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FAQs about Vapor Degreaser Operations

» How much electricity is used when cleaning with DuPont™ Vertrel® specialty fluids? 
» What work practices are recommended to optimize cleaning and minimize emissions while using DuPont™ Vertrel® specialty fluids? 



How much electricity is used when cleaning with DuPont™ Vertrel® specialty fluids? 

Water cleaning uses a great deal of electricity while solvent cleaning uses almost none. For customers in locations where electricity is expensive, vapor degreasing is the most energy efficient and affordable way to clean.

There are four design features in every water cleaning machine that make the systems very energy-intensive: the numerous, high-pressure pumps that move the water around the machine, the energy it takes to heat the cleaning water, the energy it takes to dry the parts, and the energy it takes to treat and purify the water for reuse or disposal.

All of this additional work is required because of the inherent characteristics of water. Basically, water has high surface tension and a high latent heat of evaporation.

When cleaning with Vertrel® specialty fluids:

  • There is no water to heat, which saves electricity. Instead the solvent is heated to only about 40°C/100°F, which takes very little electricity.
  • There are no big pumps required to push the solvent around, which saves electricity; the solvent moves by gravity.
  • There are no blowers or "air knives" on vapor degreasers, which saves electricity; the solvent is trapped inside the machine and the components come out dry. (In fact, even motorized fans in fume hoods are not recommended near vapor degreasers because it increases solvent losses.)
  • There is no waste treatment facility required, which saves electricity, because the degreaser is automatically, inherently, and continuously repurifying the solvent.

The net result is that the typical vapor degreaser, using Vertrel® specialty fluids, consumes about 30 amps of power when cleaning and one-tenth of that energy in stand-by (night) mode; many of the smallest machines use standard household electrical connections! This contrasts with water-cleaning systems that often require 440-volt circuits and big power panels, and their power consumption is measured in hundreds and thousands of amps.


What work practices are recommended to optimize cleaning and minimize emissions while using DuPont™ Vertrel® specialty fluids? 

Good work practices play an important role in using a vapor degreaser effectively. Failure to define good work practices and failure to train technicians in those practices can reduce or eliminate the many benefits expected from selecting Vertrel® specialty fluids and state-of-the-art equipment. Below are some useful and simple work practices that can play a major role in helping your cleaning system to operate at its peak, while eliminating solvent waste, improving the safety of your facility, and protecting the environment through reduced solvent losses.

System Location

Airflow across the top of a vapor degreaser is the single most common cause of extraordinary solvent losses. Do not ventilate your degreaser. Potentially, excess ventilation can cost you a lot of money through unexpected solvent losses.

Similarly, keep degreasers/defluxers out of drafts as much as possible. Airflow turbulence across the top of the vapor blanket caused by drafts (velocity >40 ft/min) disturbs the vapor blanket and will increase your solvent losses. Look for drafts from adjacent windows, doors, room heaters, air conditioning, ventilators, or spray booths. Eliminating these drafts will greatly diminish the rate at which solvent vapor is emitted to the atmosphere.

When excessive air movement is a problem with existing equipment, consider the installation of baffles or partitions on the windward side to divert the draft away from the cleaning unit.

Do not use open-top equipment—that's old technology. Every machine today must have a tight, sliding closure. However, just in case the application requires open-top equipment, problems with drafts can be avoided or corrected by using hooded enclosures in conjunction with automated work-handling facilities.

If you remain concerned about aromas and fumes, buy a set of inexpensive fluorocarbon monitors and track the exposure levels until a comfort level is achieved with this new technology.

Workload Size

The processing of workloads that exceed the cleaning system's design capabilities will expel solvent vapors from a degreaser/defluxer. This can be caused by one, or both, of two common effects:

  • A workload that is too large in physical size can displace vapor from the cleaning unit by the piston effect. This causes solvent to be ejected from the machine as the mass of cleaning materials descends into the cleaning vapors. To avoid losses by this mechanism, the area of the workload should not be greater than 50% of the horizontal cross-sectional area of the sump into which it is being introduced.
  • The introduction of a workload that is too cold and too massive will result in a collapse of the vapor blanket in a process called work shock. The infiltration of air into the cleaning unit will cause excess solvent losses until the vapor blanket is reestablished. If this condition is encountered on a regular basis, the equipment manufacturer should be consulted to determine if a hoist might ameliorate the problem, or if additional heating and condensing facilities can be incorporated into the cleaning unit. If not, the purchase of a new machine with larger work-handling capabilities should be considered.

Start-Up and Shutdown Procedures

To minimize solvent emissions during start-up, it is recommended that the following procedures be used:

  1. Activate condenser cooling system and check to ensure that it is operating properly.
  2. Activate, where provided, any auxiliary emission control equipment.
  3. Check and adjust solvent levels in all compartments.
  4. Activate heaters.
  5. Wait until stable vapor blanket has been established before activating spray pumps or introducing work into the unit.

