Styro Shippers - Finally some data on their effectiveness

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Post #1  Postby P Intag » June 28th 2016, 10:04pm

The topic of the effectiveness of styro shippers (heat only) comes up occassionally on the MB, but there has been no hard data -- until now. I cobbled together a Particle Photon wifi dev module with a couple of temp sensors, a standard DHT22 sensor for air temp and a DS18B20 waterproof temperature probe for liquid temperature. Here is a graph of the results:

StyroPerformance.png
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The experiments were carried out in my garage during the first heatwave of the summer.

The first part of the chart shows the bottle in open air, clearly showing the bottle temp closely following the ambient temp. With this as a baseline, I cooled the bottle (filled with water) to 63F and placed in in the styro shipper in its shipping box. As you can see, it does a pretty good job until the air temp climbs into the nineties. I think this shows that styro shippers are very effective unless it is extremely hot, but you can draw your own conclusions.

Here are some photos of the setup:
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Post #2  Postby Chuck Miller » June 28th 2016, 10:24pm

Paul, thanks for the input. I would love to see the same thing with a pulp cardboard shipper.

From the pictures, it looks as if you did not have the styro in a cardboard shell, which would add another buffer against ambient temperature swings. Also if the bottle was chilled to 55 degrees or so, the way a winery might ship, it would probably have a lower peak temp during a 2-3 day transit.
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Post #3  Postby c fu » June 28th 2016, 10:37pm

Chuck Miller wrote:Paul, thanks for the input. I would love to see the same thing with a pulp cardboard shipper.

From the pictures, it looks as if you did not have the styro in a cardboard shell, which would add another buffer against ambient temperature swings. Also if the bottle was chilled to 55 degrees or so, the way a winery might ship, it would probably have a lower peak temp during a 2-3 day transit.


i don't think chilling to 55 will be that much of a difference. It seems after a day it basically settles at 75. But yeah, cardboard might help a little bit more. Don't know by how much tho.

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Post #4  Postby Glen Gold » June 28th 2016, 10:37pm

Wow, I love that you put this effort in -- thank you for your experimentation. Did you measure temperature continuously or hourly? And importantly, did the water taste cooked? [snort.gif]
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Post #5  Postby Chuck Miller » June 28th 2016, 10:47pm

c fu wrote:
Chuck Miller wrote:Paul, thanks for the input. I would love to see the same thing with a pulp cardboard shipper.

From the pictures, it looks as if you did not have the styro in a cardboard shell, which would add another buffer against ambient temperature swings. Also if the bottle was chilled to 55 degrees or so, the way a winery might ship, it would probably have a lower peak temp during a 2-3 day transit.


i don't think chilling to 55 will be that much of a difference. It seems after a day it basically settles at 75. But yeah, cardboard might help a little bit more. Don't know by how much tho.

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Charlie, if it starts at 63 and peaks at 83 after 3 days in the ambient 90's, I would guess that starting at 55 might keep the peak well under 80. Sure, it won't make any difference after a week or more, but for short term shipping, it sure can't hurt.
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Post #6  Postby GregT » June 28th 2016, 10:51pm

Paul - cool job.

I have no idea what value it will have in the long run, but it's great that you put the effort in.

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Post #7  Postby Andrew Morris » June 28th 2016, 10:57pm

Nice work.

I think that the cardboard will make a difference. I also suspect that the number of bottles in the box will have an effect as well due to the thermal mass. Try it with a case in a box?
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Post #8  Postby P Intag » June 29th 2016, 12:21am

Chuck Miller wrote:Paul, thanks for the input. I would love to see the same thing with a pulp cardboard shipper.

From the pictures, it looks as if you did not have the styro in a cardboard shell, which would add another buffer against ambient temperature swings. Also if the bottle was chilled to 55 degrees or so, the way a winery might ship, it would probably have a lower peak temp during a 2-3 day transit.

Actually, I did place the styro in the cardboard shipper - I just didn't show it because, really, who wants to see a picture of a box? As far as chilling to 55F, I can try that sometime soon.
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Post #9  Postby P Intag » June 29th 2016, 12:22am

Glen Gold wrote:Wow, I love that you put this effort in -- thank you for your experimentation. Did you measure temperature continuously or hourly? And importantly, did the water taste cooked? [snort.gif]

Temps were recorded every 12 minutes.
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Post #10  Postby P Intag » June 29th 2016, 12:23am

Andrew Morris wrote:Nice work.

I think that the cardboard will make a difference. I also suspect that the number of bottles in the box will have an effect as well due to the thermal mass. Try it with a case in a box?

