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Stabilizing EnvironmentsTotal climate control

February 1, 2000

5 Min Read
Stabilizing EnvironmentsTotal climate control

Stabilizing Environments

Total climate control

By J. Mark Young

Self-storagedevelopers and owners have seen a need to expand with the changing marketplace and areaccomplishing this by offering their customers more than the facility "nextdoor." A climate-controlled environment is one of the most common enticements.Benefits of climate-controlled storage spaces include preventing damage from moisturebuild-up, preventing the growth of mold and mildew, and preventing the corrosion of itemsstored inside the unit. When providing a truly climate-controlled space, we must considerboth temperature and humidity levels inside the facility. At the same time, financialconsiderations are always a part of any business decision, and with climate-controlledspaces, all aspects should be explored.

Understand the expectations of your customer, and make certain he understands whatbenefits your facility provides him and the property entrusted to your care. Educateyourself on the methods and systems for providing a total climate-controlled environmentin your facility. Remember: Whether you are building a new facility or retrofitting anexisting structure, make sure you provide conditions that truly benefit your customer.Competition in every industry forces us to search for an edge in our respective markets.Total climate control can be that edge for you.

Humidity and Temperature

Humidity and temperature work hand-in-hand in our environment. Relative humidityis a measure of the moisture content in the air at a specific temperature. To understandthe potential effect a particular humidity level will have on us or our property, we mustfirst define the relationship between humidity and temperature.

As temperatures rise, relative humidity will fall. Measuring the relative humidity ishow we account for the moisture in the air. It is basically a measurement of the moisturecontent of the air relative to the maximum temperature in the same area. When air is hot,the molecules spread apart, providing room for water molecules to evaporate. Conversely,when air temperatures fall, we see the relative humidity rise, due to the air moleculesmoving closer together.

At some point, condensation will occur. This is known as the dew-point temperature.Too much moisture is what allows corrosion to occur and for mold and mildew to develop.This is the result of high-moisture build-up and subsequent condensation on the surface ofstored items. Too little moisture in the air can also cause problems. Without enoughmoisture present in the atmosphere, we would find woods separating and paints andwallboard cracking, not to mention the uncomfortable dry feeling we would have withoutenough moisture present. An acceptable balance is what we want to achieve.

To prevent corrosion and remove the environment suitable for mold and mildew growth,temperatures should be at or below 80 degrees with 40 percent relative humidity. Theseconditions happen to fall in the comfort zone most people find acceptable. Lowerrelative-humidity levels may be acceptable, depending on the contents of the storagespace.

Drying Air With Desiccants

Desiccant dehumidifiers reduce the moisture content in the air by removing somequantity of the water vapor from the air with a desiccant wheel. Desiccant equipment isused to remove the moisture from the air stream and return it to the atmosphere outsidethe building. Dehumid-ification systems are able to reduce and maintain levels wherecorrosion, mold and mildew cannot thrive. After drying the air, conventional coolingequipment is used to bring the temperature to the appropriate level.

Desiccants can remove up to 10,000 times their weight in water vapor, making them muchmore efficient at drying the air than any conventional cooling or coil-type dehumidifier.For this reason, you are able to control the amount of moisture in a storage facility moreprecisely and reduce the air-conditioning tonnage required to cool the climate-controlledspace.

Project Design

Air temperature and the moisture content of that air are directly related. In a perfectenvironment, we would be able to control the temperature and moisture level with ease.However, with storage facilities, we cannot create a vacuum because customers need accessto the property. Therefore, we must take into consideration other factors in the initialdesign phase of a project.

Remember: As the air temperature rises, the air molecules expand and make room for morewater vapor. Also, the measurement of relative humidity to the air will decrease at thesame time. These two reference points should be a part of the total climate-control designprocess. The moisture level in the air is the enemy of the stored property. Highermoisture content provides the environment for corrosion to occur and molds and mildew togrow.

Thinking back to our earlier discussion of humidity and temperature, we want to designfor space conditions at or below 80 degrees and 40 percent relative humidity. For winterconditions, we can hold 60 degrees and 40 percent relative humidity, and maintain amoisture content low enough to be suitable for the storage space. Temperature and humidityalways work together in your design calculations.

What Does My Customer Expect?

"Do you have climate-control units available for rent?" Is this the questionmy customer is asking me, or is he asking if the property he intends to entrust to my careis going to be safe and free from the effects of corrosion, mold and mildew? Understandingexactly what the customer expects and what service you are providing is essential to yoursuccess and reputation.

Do your homework. Equip your facility to provide a conditioned space that will protectyour customers' property. Train yourself and your managers to be prepared with appropriatesolutions for the customer. Document storage for business and storage of fine arts andantiques can be even more critical, as well as lucrative. Again, understand theexpectations from the outset in order to eliminate potential problems in the future.

Coming Back to the Future

Now it's time for all self-storage owners and operators to look forward. The future isnow. The self-storage client base is changing and so are its needs. The industry has begunto seek new and more efficient ways to operate, but we must also realize our customers aredoing the very same thing. Total climate control is the direction the industry is headedas customers' needs become more precisely defined. Total climate control can provide youan advantage by offering a value to customers they may not find at a majority ofself-storage facilities today.

J. Mark Young is director of commercial and industrial marketing for Logis-TechInc. of Alexandria, Va. Logis-Tech has been providing corrosion control and preventionsolutions for military and government facilities for more than a decade. The company hasdeveloped and trademarked its Environmental Stabilization System (ESS®), aswell as its Guardian™ and AIMMS systems, which are utilized for maintenancemonitoring and asset visibility and tracking. For more information, visit www.logis-tech.com.

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