To shut down the unit, use the following procedure:
  1. Stop work processing and clear the machine of all work.
  2. Deactivate the heaters.
  3. Activate sump cooling coils where provided.
  4. Allow vapor blanket to collapse completely.
  5. Deactivate condenser cooling system.
  6. Close cover on open-top units.
Work Scheduling

The expulsion of air from a vapor degreaser/defluxer during start-up always results in some solvent vapor carryout. When work is being processed on an intermittent basis, emissions caused by frequent activation and deactivation of the degreaser/defluxer can be minimized by deferring cleaning until all of a day's production is accumulated for processing with only one start-up of the cleaning equipment.

Also, a reduction in vapor emissions can be achieved by consolidating operations with several open-top units into a single, enclosed unit designed for continuous work transport.

Work Positioning

Work being cleaned in a degreaser/defluxer, whether contained in baskets, suspended from hooks, racks, or conveyed on a belt, always should be positioned in a manner that permits maximum drainage to minimize dragout losses of solvent.

Retention of solvent in pockets and recesses can result in excessive solvent dragout. Try to position the products in such a manner as the solvent can drip from the parts back into the cleaning system. If this is not feasible, slow the extraction of the parts and consider using superheat.

Vapor Dwell Time

The workload should be retained in the vapor zone after the final cleaning step until its temperature equilibrates with that of the vapor zone and vapor condensation on the part stops. Work withdrawn earlier will emerge wet with solvent condensate. Insufficient dwell times are encountered most frequently in open-top units where work is manually moved into and out of the unit. Use of a programmed work transporter (e.g., an automated hoist) can help eliminate excessive dragout due to insufficient dwell time.

Spraying and Spray Wands

Spraying is not recommended. However, if required, spraying should be done deep within the vapor zone to avoid excessive disturbance of the vapor/air interface. Care also should be taken in spray-lance handling to avoid having the liquid solvent ricochet into the freeboard zone or out of the machine.

Technicans need to be extremely careful when using spray lances or spray wands. Should they spray cold solvent into the vapor zone, the subsequent temperature change may collapse the vapor blanket. The use of warm solvent having a temperature no more than 3°C (5°F) below the solvent's normal boiling point will minimize the potential for vapor blanket collapse and the loss of solvent that accompanies vapor blanket reestablishment.

Solvent Handling

Here are some subtle but crucial tips for minimizing solvent loss during normal operation of the machine:

  • The addition of solvent to the degreaser/defluxer should be done with care to minimize disturbance of the vapor/air interface. Ideally, the solvent should be pumped into the degreaser through a liquid-submerged fill connection.
  • Makeup solvent should be added to a rinse compartment or, preferably, to the degreaser/defluxer's condensate collection tank. Cold solvent should not be added to a boiling sump; its introduction can stop boiling activity and collapse the vapor blanket.
  • The addition of solvent to an open-top degreaser/defluxer by pouring from drums or buckets should be avoided. The turbulence of such pouring destabilizes the vapor/air interface. The cold solvent could cause the vapor blanket to collapse.
  • Solvent handling in open-top containers should be avoided because it offers the opportunity for solvent evaporation and spillage.
  • Any drums containing solvent should be kept tightly sealed between transfer operations to prevent unnecessary evaporation losses. Drums should be stored with the bung end up to eliminate the possibility of incurring a major spillage of solvent through a leaky bung. Take great care when moving drums of solvent; automated systems (fork lifts, etc.) are recommended. Do not pressurize the drums of solvent in an attempt to expedite unloading.
Cleaning Equipment Considerations

There have been many advances in containment technology that have been employed by manufacturers who produce new and retrofitted equipment. It is recommended that the user consult their equipment supplier for suggestions about features that can reduce solvent consumption in their equipment. Features that are commonly available are as follows:

  • Higher freeboard ratios that exceed 1.5
  • A second set of low temperature (-29°C / -20°F) condenser coils to reduce vapor losses
  • Sliding covers optionally sealed and power operated to contain solvent vapors during a loss of power
  • Gaskets for water separators
  • Super-heated vapor zones that minimize losses from solvent dragout
  • Automated hoist systems that control vapor dwell times in the degreaser

System Maintenance and Leak Checking

In general, the boil sump on a busy machine will need to be cleaned quarterly. A typical boil-down cleaning process will take the machine off-line for about one day.

The importance of a good maintenance program cannot be stressed too strongly. All solvent-containing equipment should be checked regularly for leaks from pump seals, valves, pipe joints, gasketed covers, sight glasses, and filter housings. The detection and repair of leaks at an early stage are essential elements of a good emission control program. From an industrial hygiene standpoint, prompt correction of leaks is needed to ensure worker safety.

In addition to being a good industrial hygiene practice, monitoring the work area atmosphere for vapor concentration on a regular basis can be useful in detecting equipment malfunction and/or poor work practices.