That might be worth trying. There was only one other bottle in the styro and it wasn't right next to it.
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Post #11  Postby Mikhail M » June 29th 2016, 3:31am

Very nice data, but the second (right) half of the data doesn't make sense to me.
Let's look at the part where the top & bottom temps are stabilized.
Why is it that the liquid warms up by about 3-4 degrees when the temperature differential is over 20 degrees, and then cools down over about the same time period by 4-5 degrees but with a temp differential of only 5-6 degrees? What is it that makes it easier to cool down as opposed to warm up? Inside the styro shipper the heat transfer up or down should be the same, no?
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Post #12  Postby Tom G l a s g o w » June 29th 2016, 4:12am

Some 24 hour graphs would provide more detail and probably answer Mikhail's question.
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Post #13  Postby J a y H a c k » June 29th 2016, 4:36am

Calling Leslie. Calling Leslie.

5 to 8 years ago, Leslie Fisher did some experiments with putting some kind of temperature tracking device in a styro case and shipping it by plane. I do not remember the details but it would be good to have both sets of data. IIRC, her results showed that with a normal plane flight the risks were minimal.

Great work, by the way. I always love it when someone actually checks data instead of just speculation. What I find interesting is that the lag between outside peak and bottle peak seems to be about 8 hours, after which the styro actually keeps things warmer until the next daily cycle.
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Post #14  Postby andy velebil » June 29th 2016, 4:41am

Very cool. Thanks for the data!
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Post #15  Postby Ken Strauss » June 29th 2016, 5:10am

Interesting!
Would it make any difference if you used wine instead of water? Does alcohol change the results in any way?

Thanks!
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Post #16  Postby Loren Sonkin » June 29th 2016, 6:12am

Well done. Thanks for posting this.
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Post #17  Postby mattcitrang » June 29th 2016, 7:37am

Thanks for the interesting data points. I think styro is better than pulp shippers in this aspect.
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Post #18  Postby Neal.Mollen » June 29th 2016, 8:19am

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Thanks for the very informative post!
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Post #19  Postby Todd F r e n c h » June 29th 2016, 8:33am

Interestingly enough, Shawnda and I are about to do an experiment in a similar fashion, but to determine which material is 'superior' - Styrofoam vs. corrugated cardboard as an insert - for The Wine Check. We don't have as accurate of equipment, by a long shot, but when we have the comparisons we'll definitely post here on this same thread as another data point.
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Post #20  Postby Brian Gilp » June 29th 2016, 9:01am

Chuck Miller wrote:
c fu wrote:
Chuck Miller wrote:Paul, thanks for the input. I would love to see the same thing with a pulp cardboard shipper.

From the pictures, it looks as if you did not have the styro in a cardboard shell, which would add another buffer against ambient temperature swings. Also if the bottle was chilled to 55 degrees or so, the way a winery might ship, it would probably have a lower peak temp during a 2-3 day transit.


i don't think chilling to 55 will be that much of a difference. It seems after a day it basically settles at 75. But yeah, cardboard might help a little bit more. Don't know by how much tho.

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Charlie, if it starts at 63 and peaks at 83 after 3 days in the ambient 90's, I would guess that starting at 55 might keep the peak well under 80. Sure, it won't make any difference after a week or more, but for short term shipping, it sure can't hurt.

Let me preface this with it has been many years since I took thermodynamics in college so counting on my memory is risky. I agree that starting for a lower bottle temperature won't hurt but I don't think it is going to make much difference after the first day for a single bottle in a case shipper. The lower the starting temperature of the bottle the greater the delta T between the bottle and the air in the styro shipper and this should probably stabilize close to the same temperature that the 63F bottle did before the ambient temperature impacts the air temperature in the shipper and then from there everything would be the same. Changing the thermal mass from one bottle to twelve should have a more drastic impact and would probably keep the peaks lower due to the greater energy required to raise the temperature of the greater mass. Of course, a full shipper starting at 55 would be the best.
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Post #21  Postby Alan Rath » June 29th 2016, 9:35am

Nice work! As Brian says, the other interesting experiment would be to do this with a full case shipper, and then monitor a center bottle vs. an outer wall bottle. I think it's pretty safe to speculate that the pulp shipper isn't going to provide nearly the insulation that styro does, but will be nice to see a real result.
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Post #22  Postby D@v1dZ » June 29th 2016, 10:00am

This is super and much appreciated work.
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Post #23  Postby Frank Drew » June 29th 2016, 10:49am

It would make sense that the outermost bottles in any kind of case shipper would be more vulnerable to both thermal and mechanical shock, so it would also make sense if the manufacturers of these inserts made the outer walls thicker. Shouldn't be very hard to make new molds or reconfigure the extruders.
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Post #24  Postby Matt Latuchie » June 29th 2016, 11:05am

love it. thanks for doing this.
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Post #25  Postby Fred C » June 29th 2016, 11:19am

I also wanted to thank you for this data. It is very reassuring.

