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Posted by Stephanie on June 17, 2024

Maintaining safety in your warehouse is crucial. There are a wide range of potential hazards that can put your personnel in harm’s way. While many of these issues involve tripping and fall hazards, they can also be related to the heat. Once the summer arrives and the temperatures climb, heat-related illnesses become more likely.

According to recent data from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), thousands of employees suffer from illnesses because of occupational heat exposure each year. Some of these illnesses are fatal. Even though heat-related sicknesses can occur in any building or industry, warehousing and manufacturing are two high-risk industries.

While it’s important to maintain a cool warehouse environment, it’s not an easy task. There are numerous challenges you must overcome to keep your employees safe. Warehouses often have heating problems because of their size as well as the fact that they aren’t made to withstand extreme temperatures. The challenges that warehouse managers typically encounter when trying to cool their indoor spaces include the following:

  • High humidity
  • Stagnant air
  • Poor air distribution
  • Temperature stratification

The purpose of this article is to provide comprehensive strategies that can help you cool down your warehouse and maintain employee safety.

The Importance of Warehouse Temperature Control

There are numerous reasons why you need to maintain the temperature in your warehouse. When the work environment becomes uncomfortable and possibly hazardous to your employees, they’ll be at risk of developing heat-related illnesses.

High temperatures are also known to negatively impact productivity. It’s more challenging to perform standard tasks. Employees may exhibit unsafe work habits, heat exhaustion, and fatigue. When productivity drops, the revenue your company brings in could decrease as well.

High temperatures can also cause issues with product quality and storage conditions. If your warehouse stores any food products, spoilage may occur. Any chemicals that are kept in your facility could degrade in quality as well. If the work environment is too humid, mold could grow and spread throughout the building. Over time, any wood-based products and pallets might also become damaged if there’s too much moisture in the air.

OSHA doesn’t have specific regulatory requirements for keeping the interior of a warehouse at a specific temperature. However, employers are required to provide personnel with a work environment that’s free from hazards that could cause physical harm or death. If the temperature in your warehouse gets too high, your personnel will likely face hazards to their health.

Even though OSHA doesn’t have specific temperature requirements, they provide recommendations that your warehouse should adhere to. They recommend that all warehousing facilities maintain a temperature range that extends from 68-76 degrees Fahrenheit. If the temperature in your building is often higher than 76 degrees Fahrenheit, start looking for strategies that can help you keep your warehouse cool.

Assessing Warehouse Heat Sources

To identify strategies you can use to improve the temperature in your warehouse, you must first find all internal and external heat sources. While there are numerous items that can generate heat in a warehouse, the most common sources include equipment, machinery, and lighting. For example, the material handling equipment in your facility will produce heat when being operated.

If your warehouse mainly uses incandescent bulbs, they produce much more heat than halogen, LED, and fluorescent bulbs. Any machinery that runs while your personnel are performing their tasks will generate heat.

One of the major factors that determines how much heat a warehouse produces is its design. If the building isn’t made to disperse heat and reflect sunlight away from the employees, the temperatures could become unbearable without the right cooling equipment in place.

Insulation also plays a large role in determining the building’s heat level. When a building’s properly insulated, the cool air that’s produced from an air conditioner or ceiling fan won’t escape as quickly.

warehouse fan

Natural Ventilation Strategies

If you’re wondering how to keep a warehouse cool, there’s a selection of natural and mechanical ventilation strategies you can implement. Since natural ventilation is energy efficient, you can maintain your building’s temperature without spending as much money on cooling systems. Ventilation will also bring in fresh air and get rid of stale indoor air, which should boost your building’s overall air quality.

You can more effectively cool down your building by installing natural ventilation in the proper areas. For example, all vents, louvers, and windows in the warehouse should be placed strategically to maintain natural breezes and cross-ventilation. You can use a combination of wall louvers, rooftop gravity vents, ridge vents, and roof ventilators to bring in cool air and keep temperatures from climbing too high.

Place exhaust fans around the center roof line to take warm air out of the building from your ceiling. When designing your facility’s layout, pay close attention to the airflow patterns that your natural ventilation strategy creates.

Mechanical Ventilation Solutions

There are many different types of warehouse fans you can install in your facility. For example, ceiling fans can cool down smaller areas in your building by circulating the air. While ceiling fans don’t emit cool air, they can help you maintain the temperature in your facility by making sure the air doesn’t become stale. This is a relatively low-cost solution that offers some respite from the hot outside air.

It’s highly recommended that you install exhaust fans strategically around your building. They can be mounted around exterior walls or heavy machinery. These fans are designed to remove stale and muggy indoor air, which ensures that cooler air is left behind. Along with cooling equipment, exhaust fans can also keep the metal surfaces in your warehouse from becoming corroded.

