In the past few years energy costs have sky rocketed and as they continue to, business owners and managers are keen to cut avoidable heat losses. Here, Nick Cox, Area Sales Manager for sara LBS (Loading Bay Specialists), explains how industrial doors are continuing to help save energy and boost productivity for warehouses and distribution centres.
Most industrial facilities and warehouses have at least one level access door for moving goods in and out of the building. Such doors are necessarily quite large, often four metres wide and up to five metres high. This allows large lorries to back up to them for loading and unloading, or, if the materials being handled are palletised, forklift trucks can move freely between the building and the yard.
While these access doors are superbly well designed for effective materials handling, they are not so good for energy efficiency. Such a wide opening will allow heat (or chilled air in refrigerated areas) to escape the building at a considerable rate. This will drive up the occupant’s heating bill massively and – particularly in winter – make the area around the door a cold and unpleasant working environment. Operatives may need to wear coats, hats and gloves, which could influence their ability to undertake the more delicate handling tasks, and the environment is more likely to lead to an increase in illness and absence.
Back in the nineteen-nineties, some enlightened employers started installing automatic high-speed doors to improve the working environment of employees operating in the vicinity of the goods entry/exit door. Using a high-speed, PVC shutter as a secondary door, they could minimise the time the loading bay was exposed to the external weather, thus reducing heat loss and protecting employees from freezing blasts of wind and damp. The results of this normally included increased productivity as the operative spent less time ‘dodging the cold’, reduced sick leave and a significant boost to moral.
Over the last 20 years energy costs have climbed exponentially, and it seems likely that this trend will continue well into the future. Environmental concerns have also come to the fore in this time - many new health and safety laws and recommended practices have also been introduced. The efficiency and reliability of high-speed doors have also continued to improve, meaning that many warehouse managers have found that a well specified secondary door can pay for itself within 18 months on energy savings alone; not taking into account increased productivity and reduced wear and tear on their external primary door.
The high-speed operation is essential to reduce the time the door is open or partially open. Many of these high speed secondary doors are also designed so that they can be set to only open partially, giving enough height to allow a person, hand cart, or pallet truck to pass comfortably through. They can then be reset to open to full height when loading or unloading of a tall vehicle is required.
Looking to improve on this energy performance further, sara LBS has now introduced a new door, the Sprint Spiral, designed to reduce heat losses even more effectively than a PVC curtain. This door offers automatic high-speed operation and replaces the PVC curtain with a door made of aluminium panels backed with an expanded foam insulating layer. The solid nature of the door means it is a very good physical barrier for stopping draughts and air currents that carry heat out of the building, while the foam prevents heat transfer through the door itself.
By evolving the technology away from traditional PVC materials, the new solution also provides increased security, discouraging intruders and other unauthorised personnel from entering the building. It conforms to modern building regulations in terms of safe operation and fire safety, while also reducing heat loss significantly better than a PVC curtain.
The simplicity and effectiveness of installing a secondary door to improve thermal efficiency in the warehouses has been apparent for many years. However, as with so many advancing technologies, its’ continuous improvements that allows businesses to continue to profit despite increasing operating costs. By working with sara LBS that know the specification, design and installation of industrial doors and loading bay systems it is still possible to improve the energy efficiency of industrial warehousing environments.