Picking the Right Climate Control System for Your Enclosure

When choosing a network enclosure and/or shelter, telecommunications organizations will be faced with also choosing whether or not they need a climate control system.

It’s a complex decision that can have long-term ramifications for the organization in regard to how well an enclosure will protect hardware from ambient conditions.

There are four main climate control systems organizations can opt for on their enclosures–fans, heat exchangers, air conditioners and thermal electric coolers. Each offers a variety of advantages and disadvantages over the others.

Read on to learn more about the options, as well as how to pick which size will work for your organization’s needs best.

 

Fan

Fans, also known as direct air cooling (DAC) systems, are the simplest, most affordable climate control option.

A fan system can be set up to bring air in from outside in a positive pressure system, or push it out via an exhaust in a negative pressure system. At American Products, we prefer the negative pressure system because it allows us to bring in outside air through louvered, filtered wall vents, and then push it outside the enclosure via the exhaust. The exhaust also has a filter to prevent dust ingress.

A positive pressure system, on the other hand, is where the fan pulls air directly from outside through a filtered vent and blows it directly into the cabinet. While this does a great job of circulating air through the enclosure interior, it can potentially draw moisture in from outside and spray it all over the equipment inside.

Both styles are great for bringing in clean air and circulating it around the cabinet. The negative pressure system does a better job, though, of removing the air inside the cabinet as well.

Fans aren’t ideal for enclosures housing equipment that puts off a lot of heat or that will be in a hot environment as they don’t offer a lot of cooling power. They also don’t provide any heat in cold environments. But for those organizations who have hardened equipment, it might be a very cost-effective solution that can work well.

Organizations should also avoid fans if their equipment is susceptible to humidity, as a fan system can draw humid air into the cabinet from outside. There are high-end filters that can help prevent water ingress if a customer wants to go that route.

 

Heat Exchanger

A heat exchanger is a closed-loop system where a blower/fan brings hot air from inside the cabinet into the system, removes the heat through heat transfer and then recirculates the cooler air back into the enclosure without introducing humidity into the cabinet’s interior.

A heat exchanger is an energy-efficient way to bring the temperature inside the cabinet down to within 5 degrees or so of the outside ambient temperature. It’s ideal for hardened equipment and can provide a great return on investment (ROI) as it has few moving parts and therefore is easy to maintain and has a low operating expense.

But, a heat exchanger may not a good choice for hot environments as it will only bring the internal temperature within a 5-10-degree range of the outside temperature. It doesn’t have the ability to cool it further, so if the temperature outside gets too high or the equipment inside isn’t rated for extreme heat, it can cause significant damage to valuable electronics. It really depends on the operating temperature of the equipment inside, as well as how hardened it is.

 

Air Conditioners

Air conditioner (AC) units are more expensive than fans and heat exchangers, but they also provide a number of advantages over those options.

For one, an AC unit will do a better job of cooling the enclosure interior in the hot environments fans and heat exchangers may not perform well in. And secondly, an AC unit removes moisture from the air it brings in, so it blows dry, cool air into the enclosure. Many AC units will also provide heat.

On the downside, AC units are more costly up front and down the road. They have more moving parts, which results in higher maintenance costs over time.

But those costs might be worth it if the equipment inside puts off a lot of heat or if the environment stays hot much of the time.

 

Thermal Electric Cooler

Thermal electric coolers (TECs) have the highest up-front cost-per-capacity/BTU of any of the options, but they’re also extremely energy efficient and have low operating costs.

TECs are a lot like heat exchangers in that they offer a closed-loop system with minimal moving parts. But, unlike heat exchangers, a TEC will actually cool the interior of the enclosure below ambient conditions (TECs generally have a much lower capacity than air conditioners, though). It won’t pull in outside air, so organizations also don’t have to worry about humidity harming their equipment.

 

Which Solution Is Best? What Size?

So, which climate control system will work best? That’s a big question that depends on a number of factors, including environment, size of enclosure, type/hardiness of equipment, humidity levels, power options and how much the organization wants to spend up front and down the road.

The next question is, what size of climate control system will work best? That too depends on a number of factors, including size of enclosure, color of enclosure, desired internal temperature and more.

 

American Products enclosure specialists can help you determine which climate control option, and then what size, will work best for your application. In addition, they’ll be able to help you understand the up-front costs. Contact the American Products specialists at 417.323.6312 now to learn more.