Guide to Thermoelectric Cooling


With EIC Solution’s comprehensive Guide to Thermoelectric Cooling, you’ll learn about the benefits, sizing considerations, applications, markets and use cases of this alternative to traditional cooling methods. Here’s how thermoelectric cooling can transform your next project.

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1What is Thermoelectric Cooling?

With sensitive electronics being used increasingly in harsh, hot, contaminant laden environments, many companies are implementing cooling systems into their electronics enclosures in order to keep them operational under such inhospitable conditions.

Peltier Cooling

The basis of thermoelectric cooling is the “Peltier effect.” By passing a DC current through dissimilar conductors, the junction of those materials will either absorb or release heat, depending on the direction of the current flow. When a DC current is passed through this material, one side of the element will get cold while the other will get hot. Essentially, the heat is pumped to one side of the chip assembly. If the current is reversed the chip will operate in reverse and what was previously the “cold side” will now become hot.

2Thermoelectric Cooling as Air Conditioning

EIC’s thermoelectric air conditioners use “Air to Air” cooling. In Air to Air thermoelectric cooling, thermoelectric elements are sandwiched between two finned heat sinks. One heat sink is known as the cold side and the other the hot. Air is cooled as it is forced across the cold-side heat sinks with a fan or blower. The hot side heat sinks are on the outside of the enclosure and also have fans forcing ambient air across them removing the heat.

EIC’s “Air to Air” cooling designs use one or more high cubic-feet per minute (CFM) axial fans and a patented electronic design that allows for no air exchange between the cold side and the hot side of the cooler. This allows the AC’s to “pump” the heat from the inside of your enclosure to the outside, without exposing your delicate electronics to any outside air or contaminates.

EIC Solutions air conditioners can dissipate typical loads of 200 all the way through 5500 BTU/HR.

Operation

Thermostatic control: Much like traditional air conditioners, EIC’s ThermoTEC thermoelectric air conditioners use fully adjustable thermostatic control to call for cooling (or optional heating) as required.

Thermoelectric Cooling Operations Diagram

Fundamentals of Thermoelectric Air Conditioners

While thermoelectric cooling technology has been around for close to 200 years, its application within the air conditioning industry is only just beginning to be realized. Ventilation, heat exchangers and traditional air conditioners are all viable options for cooling applications, but the unique solid-state cooling technology used in thermoelectric cooling makes it a compelling solution for businesses with sensitive electronics.

Download the full Guide to Thermoelectric Air Conditioners to get an in-depth technical breakdown of how EIC Solutions leverages thermoelectric cooling in their ACs:

Download the Guide

3Benefits of Thermoelectric Cooling

Solid State Design

While traditional AC’s have compressors and fans, and contain freon and oil, the only moving parts in thermoelectric air conditioners are the fans. This solid-state design ensures years of maintenance-free operation.

No Maintenance

Due to the solid-state design of thermoelectric air-conditioners, no maintenance is required for seamless operations in 99% of applications. There is no freon or oil to be checked, changed or replenished. There are also no filters to change or clean making these ideal for applications where maintenance is a challenge.

Orientation

Since thermoelectric AC’s don’t have compressors they can be mounted in almost any orientation with the only consideration being the management of condensation. In many applications, the enclosure being cooled is mobile, mounted to a truck, trailer, Humvee, ship or plane. In these cases, thermoelectric AC’s are the ideal solutions as they will continue to operate without concern for orientation or movement (unlike conventional compressor AC’s).

Extended Operating Temperatures

Industrial-grade compressor-based air conditioners typically have max operating temperatures limited to approximately 130-135°F with a few able to operate up to 140°F. Operating at these high temperatures significantly reduces the cooling capacity of the AC and increases their failure rate. EIC’s thermoelectric air conditioners have a standard max operating temperature of 140°F with high ambient models available with temperature limits of 170°F. And the performance of thermoelectric AC’s actually improves as the ambient temperature increases with no increase in failure rate.

Remote Applications

Their solid-state, no maintenance design also provides a long life span and low failure rate even under harsh conditions. Thermoelectric air conditioners are well suited for remote applications where reliability is paramount.

