Walk into most manufacturing facilities and you’re likely to see one kind of cooling unit. Vapor-compression cooling units — the most common kind of cooling unit in the industrial space — utilize some form of refrigerant and compressor to provide cooling for the critical electronics that power industrial automation processes.
But what about manufacturing facilities where space is limited? Or production environments that are remote in location or exist in harsh environmental conditions? How can automation architects create reliable, consistent cooling strategies in these contexts? This is where thermoelectric cooling comes into play to provide some unique opportunities for automation architects in creating a climate control infrastructure that can be easily integrated in production sequences with challenging space constraints, reducing your overall carbon footprint, and controlling maintenance and repair costs.
Yet with even these value propositions — not to mention several others — thermoelectric cooling is still the metaphorical little brother in industrial climate control, in large part because manufacturers just don’t have enough information and insight into how thermoelectric cooling can provide a flexible solution for cooling needs in unique or harsh manufacturing environments.
With this in mind, let’s examine five things to know about thermoelectric cooling for a better understanding of how this method of enclosure cooling can help unlock untapped potential.
Thermoelectric cooling requires DC voltage
The first element to understand about thermoelectric cooling is the guiding principle on which this kind of cooling is based: The Peltier Effect. Thermoelectric cooling uses an electrical current passed between two similar conductors that results in heat being absorbed or released depending on the direction of the electrical current flow. When DC voltage is passed through a material or object, one side of the object will become hot while the other side will remain cool; when the current flow is reversed, the hot side will become cool, and the cool side will become hot.
In addition, because the level of cooling is directly impacted by the level of voltage, thermoelectric cooling units also help regulate or control the temperature within an enclosure, which further helps automation architects dial in their climate control capabilities and create more strategic cooling.
Thermoelectric cooling units are easy to maintain
Unlike compressor-based cooling, thermoelectric cooling does not rely on a complex system of moving parts or internal mechanisms to create targeted cooling, and this characteristic is important in providing more consistently reliable cooling outputs. Whereas more traditional cooling units utilize refrigerants such as freon, oil, or other chemical solutions that need to be monitored and replenished, thermoelectric cooling units require no fluid monitoring or replacement for consistent cooling output.
Additionally, thermoelectric cooling units do not require filters, which removes the manual, tedious task of cleaning or replacing air filters for optimized performance. Without the need for regular maintenance, thermoelectric cooling units are ideal for production environments where access to the cooling unit is difficult or restrictive.
Thermoelectric cooling supports efficiency and sustainability
Thermoelectric cooling units can also be referred to as solid-state cooling units because the solid metal component of the unit helps with heat transfer as opposed to using any kind of chemical refrigerant. While thermoelectric cooling’s reliance on DC voltage does require consistent energy flow for peak performance, the lack of refrigerants or other potentially harmful chemicals help reduce the likelihood of negative environmental impact via leaks or spills.
Thermoelectric cooling units do not use motors or compressors to facilitate cooling operations. This simplified engineering and operation means thermoelectric cooling does not require lubrication for moving parts within the units, which means more reliable, consistent cooling relatively free from component part breakdown or malfunction.
Thermoelectric cooling can fit almost anywhere
Given that thermoelectric cooling units do not use a compressor, mounting options and integration capabilities are far beyond those of compressor-based cooling units, and thermoelectric cooling units can be used for targeted cooling no matter the orientation needs within the production environment. The lack of moving component parts also helps reduce the weight of thermoelectric cooling units, which allows for use in a greater variety of applications.
In addition, the solid-state design of thermoelectric cooling units makes them ideal for use in remote environments or applications where reliability is paramount or consistent human intervention is not possible.
Thermoelectric cooling is ideal for a variety of industrial applications
Ideal for use in manufacturing environments with high levels of ambient temperature, limited space, and harsh environmental conditions, thermoelectric cooling is well-suited for use in the material handling and food and beverage industries. The flexibility, scalability, and ease of integration can help material handlers increase their speed to market and ensure targeted cooling outputs in both indoor and outdoor settings. For food and beverage producers, thermoelectric cooling units can tolerate high levels of humidity that can be present in production plants while meeting the high hygienic standards that come with food and beverage production programs.
Rittal’s line of thermoelectric cooling units combine powerful cooling outputs with a lightweight design for ultimate efficiency and ease of integration into existing climate systems. Ideal for cooling of command panels and small enclosures, Rittal’s thermoelectric cooling units are certified for global use to help manufacturers around the world leverage robust, reliable cooling where and when it’s needed most.
Learn how a Rittal Climate Efficiency Analysis can help you optimize your climate control system.