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Air leakage – the unseen storage cost

21 July 2011

Air leakage – the unseen storage cost


As winter sets in and the weather worsens, draughts and leaks from badly-fitting doors and old louvres can cause no end of problems.  FEC Services Tim Pratt has a few tips and tricks that may help.

It’s difficult to spot energy leaking from a store through badly-fitting doors, old louvres and the like.  But it can cause no end of problems, including:

  • High energy use
  • Hot and cold spots where condensation can form on potatoes leading to the development of disease
  • Reduced effectiveness of chlorpropham (CIPC) applications.

For most stores it is now too late to consider replacing doors and louvres so what can you do to help you through this storage season? Here are a few ideas to consider:

Insulated curtains can be very effective if attention to detail is paid when they are fitted:

  • Sides – Velcro strips make a good seal
  • Bottom – a wide overlap onto the floor ensures adequate sealing.  Add a weight to hold it down if necessary
  • Top – this is the most difficult part to seal.  At the very least a pelmet over both the inside and outside surfaces of the curtain will help.

In some cases it may be possible to fit an insulated curtain even when the store is full.  If not consider heavy plastic sheeting quite literally taped in place.

We have also seen wooden frames fitted on the inside of stores to which plastic sheeting is stapled each year; while not as good as an insulated curtain, this is still better than nothing at all.

At the very least get some wide, heavy-duty duct tape and apply it all around the door/door frame joints.

We regularly see older stores that have been modified over the years and there are louvres that are no longer used.  Ideally they should be completely sealed and insulated using spray-on foam or something similar.

There is often a reluctance to do this just in case they are needed in the future.  The best solution in this case is to box them in using insulation board and to seal all the joints using spray foam.

This way the box can always be cut off to reveal louvres in the future if required.  As with doors, heavy plastic sheeting, duct tape and a can of spray foam will improve insulation.

Some louvres are only used during the drying/curing process.  These would also benefit from being sealed up for the remainder of the storage season.

Simple checks

  • Stand inside the store – can you can see daylight around the door frame, louvres, etc?
  • Does the door move when pushed in and out or rattle when it is windy?
  • Can you feel a draught on the back of your hand on a windy day?

If the answer to any of these is yes there is no doubt that you will benefit from any of the tips listed earlier.

To survey a store for leaks comprehensively you really need a thermal imaging camera and a smoke generator which is best done when the store is empty.

The new Store Managers’ Guide has an updated section on energy management.  E-mail   for your copy.  More information is available on the AHDB Potatoes Energy Hub.

Do you have any effective and simple ways to keep air leakage to a minimum? Would you like further information or advice on how to keep energy losses to a minimum? If you have any questions, comments or tips for Tim or one of the Sutton Bridge team, please email the AHDB Potatoes Energy Hub now at – we’ll make sure all queries are answered within three working days.