Tight Temperatures

Because of their unique design and efficient cooling method, thermoelectric air conditioners are the ideal solution when tight temperature control is required. By adding digital temperature control and heating capability to a thermoelectric AC, internal enclosure temperatures can be maintained within a +/- 1°F set point.

Download the Guide to Thermoelectric ACs

Frequently Asked Questions

Are EIC’s products designed to withstand harsh environments?

All of our ThermoTEC coolers are designed for outdoor use and are rated for wash-down (NEMA 4X). Our compressor-based enclosure air-conditioners, air-conditioned electronic/electrical enclosures and air-conditioned transit cases are the ideal solution for housing and cooling electronics – both stationary and mobile – in harsh indoor and outdoor environments.

What is the life expectancy of EIC’s Thermotec coolers?

Due to our solid-state design and the use of high-quality components our applications deliver 5 years or more of trouble-free operation.

Can I order EIC’s Thermotec coolers in different voltages?

Yes. EIC’s ThermoTEC thermoelectric coolers are available in a wide range of voltages including 120VAC, 240VAC, 24/28VDC, and 48VDC as well as AC and AC/DC auto-ranging models.

4Properly Sizing Your Application

Conducting a sizing will help you accurately determine how much cooling is required for your application. Accurate sizing is more than a simple watt to BTU conversion and consists of a combination of factors.

Implementing the correct solution to maintain a temperature-controlled operating environment is essential to protecting your equipment. Providing accurate measurements, not overestimating ambient temperatures, and selecting an appropriate Delta T will help you achieve the most accurate sizing results. A cooling system that is too large uses an unnecessary amount of energy and can be more costly. Too small of a system will degrade the life cycle of the air conditioner and could potentially result in repairs, a need for supplemental cooling, or failure of the very equipment that is being protected. Correctly sizing a cooling system will ensure your equipment will run efficiently and reduce downtime, energy costs and repairs.

Step 1: Accurate Maximum Ambient Temperature

First, determine an accurate maximum ambient temperature where the enclosure is located. Then select an acceptable maximum desired internal temperature.

For more info on calculating the ambient temperature in different environments, check out our Ambient Temperature Guide.

Temperature Specs

Indicate the maximum ambient temperature to be experienced where the A/C will be installed. Do not use an excessively high temperature to create a “safety margin” or measure surface temperature as this will result in an oversized air conditioner. Provide ONLY the realistic maximum air temperature.

temperature specifications

The Dangers of Selecting an Extremely Low Internal Temperature

The acceptable internal temperature is based on your equipment’s maximum operating temperature. Using a “worst-case” ambient and a “best case” internal is not advised as creating an extreme difference between ambient and internal temperatures will result in an oversized air conditioner.

eic-solutions-guide-thermoelectric-cooling-heat-load

Heat Load

Knowing the total heat load of your application is the critical first step when choosing a cooling system that will achieve your goals.

Heat load refers to the amount of heat energy to be removed from a space to achieve a desired temperature within the space. There are three types of heat load you must consider when calculating the total heat load in an application:

  1. External heat load
  2. Solar load/gain
  3. Internal heat load

Provide internal heat load estimate in watts or BTUs (1 wat=3.412 BTUs). This is the heat being dissipated by the equipment housed inside the enclosure, usually measured in watts. This step is crucial to determine which cooling solution will meet your requirements. Instructions on how to determine the internal heat load are available in our Guide to Understanding Heat Load.

Step 2: Identify Enclosure Dimensions, Location, and Insulation

Dimensions

Height, Width and Depth will provide the surface area of the enclosure that needs to be cooled. The enclosure measurements must be in feet when using the EIC Solutions sizing equation.

Location

Indicate if the enclosure is indoors or outdoors. If it is an outdoor enclosure that is in full or partial sun, you must know the color of the enclosure. The color of an enclosure will have a direct effect on the amount of heat generated from the solar load. You must account for the solar heat load to size correctly.

Color Effect on Cooling SIzing

Insulation

Determine if the enclosure is insulated and provide R Value of insulation. The higher the R Value the better the insulation material’s ability to resist the flow of heat through it. If your enclosure is not insulated, the R Value is 0.