You should also look into buying high-volume, low-speed (HVLS) fans for your warehouse. These are large fans that can move high volumes of air while spinning at low rotational speeds. A fan can only receive the “HVLS” label if it has a diameter of seven feet or more. These fans typically spin at a speed of 8mph, which can result in anywhere from 70-200 rotations every minute.

In comparison, residential fans spin at around 225-230 rotations each minute. To understand how helpful these fans can be at maintaining a specific temperature in your warehouse, residential fans that run on a 1-HP motor emit around 29,000 cubic feet of air per minute. HVLS fans with the same motor produce upwards of 140,000 cubic feet of air every minute.

You can improve air circulation in your warehouse by installing and placing these systems in the right positions. For example, exhaust fans should be placed close to the ceiling. Your ceiling fans need to be positioned near roller doors and windows. If you have an existing HVAC system in your facility, integrating a new ventilation system may prove challenging. Speak with an HVAC professional who offers commercial services to ensure you don’t make a costly mistake.

Warehouse of Pallet Racking and Boltless Shelving with Particle Board

Advanced Cooling Technologies

While ceiling fans and HVLS units can help you maintain a cool temperature in your facility, you may also benefit from more advanced cooling technologies. There are a handful of different systems that can be installed in a large warehouse. However, your best options include variable air volume (VAV), variable refrigerant flow (VFR), and evaporative cooling systems.

The first two types of HVAC units are designed specifically for multi-room spaces. You can control the temperature in each zone. However, evaporative coolers may be the most effective. They operate by drawing air in from the outside. These systems force the outside air through damp membranes, which ensures that it’s cooled before being distributed through the facility. The heat from the air evaporates alongside the water from the membrane. The main advantages of evaporative coolers include the following:

  • Efficiently renews air quality
  • Cools larger facilities without additional equipment
  • Minimal environmental impact

The main issue with these systems is that they aren’t ideal for more humid environments. If there’s too much moisture in the air, the cooling system might not have enough capacity to remove it.

If you don’t want to air condition the entire facility, consider spot cooling. Spot cooling systems are smaller units that can be placed strategically to deliver cool air to the immediate area surrounding a worker or piece of machinery. This solution is cost-effective and environmentally friendly.

Insulation and Building Design

You can also keep your warehouse cool by improving the building’s design and installing more insulation. Ample insulation ensures that less heat comes in during the hot summer months. While warehouses can’t be perfectly insulated, you can take steps to reduce heat transfer in high-volume locations.

Even though insulation will reduce your floor space by a few inches, it can help you save a considerable sum of money. It may also be the solution you need to keep your personnel safe and healthy when the temperatures rise. The best types of insulation for warehouses include the following:

  • Fiberglass
  • Cellulose
  • Spray foam
  • Aerogel

Consider improving the temperature in your facility by installing reflective roofing and wall coatings to minimize heat absorption. For example, cool roofs reflect heat and reduce energy costs. They absorb much less solar energy than traditional roofs.

Energy-Efficient Practices

Make sure you implement energy-efficient practices wherever possible. For example, you could install solar-powered ventilation that’s powered by the sun and consumes significantly less energy. These ventilation systems are easy to install and will save you money over time.

If you currently have incandescent bulbs in your facility, replace them immediately with LED ones. LED bulbs are more energy efficient and don’t produce nearly as much heat. To ensure your cooling systems remain in good shape, schedule maintenance regularly. Maintaining indoor temperatures is easier when your cooling systems are running at peak efficiency.

Employee Comfort and Safety Measures

Keeping your employees comfortable and safe isn’t just about installing new systems and insulation. Consider providing your employees with zones and rest areas where they can take regular breaks to cool down. Place cold water stations throughout the warehouse to make sure your employees remain hydrated.

Train your staff on heat stress prevention and safety protocols they can follow to reduce the possibility of heat-related illnesses. It’s also a good idea to hand out cooling vests that can maintain body temperatures in warm environments. These vents contain small ice blocks.

Conclusion

Once you know how to cool down a warehouse, you need to start implementing these strategies immediately. Install new natural and mechanical ventilation systems when needed. Consider pairing your existing ceiling fans with a few HVLS fans to more effectively keep your warehouse cool. Implementing proactive cooling measures can keep your personnel safe and boost productivity in your warehouse.

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With over 32 years of experience in material handling, QMH is committed to providing end-to-end solutions for companies with distribution, logistic and warehousing needs. From permit approval management to full-service execution from the ground up, QMH delivers unique solutions providing distinct value in record time.