Industrial air heaters are designed to provide a safe source of warmth in hazardous, harsh and industrial environments, including explosion-proof air heaters for use in the presence of flammable gases, powders and dusts.
Also known as industrial air warmers, explosion-proof heaters can come in several different types, including convection heaters, radiators and fan heaters, with some products designed specifically for use in cabinets and enclosures.
You can also get portable air heaters for industrial settings, such as the EXHEAT MFH ‘The Bulldog’ Portable Fan Heater, which can be used in Zone 1/2 or 21/22. Zone specifications and ATEX/IECEx certifications all help you to know where different heaters can be used.
Let’s look in more detail at the design and benefits of explosion-proof industrial air heaters in harsh and hazardous environments.
What is an explosion-proof industrial air heater?
An explosion-proof air heater includes one or more design features that reduce the risk of igniting an explosion when in the presence of potentially explosive substances including gases, vapours and fine airborne particles.
What does ‘explosion-proof’ mean?
‘Explosion-proof’ in this context means that the heater is unlikely to cause an explosion. It does not mean that the heater is designed to survive an explosion, although many explosion-proof heaters are ruggedised for use in industrial settings.
For example, the EXHEAT LFH Fixed Fan Heater is built with a rugged stainless steel housing and an integrated framework for ceiling, floor or wall mounting, making it a good option in extreme environments such as gas installations, offshore rigs and munition stores.
Some ways in which air heaters may be explosion-proofed include secure encapsulation (especially of any electrical parts), pressure relief valves, flame arrestors and ground connections to discharge static electricity without it building up.
Industrial air heaters typically also have a wide range of operating temperatures, in the region of -40C to +40C, and this can be checked in the technical specifications for each product before purchase.
Where can I use explosion-proof heaters?
There are multiple ways to determine the safe operating environment for explosion-proof heaters, including:
- Zone 1/2 and Zone 21/22 ratings
- ATEX and IECEx certification (and equivalent schemes)
- T1-T6 temperature classes
Temperature classes specify the lowest temperature at which the hazards present in the environment could spontaneously ignite. For example, a T4 rating is suitable for materials that could ignite at anything above 135C, whereas a T3 rating is for 200C and above.
If in doubt, a higher T-number is safer. A T6 product is considered safe in the presence of materials that could ignite at a temperature as low as 85C, making it suitable for use in any T1-T6 environment.
Why use an explosion-proof industrial air heater?
There are multiple key benefits of explosion-proof industrial air heaters. Safety is obviously a significant factor and should play a large part in deciding which product to buy. But there are many more reasons why explosion-proof heaters can be beneficial.
Safety and risk
First and foremost, explosion-proof heaters offer tested and certified safety, with products rated for specific environments. This means that you do not have to guess whether an air heater is safe for use and can mitigate risks identified during health & safety audits.
Keep copies of product datasheets in a safe offsite location. In the event of an explosion, having this documentation somewhere you can easily access it may help investigators, and should also help to show that you took reasonable steps to mitigate explosion risks.
Access and comfort
Personnel need to work in relative comfort. Sufficient air heaters enable this, ensuring workplaces remain accessible all year round, and supporting workers’ grip and dexterity by avoiding numb fingers or the need for bulky thermal gloves.
Different materials need different ambient conditions. By installing adequate industrial air heaters, you can heat the working environment to within the acceptable range for the materials you are handling – without adding to the risk profile of your activities.
Industrial air heaters are built with sturdy construction and may include additional rugged features. That means less maintenance – even in harsh conditions – and should lead to less operational downtime in the future.
Harsh, industrial and hazardous area heaters cater for a range of risks and environments, with rugged construction for exposed settings like marine installations.
Providing explosion-proof air warmers keeps working environments comfortable and accessible for personnel, and can keep thermally sensitive materials within a safe ambient temperature range too.
Crucially, this reduces the risk of personnel bringing unsuitable equipment into hazardous areas, such as heaters with the wrong temperature class, electric heaters that could spark, or even lighting a fire with an open flame.
For all these reasons, any harsh or hazardous industrial environment that experiences low temperatures should be equipped with explosion-proof heaters throughout, as a proactive precaution against the many risks present.