Sizing Insulation for Cooling

Step 3: Size Application for Cooling Requirement

Step 3: Sizing Application for cooling requirement

***Disclaimer: EIC Solutions Inc. assumes no responsibility for customer-run sizing results. This sizing equation is intended as a tool. The cooling results supplied by this sizing equation are believed to be accurate, however, it is the responsibility of the user to confirm the results are correct for their specific application. Any purchase made from sizing results not provided by an EIC solutions sales engineer are subject to our normal terms and conditions***

Understanding Heat Load

Determining the heat load in your application will allow for proper selection of a cooling system that will keep your equipment operational and prevent downtime due to failure of critical electronics housed in your enclosure. Download our Guide to Understanding Heat Load to learn more.

Download the Guide

5Markets & Applications

Thermoelectric air conditioners are ideal for applications with limited space, high ambient
temperatures, remote locations, and dirty environmental conditions. Under regular washdown and extreme weather conditions, EIC’s solid-state coolers continue to cool and protect the housed equipment. Mobile applications are also well suited for thermoelectric cooling due to their robust construction and continual operation regardless of orientation.

EIC Solutions is the world’s leading provider of thermoelectric cooling solutions for mission-critical electronics. Our products are used worldwide in a wide range of markets, applications, environments, and by a diverse client base who rely on our standard and custom air conditioners, air-conditioned enclosures and transit cases to safeguard their critical electronics.

Infrastructure

EIC Solutions offers a wide range of standard and custom cooling solutions designed to protect sensitive electronics and meet the demands of a broad range of infrastructure environments – including rail, mass transit, power plants, and waste-water treatment. When human well-being and safety are paramount, EIC’s cabinet cooling systems are there to keep our infrastructure networks running smoothly by protecting computers, monitoring, control, communications, and other electrical/electronic equipment from damaging heat, dust, moisture, and corrosion.

Industrial

EIC Solutions offers a wide range of standard and custom cooling solutions designed to protect sensitive electronics and meet the demands of a broad range of industrial and commercial environments – including manufacturing, material handling, and scientific measuring equipment. When production schedules are on the line, EIC’s enclosure air conditioners are there to keep machinery running smoothly by protecting computers, industrial controls, machine tools, drives, and other electrical/electronic equipment from damaging heat, dust, moisture, and corrosion.

Security & Surveillance

EIC Solutions offers a wide range of standard and custom cooling solutions designed to protect sensitive electronics and meet the demands of a broad range of security and surveillance environments – including fire protection, communications networks, and remote monitoring. When security and safety are paramount, EIC’s electronics cooling systems are there to provide the protection computers, cameras, RFID readers, RF components, transmit/receive modules, power supplies, and other electrical/electronic equipment need from damaging heat, dust, moisture, and corrosion.

Military & Defense

EIC Solutions offers a wide range of standard and custom cooling solutions designed to protect sensitive electronics and meet the demands of extreme military environments – on land, in the air, and at sea. When our nation’s defense is on the line, EIC’s cooling solutions are there to assist our troops by protecting their communication, encryption, surveillance and other electronic gear from damaging heat, dust, moisture, and corrosion.

Oil & Gas

EIC Solutions offers a wide range of standard and custom cooling solutions designed to protect sensitive electronics and meet the demands of a broad range of offshore and land-based chemical and petrochemical environments – including exploration, drilling, production, refining, storage, and servicing. When reliability and safety are paramount, EIC’s enclosure cooling systems are there to keep processes running smoothly by protecting computers, instrumentation, process controls, and other electrical/electronic equipment from damaging heat, dust, moisture, and corrosion.

Food Processing & Packaging

EIC Solutions offers a wide range of standard and custom cooling solutions designed to protect sensitive electronics and meet the demands of a broad range of food processing/packaging environments – from hot, humid food production environments to equally harsh meat processing and packing plants. When production schedules are on the line, EIC’s cabinet cooling systems are there to keep food and beverage processing and packaging equipment running smoothly by protecting the computers and control systems for agitators, blenders, dryers, presses, and other equipment from damaging heat, dust, moisture, and corrosion.

