Isn’t an ECU just an HVAC unit?

At its core, the acronym ECU (Environmental Control Unit) is the military’s terminology for a heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) unit, but key differences in mobility, ruggedization, and ability to face extreme temperatures put these into a category all their own.

Environmental Control Unit (ECU) Applications

One common use of an ECU is to provide heated and cooled air to a shelter, thus creating an optimum ambient temperature for both military personnel and electronics. Additionally, the ECU also provides shelter pressurization, positive or negative, to keep contaminants from getting into or out of the shelter. This is how fielded medical shelters or epidemic task force tents are set up so they can quickly deploy for emergencies. With the correct pressurization from the ECU and proper PPE, the medical team has a safe shelter to treat patients.

ECUs are also commonly used to supply the coolant necessary for keeping liquid-cooled electronics operational. This can be seen in data center cooling, high-tech military electronics, or command center booths. High-tech electronics create an extreme amount of waste heat; this waste heat can be a challenge in the rugged terrain of military settings where the electronics are often operated by nearby warfighters, and both electronics and warfighters may be facing hot or cold (or both) temperature extremes. For the electronics to operate effectively, they need to be in a temperature-controlled setting. This is where an ECU checks all the boxes.

How are HVAC units different from ECUs?

Commercial HVAC units are rated for relatively mild environments when compared to Environmental Control Units. Due to the nature of defense-based missions, ECUs are expected to perform at more extreme ambient conditions. Military personnel and their equipment travel all over the world, encountering both dangerously hot and cold climates. ECUs are designed to operate seamlessly in these extremes and are capable of being deployed anywhere on the planet; the same unit may be used in the middle of the desert for one mission, and inside the arctic circle for the next. ACT’s Tekgard® brand units are capacity-rated for cooling at temperatures up to 140°F (60°C), as well as heating at temperatures down to -51°F (-46°C), giving these ECUs a massive range of capability and mobility.

A ruggedized, corrosion-resistant construction is also expected of ECUs. Environmental extremes (e.g., blowing sand, dust, rain, snow, hail, salt air, seawater, wind) should not prevent an ECU from being mission capable. Not only do these units need to withstand the surrounding environmental hazards, as well as the journey to the site and remain operational; ECUs may be transported by air, land, or sea, and will often encounter challenging circumstances.

At ACT, experience designing for military requirements and testing every unit to military specifications gives confidence that our ECUs will survive the journey and provide high-performance heating and cooling capabilities once they arrive on site. We take pride in finding innovative solutions for extreme conditions.

Learn More: ECUs

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