08 Oct 2021

7 Questions To Ask Yourself When You Need to Temporarily Heat Your Food & Beverage Plant

Female worker at a food processing facility

Getting the temperature to just the right level (and keeping it there) is a delicate art in any food & beverage facility.

The slightest deviation from your optimal conditions can mean quality issues, a ruined batch, wasted raw ingredients, or worse, the spread of bacteria and other contaminants that could cause serious health and safety issues. 

Plus, there’s the comfort of your workforce to think about. They can’t be expected to spend whole shifts in excessively cold or warm conditions - and again, even a few degrees up or down from your target temperature can make a real difference to people’s wellbeing and productivity. 

This means you need to think through any temporary heating strategies very carefully. There are all kinds of reasons you might need to bring in supplemental or backup heating systems, ranging from equipment failures to seasonal demands. Whatever the reason, though, you need to know exactly how you’ll deploy the equipment and how you’ll manage the challenges that come with this in advance. 

To help you make sure you hit the ground running, here are seven key questions to ask yourself now. 

1.   How Do I Ventilate it Safely?

Ventilation has always been an important health and safety issue, but right now, it’s more crucial than ever. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and ASHRAE have both issued guidelines to help stave off future outbreaks of COVID-19 and other viruses, emphasizing the role of ventilation. These measures include using ventilation systems that increase the amount of outside air flowing into the enclosed area and the number of air changes per hour. 

This is a key concern for temporary heating, since many temporary heater rentals are set up to vent air back into the work environment. This isn’t great for the health of your team or the cleanliness of your work areas at any time, but right now, it’s completely unacceptable. As a starting point to protect your people, products, and customers from harmful bacteria, viruses, and other airborne contaminants, you need to look for heating systems that vent into the outside atmosphere and don’t need additional accessories to expel noxious gas. 

You also need to supplement your heating system with clean air ventilation equipment that combines excellent ventilation rates and a high proportion of outdoor air with mechanical support for return air systems. This should include high-quality filters, UV lighting, and air scrubbers. 

2.   How Will I Spread Heat Evenly Throughout the Building or Area?

A massive challenge when using temporary heating is distributing the heat efficiently through the space. For example, if you’ve set up an old-fashioned indirect heater in one spot in your facility, you have to work out how to circulate the warm air through the rest of the work area or even the entire building. Otherwise, you’ll end up blasting heat in this one area, potentially interfering with precise processes or otherwise negatively affecting product quality, while other areas of the building remain cold. 

One way to handle this is by keeping the air circulating with fans. However, this isn’t a reliable way to create a steady ambient temperature over a large space and also means you may contribute to the spread of germs and contaminants through the building, too. 

For these reasons, a hydronic heater is often a better option. With a hydronic heating system, you set up heat distribution points all over the site, allowing you to maintain a consistent temperature throughout. Plus, you can scale up the heating as you need, while keeping this targeted where you need it. 

3.   How Will I Stave off Damp?

Damp and condensation are a nightmare in food & beverage production. Too much moisture in the air or collecting on surfaces and equipment encourages mildew and mold growth. It also creates the perfect conditions for the spread of bacteria, fungus, and other nasty things that harm human health and spoil items intended for consumption, as well as packaging, tools, and other materials. 

While the right temporary heating and dehumidification technology is a powerful weapon in the fight against damp, if you use the wrong equipment, you may actually make things worse. The biggest culprits are direct-fired, open-flame heaters, which emit a lot of water vapor as they warm the area. Again, hydronic heating is a great alternative. That’s because these kinds of heaters remove moisture from the air by pushing warm, dry air into the area.   

4.   How Will I Stop Costs from Spiralling?

It’s very important that you plan your project carefully from the start to ensure that the equipment you select, including your choice of fuel, will be the most cost-effective and energy-efficient solution for your problem. If you end up needing this temporary solution for a period of weeks or months, small costs can really start to add up.

The biggest cost is typically fuel, so figuring out how to minimize consumption will make a massive difference. Using a fluid superheater, for example, which transfers heat very effectively can boost fuel efficiency by up to 90% when compared to direct-fired or indirect-air, open-flame heaters. 

Ultimately, though, the best way to keep costs under control is to work with an experienced rental provider that can advise you on the best technology mix for your specific needs and circumstances and will custom-design you an engineered installation if the situation calls for it. 

Sometimes, a big hit to your budget is caused by something as simple as space constraints; perhaps you’re forced to undersize or oversize units, or resort to inefficient air circulation techniques, because you can’t fit the ideal heating equipment into the area you have available. Talking this over with an expert team, though, might reveal an innovative workaround that had never occurred to you - and which delivers the results you need at a far lower price point. 

5.   What If the Boiler Is Broken?

While a lot of temporary heating systems rely on your internal boiler system, there are alternative approaches. If the reason you need heating in the first place is because your central boiler has broken down, that’s no reason to despair. 

For example, you might use a boiler-bypass (hydronic) heating system, which heats potable or non-potable drinking water in ways that don’t cost the earth. If you use this in conjunction with a plate exchanger, you can access your facility’s water system directly, too. In an emergency, you can set up a number of separate plate exchangers all over the facility for drinking water and non-potable water, helping you tackle all your heating requirements at once. 

The great thing about these systems is that they are fast to install, set up, and deploy. In an emergency situation, including the unexpected failure of your boiler, you can be up and running again in no time. They’re also really simple to get in and out during planned maintenance, helping you minimize downtime. More on that in a moment. 

6.   How Can I Be Sure It’s Reliable?

Working with a reputable temporary utilities company means the risk that something will go wrong is very small, but it’s always wise to have a backup plan. A good idea is to use heaters that divide up the heating between two burners. This means that even if one burner fails, the other will keep things going until you have a chance to fix it. Some heaters also incorporate a backup fuel feature or let you chop and change between two types of fuel while staying online. 

And then there’s remote monitoring, which takes peace of mind to a whole new level. The rental company responsible for the equipment watches over this around-the-clock, from afar - tracking performance, letting you know when fuel runs low, nipping potential problems in the bud, and even advising on tweaks to boost efficiency. 

7.   Will There Be Downtime?

If you know in advance that you’ll need temporary heating, whether of the supplementary seasonal variety or to see you through a period of planned maintenance, you should be able to organize a seamless switchover that incurs no loss of uptime at all.  

Even if you’re using temporary heating in an emergency and you’ve already lost power, many backup heating systems can be installed rapidly and easily, keeping your time offline to an absolute minimum. In fact, using a boiler-bypass system as described above can be a super speedy approach, as you don’t need to jump through additional compliance hoops to get up and running. When your heating system is boiler-based, this may require you to have a third-party-certified boiler technician available at all times, as well as certification tickets. This can delay deployment. 

Getting the Answers

Now that you know what questions to ask, it’s time to start getting definitive answers that are specific to your site. The more attention you pay in advance to sourcing the right technology and addressing the challenges, the faster you’ll be able to get your temporary heating in place and the more money you’ll save. 

That means reaching out now to a rental company with extensive experience supporting customers in the food & beverage industry. One that understands how every wasted moment means missed orders or damaged products that will need to be discarded. Someone who understands that the temperature and ambient conditions you ask for aren’t suggestions, they’re precise specifications with serious implications for the health of your employees and your business as a whole.