What to Look for in Environmental Test Chambers

Friday, November 10 2023

Picture this: you're an engineer looking to ensure your product can withstand a multitude of real-world conditions year after year. As you begin the search for an environmental test chamber for temperature and humidity testing, though, you're faced with a myriad of information and options about capabilities, features, specifications, and customization. 

Since the equipment you ultimately choose will have a major impact on the success of your product, it’s imperative to give the decision considerable thought.

In this blog, we'll explore the factors that matter most when it comes to choosing environmental chamber test equipment. From controlling temperature to size considerations and ensuring even testing conditions to meeting industry standards, we'll walk you through the essentials.

Key Aspects to Prioritize

Temperature Range

This refers to the chamber’s ability to provide a wide range of temperature settings. The wider the range, the higher the cost. Performance at cold temperatures is important, especially if your product will be running at those conditions. Typical low-end temperatures are at -70, -40, or -20°C. High temperatures are usually out of the range of most testing, at 150 or 180°C.

Humidity Control

If high or low humidity testing is needed, you must find a chamber that has the desired humidity control, which changes based on the test temperature. A simple test like 85°C/85%RH is easy for most test chambers, but you may need other conditions to be tested. You will need to study the temperature/humidity capabilities the chamber can do. It may be confusing. Here is an article to help.

Accuracy and Uniformity

Accuracy of control of the conditions relies on the heating and cooling systems responding to the main controller. Most chambers control is within 0.5 to 1°C. Ensure that the chamber offers uniformity in temperature and humidity distribution to avoid hotspots during testing, although this will vary based on your product load. 

Size and Capacity

Chamber size is a balance of cost and function. Make sure you can accommodate the products being tested at one time. Spacing the products away from the walls and each other allows better airflow and uniformity. Consider both the exterior size and internal volume. Environmental chamber test equipment can range in capacity from compact benchtop chambers to spacious drive-in chambers.

User-Friendly Interface

An intuitive and user-friendly control interface simplifies chamber operation and allows for easy customization of test parameters. It also maximizes productivity since your team will need less training to operate the equipment. 

Safety Features

The chamber should be equipped with safety features, including overheat and overcool alarms to protect both the chamber and products inside. Powered products should be able to be interlocked with the chamber operation for added safety.

Data Logging and Reporting

Look for chambers that offer modern data logging and reporting capabilities that match your current documentation protocols. You will need to plan ahead if using your own datalogger or software.

Compliance with Standards

Ensure that the chamber complies with local equipment standards for your location, such as NEC, UL, NRTL, CSA, CE.

Tailored Customizations for Unique Testing Requirements

While standard environmental test chambers are useful in most cases, some product manufacturers have specialized testing needs that require tailored solutions. The right customizations can ensure the chamber aligns precisely with the specific demands of the product. Here are distinctive customizations that address unique testing requirements and can be found in custom environmental chambers:

  • Tensile Tests: Products composed of various metals, plastics, paper, fabrics, fibers, composites, or films must often be evaluated for their strength and resilience. If you need to conduct tensile tests at different temperatures, look for a chamber that uses a refrigeration system instead of liquid nitrogen for cooling. This is more cost efficient and allows more flexibility in testing.

  • Water Exposure: For products frequently exposed to wet or rainy conditions, customized chambers are designed to simulate these specific environmental challenges. Rain and spray test chambers allow manufacturers to assess a product's ability to withstand moisture, ensuring ingress of moisture thru sealed packaging isn’t possible.

  • Dust Exposure: Industries dealing with equipment prone to accumulating dust or particles over time can opt for customized settling dust chambers. These chambers mimic the accumulation of dust and particles, allowing manufacturers to determine if dust will get into the product enclosure.

Customizations tailored to unique testing requirements enable manufacturers to address product-specific challenges effectively. These tailored solutions ensure that the environmental test chamber meets the specific needs of the product and it’s configuration, such as special ports for exterior devices to connect thru, windows for operational inspection, or extended testing conditions.

Environmental test chambers are indispensable tools for product manufacturers seeking to ensure the quality and reliability of their products. When selecting an environmental test chamber, manufacturers must carefully consider factors such as temperature range, humidity control, reliability, size, and compliance with industry standards. These factors play a crucial role in ensuring accurate and consistent testing results.

Moreover, customizations may be necessary to meet unique testing needs. Whether for tensile testing, rain and spray testing, or settling dust chambers, customizing the chamber to align with the specific demands of the product and industry can be a game-changer. By prioritizing the right environmental chamber and incorporating essential customizations, product manufacturers can confidently meet and exceed industry standards while producing reliable, durable, and trusted products.

Find the Ideal Equipment for Your Environmental Chamber Testing

ESPEC is proud to provide customized environmental testing chambers for organizations in virtually every industry. If you need quality testing equipment tailored to unique specifications, reach out on our website to find a local sales rep.