Amusement & Theme Park

EIC Solutions offers a wide range of standard and custom cooling solutions designed to protect sensitive electronics and meet the demands of a broad range of amusement and theme park environments – including extreme heat and high humidity. When reliability and safety are paramount, EIC’s cabinet cooling systems are there to keep the attractions running smoothly by protecting computers, ride controls, ticketing kiosks, audio/video systems, and electrical/electronic equipment from damaging heat, dust, moisture, and corrosion.

Sports & Entertainment

EIC Solutions offers a wide range of standard and custom cooling solutions designed to protect sensitive electronics and meet the demands of a broad range of entertainment and sports venue environments – including extreme heat, high humidity, and precipitation. When reliability and safety are paramount, EIC’s control panel cooling systems are there to keep the equipment running smoothly by protecting LED scoreboards, sound and lighting equipment, audio/video systems, security cameras, and other electrical/electronic equipment from damaging heat, dust, moisture, and corrosion.

Case Study: Applying Thermoelectric Cooling to Commercial Greenhouses

Commercial greenhouses utilize high-tech production facilities to protect plants from external environmental conditions and diseases. The air temperature, relative humidity, and vapor pressure must be measured for optimal plant growth. Often greenhouses are controlled by computers and sensitive electronic equipment that should not be exposed to these warm, humid, and moist conditions.

Gulf Coast Cabling reached out to EIC Solutions to use the Protector™ Series Prepackaged Wall-Mount Air Conditioned Enclosures, with integral 400BTU, NEMA 4X, thermoelectric air conditioners to protect the greenhouse electronics. The function, form, and low maintenance design of the NEMA 4X, air-conditioned, enclosures were ideal for GCC’s greenhouse application.

The overall design was easy to install and requires little to no maintenance due to the solid-state design of the air conditioners. The closed-loop design circulates cool air inside of the enclosure while simultaneously dissipating the heat to the outside, without pulling any outside contaminants into the enclosure. These robust cooling systems are designed to withstand the harshest conditions to keep equipment running within operational temperatures.

Some common applications and environments where our thermoelectric air conditioners are well-suited include:

  • Dusty/Sandy– Typically outdoor military or security applications in desert locations such as the Middle East protecting communications, telecom, or surveillance equipment.
  • Humid– Damp, moist environments that contain a high amount of water vapor. Outdoor applications subjected to high humidity include fire panels in Florida and oil well control systems in Louisiana. Common high humidity indoor applications include paper mills and food processing facilities.
  • High Ambient Temperatures – High ambient temperatures of 120°F and above, both indoor and outdoor. Some examples of high ambient temperature outdoor applications are border security sensors and controls, time lapse photography systems, oil field controls and kiosks in hot climates. Indoor applications include plant floors in hot climates, foundries and steel mills. EIC offers high ambient models for these types of applications.
  • Extreme Cold– Primarily outdoor applications for equipment exposed to low ambient temperatures down to -10°C. Our HC model thermoelectric air conditioners are outfitted for both heating and cooling. These are ideal for locations where cooling is required during the day or in the summer but heating is required overnight or in the winter. Application examples include air traffic controls and remote ballistic missile site security systems where large temperature swings are the norm and electronic temperatures must be tightly controlled. For ambient temperatures as low as -40°C, Mil Spec fans are available.
  • Caustic– Usually indoor industrial environments with heavy chemical wash-down such as waste water treatment plants, meat processing facilities, or paper mills.
  • Corrosive– Commonly outdoor coastal and shipboard installations, with exposure salt fog or sea water. Applications include weather stations, and communication & radar systems.

Thermoelectric Cooling Environment Guide

For more information on the additional protection, our NEMA 4X thermoelectric air conditioners provide, read our Guide to Thermoelectric Cooling Environments.

Read the Guide

Learn More About Thermoelectric Cooling

Learn more about how thermoelectric cooling can transform your next project. Speak to an EIC Solutions cooling expert.

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Contact an EIC Solutions Cooling Expert

To learn more about how thermoelectric cooling can help you solve your most complex challenges, contact an EIC Solutions cooling expert.