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Heated Paint Booths: Pricing, Uses, and Pros vs. Cons

Increased productivity is the key to growing your business and improving profitability. If you operate a body shop, that means getting vehicles out quickly without negatively impacting quality. To achieve this, you need a heated paint booth.

A heated air makeup unit comes standard in some booths, but typically is an optional add-on and works with any airflow type. Some manufacturers sell them as standalone units as well.

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Adding Heat to Paint Booths

When you're just starting out, budget considerations likely play a large role in your choice of spray paint booths. Luckily, many models allow upgrades after the purchase, as your business needs change. If you can't afford a booth with a heated air makeup unit now, look for a type that allows you to add one later. When purchasing your booth, talk to the vendor about the viability and costs of upgrading to help ensure you choose the best booth for your long-term needs.

Adding an air makeup unit varies by airflow type, as does the ability for heat recycling.

Adding Heat to a Cross Draft Paint Booth

The cross-draft paint booth holds the interesting distinction of being the most economical paint booth as well as the most expensive to upgrade with a heated air makeup unit later.

In a cross-draft booth, air intake occurs from the front of the booth, either through the doors or via columns. This is also where the heat supply would need to originate. This presents a challenge, as both options (columns or door) require labor-intensive customization.

If you add heat columns, the installer must also add extra ductwork, so you're looking at extra labor and materials (beyond the $10,000 to $22,000 for the air makeup unit). It's even more expensive if the intake occurs through the unit's doors, since you can't add the heating unit without blocking the doors, meaning they must be sealed and the booth converted from a cross-draft into a semi-downdraft via the addition of an upper plenum. In addition, most cross-draft booths cannot be retrofitted with heat recycling, and never cost-effectively.

Basically, if you expect to ever install a heated air makeup unit, a cross-draft booth isn't your best option.

Adding Heat to a Semi-Downdraft Paint Booth

These paint booths are fairly easy to retrofit with heat, thanks to the upper plenum intake system, which allows you to place the unit next to the booth to feed into the plenum. It requires little in the way of customization, so install is simple and relatively inexpensive.

Heat recycle is a different story, thanks to the rear exhaust system. If you install the heating unit at the front, connecting the two requires substantial ductwork, adding significantly to the cost. However, if you install the heater on the roof, or hang it above the booth, you can achieve an effective heat recycling system.

Adding Heat to a Side Downdraft Paint Booth

Retrofitting a side downdraft booth with heat and heat recycle is a breeze, thanks to the sidewall exhaust and upper plenum intake. To effect heat recycle, you can connect the heater at any point in the ductwork.

Adding Heat to a Downdraft Paint Booth

It's also easy to add heat to a downdraft booth. Just how easy depends on the booth layout, but modification needs range from "zero" to "little," so install costs are fairly inexpensive. Again, talk to the vendor about ease of upgrade when purchasing your booth.

Direct Fire and Indirect Fire Air Units: Pros and Cons

Air makeup units come in two basic types: direct fire and indirect fire. Each option has its ideal applications.

Direct Fire Air Makeup Units

In these systems, air passes directly over a flame, heating it. One of the main pros is its lower cost, due to its design (no heat exchanger) and increased efficiency (wastes less energy since it works faster). It also weighs less, which is a definite plus if you choose a roof-mounted or hanging installation. There are also a couple of cons. First, emissions produced via the heating process enter the airflow, though this is typically only an issue in industries requiring a sterile work environment. You can also only adjust the air makeup speed down to about 40 percent.

Indirect Fire Air Makeup Units

These systems use a heat exchanger to heat air via isolated chamber before it enters the paint booth. The main pro here is that the heated air contains no byproducts from the heating process. Indirect fire units also allow operation at lower capacities, even 20 percent or less.

The main con is the greater expense of the heat exchanger, which costs substantially more than a direct fire unit. They are also less efficient, leading to higher

operating costs. Finally, they weigh more, which may present an issue when mounted on the roof.

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