilities. The equipment should have a warning device or alarm that sounds when it detects a leak or environmental problems.
Condensation prevention reduces health concerns and lowers operational costs. Despite best efforts, some facilities experience high relative humidity levels or condensation because of their geographic location or processing procedures. In such instances, they would benefit from temporary humidity control equipment. Polygon provides robust climate control solutions for cold storage and food processing facilities that are tailored to a space’s exact needs to ensure optimal environmental levels, employee safety and worker productivity. Contact Polygon to learn how temporary humidity control can benefit your cold storage environment.
[Photo from Alex M via CC License 2.0]