Barry Drake, Chief Engineer at Maple Leaf Foods in Kitchener, Ontario, wasn’t even looking for energy savings when he agreed to test an ecoair Rotation System® in the refrigerated Sliced Meat Room at his facility, but that’s what he got—and more.
Barry initially hoped that an ecoair Rotation System® would help combat humidity in his refrigerated meat processing plant. What Barry also discovered is some other unanticipated, though very welcome, benefits of using an ecoair Rotation System®.
To keep their meat fresh, Maple Leaf carefully regulates the temperature in all production areas of their massive facility.
In the Sliced Meat Room, a 13,000 ft2 refrigerated space, Maple Leaf employees slice and package huge volumes of meat every day. After each processing shift, cleaning personnel thoroughly steam clean the room, causing the temperature and humidity to spike.When the cleaning crew is done, the refrigeration system works hard to bring the temperature back down to a set point of 6°C in time for the next production shift.
In June, 2011, Barry Drake invited us to install an ecoair Rotation System® in the Sliced Meat Room to see if increased air circulation would have an impact on humidity levels. As Barry explained, “The goal was to cut down on my humidity because I have condensation issues on all the ammonia pipes. I have a 700,000+ square foot facility that’s refrigerated. Condensation is a big issue.”
Our initial defined objective was to reduce relative humidity to 60% or less within the Sliced Meat Room.
On June 22—just in time for the hot summer weather—we installed one of our EA-42 Rotation Systems in Maple Leaf’s refrigerated Sliced Meat Room. (Translation: We rolled the unit in and plugged it into the nearest wall socket. Our patented design is plug and play!)
We then programmed 12 Tinytag data loggers to take temperature and humidity measurements at 30-second intervals, and we placed them at floor, occupant, and ceiling levels throughout the Sliced Meat Room. Over a four-week period, we compiled temperature and humidity data with the ecoair Rotation System® running and switched off.
Finally, we charted data corresponding to peaks in temperature greater than the room set point (6⁰C) that required a minimum of 20 minutes cooling time to achieve and maintain a temperature of 6⁰C in the room for at least 20 minutes.
While we were unsuccessful in reducing the relative humidity to 60% in the Sliced Meat Room, our system did yield three valuable benefits for Maple Leaf:
1. Energy Savings
With the ecoair Rotation System® running, we returned the room to its set point temperature almost 50% faster. “What we found out is normally it would take us an hour and a half to come back down in temperature after cleaning. [With ecoair] we could come down in 45 minutes,” said Barry, who was pleasantly surprised by this result.
Of course, as Chief Engineer, he had no trouble understanding it:
“You have air circulation…There are no hidden spots or stagnant areas, which is a big problem in facilities. Because the air is constantly moving, you’re able to more effectively heat or cool it.”
At first glance, a 45-minute reduction in cooling time per shift may not seem like much, but it adds up to more than 200 hours every year when the massive refrigeration system in the 13,000 ft2 Sliced Meat Room isn’t running full-out. That is a very significant energy savings. But the savings don’t stop there. The reduction in cooling time also extends the useful life of the refrigeration system, further saving the company on repairs and new equipment.
Maple Leaf’s Kitchener plant is not only a meat processing facility but also a packaging and distribution centre, so Barry has to be especially mindful of particulate from cardboard boxes.
The patented, reusable filtering system built into our unit turned out to be a big plus for the engineer because it was stellar at capturing airborne cardboard dust.
Barry observed, “For air purification, it’s great because it moves large volumes of air at a slow speed…It removed an unbelievable amount of dust particles from the air.”
Of course, cleaner air is better for the product and healthier for the employees who work in the Sliced Meat Room.
At Maple Leaf, unscheduled shutdowns can be very expensive, costing many thousands of dollars per day in repairs and lost production time. Needless to say, Chief Engineer Drake feels the heat when a refrigeration problem shuts down the plant.
As Barry recalled with obvious relief, “I was able to move the air, so I could keep the room at temperature with two less evaporators, which is 12 tonnes of refrigeration.” And what if the ecoair Rotation System® hadn’t been there? “We would not have been able to hold temperature. I’m confident of that—absolutely…This machine is wonderful.”
We’re particularly proud of this achievement because very few companies can honestly say, “We saved Maple Leaf’s bacon!”
After operating an ecoair Rotation System® for several months in his refrigerated meat processing facility, Chief Engineer Barry Drake assessed its performance like this:
“The machine is quiet. You don’t feel anything once it gets up to speed and gets the air moving.”
“There’s no maintenance to it …We just turn it on and off.”
“This is a great machine…I know for a fact that I can cool a room down after cleaning in half the time…I’m recommending it to everyone I talk to.”
Thanks, Barry, for your kind words and tremendous support at Maple Leaf Foods.
If you want to learn more about how we can reduce the daily cost of cooling or heating your industrial facility…
Figure 2: Our ecoair Rotation Systems® trap more particles by moving air through the filters at very low speed.