Dehumidification for Food Processing: Why it Matters
Whether for our own meals or the most discerning of customers, we all count on having access to high-quality food products. Most of the time, however, there’s no way of knowing for certain what it has gone through from the farm to table. Has the product and its packaging been correctly looked after? What were the storage conditions like? These are just some of the questions we hear at Condair, and the solution is a simple one: dehumidification technologies are essential.
Of course, we’re all about proper humidity control, but it’s important to distinguish when to stop further hydrating a space and reduce the air moisture content present. Most conditions are best kept between 40 and 60 percent relative humidity, but some applications may require different settings. Today, let’s go beyond the difference between humidification and dehumidification, digging into the specifics of why the latter is important in food processing applications.
What is Dehumidification, Anyway?
Essentially, dehumidification technologies are designed to remove moisture – they’re the opposite of a humidifier. With that said, you should never attempt to eliminate humidity in an indoor space. When it comes to food processing applications, dehumidifiers are used to take care of excess moisture evaporated into the airstream by products, outside elements and other disturbances to the indoor air quality.
Foods and Thermodynamics
Relative humidity is used to calculate how much moisture is contained in the air of any given space. Temperature plays a significant role here, as does the state of the contents stored within it. For example, in a food processing environment, products and the environment itself may add excess water vapor to the airstream. Regulating indoor relative humidity can be tricky in this regard as, no matter what you have your thermostat set to, you’ll still have extra moisture that you need to get rid of. Without the use of dehumidifier technologies, it can be difficult to sufficiently address the needless extra water vapor being added. Using one in conjunction with a humidifier removes this excess moisture and stops when you hit your target relative humidity range.
Avoiding Hygroscopic Headaches
Some products, such as those containing starches, require specific relative humidity conditions to maintain their shape, quality, and freshness. Deviating too far from the ideal RH range, whether drier or damper, can negatively impact the processing of these foods. This occurs because products including pastas, breads, and cheeses can become brittle and reduce in size if too dry or develop mold if too wet. The same goes for labels and even packaging – a cardboard box or beverage label is sure to deteriorate or come unstuck if sitting in high-humidity conditions, for instance. The latter occurs when a beverage product has condensation on its surface. In these circumstances, constant and regulated dehumidification is essential, especially if operating environments are warm.
Maintain Hygienic, Efficient Conditions
Corrosion damage, wood rot, and fungal growth are just a few of the ways an environment with high relative humidity can hinder food processing applications. On the other hand, conditions that are too dry introduce problems such as packaging brittleness, reduced airborne infection control when an employee is sick as aerosols will spread further, and electrostatic discharges that can damage equipment. Staying within the ideal RH range for your application is crucial if you wish to avoid these complications. Using humidifier and dehumidifier technologies together to regulate conditions helps employees focus and become more productive, reduce downtime and absenteeism, and minimize product wastage while boosting quality assurance. This can mean considerable cost savings when managing products in bulk or running a large-scale operation.
In conclusion, here are the key benefits of dehumidification for food processing purposes:
- Keep condensation under control while ensuring product freshness
- Manage water vapor accumulation and regulate relative humidity parameters
- Ensure a clean, hygienic, and safe working environment for employees
- Cut down on product, material, and time wastage
- Standardize quality and operational efficiency for improved cost control
- Ensure consistent quality and production efficiency for sensitive goods such as products that require strict hygroscopic conditions
Rather than focus on the difference between humidification and dehumidification, the most beneficial approach is to make full use of these separate processes. Make the most of these systems to make the most of your business! That way, ensuring proper humidity control is easier, and your products, operations, and team members will benefit the most as a result. To learn more about our humidification and dehumidification solutions at Condair, contact us today. We’re happy to help!