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A Simple Concept That Saves Big Dollars

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Or, How a Bad Hair Day Can Save You Thousands Of Dollars...

You have probably walked through a doorway some time in your life that totally messed up your hair…you had just experienced an “air curtain”.  So why would someone want to install one of these things if they can be so annoying?  The reason, as is most often the case, is to save money.

“Air curtains” or “air doors” have been around for decades.  You find them on some commercial buildings up north in entry vestibules as a way to help isolate the cold outdoors from the heated indoors.  You also find thousands of them on industrial and warehouse buildings because of the large number of “dock doors” that are constantly being opened and closed.  Every time one of those doors opens, the building has the potential to lose heat to the cold outdoors…and that costs money.  Most facility managers realize this instinctively (or it was passed down from one generation to the next) but I am not sure how many have actually tried to calculate just how much energy and money is lost through a single dock door.

Here at Mestex we produce a number of “air curtain” products under brand names such as King, Applied Air, and LJ Wing.  All of our “air curtains” are intended for use on the large dock or ramp doors that you find in industrial or warehouse buildings.  The purpose of this little article, though, is to highlight the operating cost savings from using an “air curtain” rather than to tell you which one to use.  In order to do that we turned to one of our engineering analysis tools that we employ for more complicated application studies…Computational Fluid Dynamics, or “CFD”.

In some of our other blog articles we talked about CFD and how it works so I won’t go into that in detail but suffice to say that we can predict the temperature and airflow impact of HVAC equipment in a building…and do so with surprising accuracy.

For this study we created a model of a 20,000 square foot warehouse with a 20 foot height.  We then added a 14 foot wide by 16 foot tall dock door.  The model included R-13 wall construction and R-11 roof construction.  Our target inside design temperature in winter was set at 68 degrees F.  We threw in a few storage racks and a heating system on the opposite wall of the building from the dock door…about as far away as we could put it.  We then ran the CFD software with winter weather conditions from Syracuse, Chicago, and Atlanta.

Our CFD study showed a heating requirement of 3.5 million btuh in Syracuse without an “air curtain” and only 2.4 million btuh with an “air curtain”.  In Chicago it was 3.75 million versus 2.5 million, and in Atlanta it was 2.25 million versus 1.75 million.  You can see that the savings in btuh were significant in each case…even in Atlanta.

Converting this into dollars and cents translates into a savings of almost $21,000 per year in Syracuse, $19,000 dollars per year in Chicago, and $3,600 per year in Atlanta.  When you consider that a typical “air curtain” for a 14x16 dock door only costs about $18,000 completely installed and operational you can see why facility managers in cold climates can easily justify the investment…I mean, who doesn’t want a 1-year payback?  Even in “Hot-Lanta” the payback is 5 years just for heating…and the concept also helps with cooling.  We have also calculated the internal rate of return with various hours per day of door opening but that analysis is too lengthy for this already lengthy blog article.  If you want more information about the IRR or want information for your city just contact us at www.appliedair.com using the “contact us” selection under the “support” tab.