One of the most difficult issues that is also one of the most prevalent in buildings and factories is condensation. Water forming on surfaces and dripping onto floors, piping and people can be a very costly headache for facility and plant managers. Water and moisture can breed mold, bacteria, and cause a number of problems with corrosion and safety.
To comprehend the difficulty of stopping condensation and find a successful solution, we need to understand what causes condensation. Condensation is formed when a surface temperature falls below the dew point temperature of an environment. You will often see this occur in the early spring or summer mornings when there is dew on the grass, the dew forms because the grass surface temperature is below the mornings dew point temperature.
How Does Dew Point Work?
The dew point is calculated from the air temperature and relative humidity of an environment. An easy online calculator that calculates dew point can be found at www.dpcalc.org. For example, if you have an air temperature of 84F (29C) with a relative humidity of 55%, surfaces begin to experience condensation (the dew point) at 66F (19C). So if you have a cold water pipe with a surface temperature 45F (7C), that pipe would experience condensation, and to stop it completely you would need to raise the pipe surface temperature by 22 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius) to 67F (20C) to bring it past the dew point.
The Solution is Complicated: Insulating From Hot to Cold is Easier than from Cold to Warm
Reducing a hot surface temperature is pretty easy with our thermal insulation coatings (we easily lower temperatures by over 100F), but increasing the temperature of a cool surface (without using a heater) is much more difficult. One way that people try to solve condensation is to wrap the surface with a fibrous insulation and cover it with cladding. What this does is not actually stop the condensation happening at the surface, but instead it is trapping it. Imagine putting a large roll of paper towels over a pipe that is experiencing condensation, it will stop the dripping for a while, but once the moisture soaks through, not only is the wrap ruined, the pipes are being subject to constant moisture which can cause serious corrosion issues.
Doing the Job Right To Prevent Corrosion and CUI
Thermal insulation coatings, like Syneffex Translucent PT or Energy Protect, provide a much better way to insulate and protect surfaces from condensation and moisture. When approaching this issue, we provide an honest assessment and educate our clients about the causes of condensation and the fact that not all condensation can be solved easily. Six coats of our PT product can typically stop the condensation for a surface that is only 12-16 degrees Fahrenheit below the dew point. For those surfaces that are 30-40 degrees Fahrenheit below the dew point, the coating can lessen the condensation and protect the surface from moisture contact and corrosion, however the condensation would not be completely eliminated without use of a heat trace, dehumidifier or other secondary method.
Keeping Bank Customers Dry
One customer that Syneffex assisted with a condensation issue was a community bank. The aluminum framing of the skylight over the lobby area was suffering from condensation in the summer and dripping over their customers heads and onto the floor, causing safety issues. They painted both the skylight and the aluminum frame with the Energy Protect coating at 6-coats, which raised the surface enough to stop the condensation from forming.
The key to a solving a difficult issue, like condensation, is to have a supplier you can trust to gather all the necessary data, do a thorough analysis, and be honest about what can and cannot be achieved, so you can make the best decision for your organization.