Thermal management is the monitoring and control of temperature produced by devices in electrical enclosures.
Why does it matter?
Temperature directly affects the reliability and service life of electric – and especially electronic – equipment. Indeed, when devices and installations in enclosures fail or malfunction, it’s almost always a thermal issue.
How does poor thermal management affect industry?
Badly, is the short answer. Losses from just one hour of downtime can run into tens of thousands of euros in manufacturing industries and into millions in the banking and microprocessor sectors. Clearly, sound thermal management is critical.
What’s the secret of good thermal management?
Although there is no single “secret”, you should always plan ahead – a basic step in good management in any walk of life. Always visit the site where the enclosure is to be installed to assess weather conditions and air quality. Use materials best suited to the site environment and ones that naturally lend themselves to heat dissipation.
Another “secret” is striking the right balance between the temperatures inside and outside your enclosure. The more heat-sensitive devices, the trickier it is to get the right balance. You need to conduct a thermal balance analysis.
Why is thermal balance important?
It is one set of the parameters you use to determine the thermal management solution you will use for your enclosure.
Dedicated software actually performs the thermal balance calculation. It needs the following parameters:
- The enclosure’s specifications, e.g. its size, the materials it is made of.
- The temperature of the air outside the enclosure.
- The desired operating temperature inside the enclosure.
- The total power loss, i.e. the sum of the dissipation value of each device in the enclosure.
Once you have your thermal balance, you enter parameters like humidity, air quality, and the degree of pollution in the thermal management program. It then calculates the most appropriate thermal management solution.
What solutions are available?
Broadly speaking they are two kinds of solutions: passive and active.
Passive solutions should be part of the installation phase. But they involve modifying the installation:
- Increasing the size of the enclosure – saves up to 50% of energy.
- Locating the enclosure in an environment that is conducive to optimal heat dissipation.
- Changing the layout of power loads and repositioning cables carefully.
- Managing air flows by leaving enough space between devices and using natural convection and ventilation with grilles
Wherever possible, use passive solutions first. Because they make the most of the natural properties heat transfer, they are cheap and practical.
What are active solutions?
Active solutions use technology to control heat or heat-related effects. They include:
- Thermal control device
- Forced convection with fans
- Ventilators and air-conditioners
- Air-water and air-air exchangers
- Resistance heaters.
What are the benefits of sound thermal management?
First and foremost, safety. They also include:
- Prevention of overheating and malfunctions
- Reduced downtime
- Longer device service lives
- Improved energy efficiency
- Lower manufacturing costs
- Lower maintenance cycles and costs.
Do you have any preferred solutions we might not have covered? If you do, feel free to share them with us.
if you want to know more, visit this web page about thermal management solutions.