Can you also run it using the cardboard egg crate shippers and also the flat styro/foam shippers?

No doubt they are inferior. I am curious as to how much more inferior they would be.

Thanks again for the great work! You should submit it to a wine magazine for "publication" and get paid for it.
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Post #26  Postby c fu » June 29th 2016, 11:20am

Fred C wrote:I also wanted to thank you for this data. It is very reassuring.

Can you also run it using the cardboard egg crate shippers and also the flat styro/foam shippers?

No doubt they are inferior. I am curious as to how much more inferior they would be.

Thanks again for the great work! You should submit it to a wine magazine for "publication" and get paid for it.

run it in those crazy styro shippers that Crush uses. I bet the temp fluctuates like 5 degrees at most. Those things are beast!
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Post #27  Postby Eric Lundblad » June 29th 2016, 12:02pm

There are "summer shippers" that are made with much thicker outer walls (styro, stand up type shippers) that include slots for frozen cold packs in the middle (1 cold pack for a 6 pack, 2 for a 12 pack). I assume these are what Crush is using? Would be interesting to see what the performance of these are (with and without the cold packs).
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Post #28  Postby M A T T H A R T L E Y » June 29th 2016, 12:06pm

We put a thermometer in the back of the FedEx truck and when it was 95 degrees outside it was 135 in the back of the FedEx truck.

I would assume it would spend close to 15-20 hours during the entire shipping process in the back of said vehicle.

No bueno.
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Post #29  Postby Kelly Walker » June 29th 2016, 12:10pm

Ken Strauss wrote:Interesting!
Would it make any difference if you used wine instead of water? Does alcohol change the results in any way?

Thanks!
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Yes but probably not to a great degree given wine is only 12-15% alcohol. Alcohol has a lower specific heat than water which means it takes less energy to raise the temperature of alcohol.
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Post #30  Postby Andrew Morris » June 29th 2016, 12:36pm

Kelly Walker wrote:
Ken Strauss wrote:Interesting!
Would it make any difference if you used wine instead of water? Does alcohol change the results in any way?

Thanks!
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Yes but probably not to a great degree given wine is only 12-15% alcohol. Alcohol has a lower specific heat than water which means it takes less energy to raise the temperature of alcohol.


The weight of the bottle has some effects as well.
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Post #31  Postby c fu » June 29th 2016, 12:50pm

Eric Lundblad wrote:There are "summer shippers" that are made with much thicker outer walls (styro, stand up type shippers) that include slots for frozen cold packs in the middle (1 cold pack for a 6 pack, 2 for a 12 pack). I assume these are what Crush is using? Would be interesting to see what the performance of these are (with and without the cold packs).

no, no slots. It's just this really thick soft malleable styro wrapped in grey insulation sheets. THe bottles get real snug in them. Once we put a cold bottle at the very bottom on a friday. Sunday morning the bottle was still pretty cool to the touch.
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Post #32  Postby Kelly Walker » June 29th 2016, 12:55pm

mattcitrang wrote:Thanks for the interesting data points. I think styro is better than pulp shippers in this aspect.


Styrofoam has about 30% lower thermal conductivity coefficient than paper/cardboard. More importantly, styro shippers are generally much thicker than most pulp shippers I am familiar with. This is the why people who choose to use pulp usually do it for environmental reasons.
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Post #33  Postby larry schaffer » June 29th 2016, 1:02pm

Very impressive - thanks for sharing!

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Post #34  Postby Eric Lundblad » June 29th 2016, 1:08pm

c fu wrote:
Eric Lundblad wrote:There are "summer shippers" that are made with much thicker outer walls (styro, stand up type shippers) that include slots for frozen cold packs in the middle (1 cold pack for a 6 pack, 2 for a 12 pack). I assume these are what Crush is using? Would be interesting to see what the performance of these are (with and without the cold packs).

no, no slots. It's just this really thick soft malleable styro wrapped in grey insulation sheets. THe bottles get real snug in them. Once we put a cold bottle at the very bottom on a friday. Sunday morning the bottle was still pretty cool to the touch.


Ah, I've used those shippers. I reuse shippers from my local/personal wine storage facility (ones that are in good shape, of course) and they had several. I had a few comments from folk about how cold the bottles were when they arrived. I deliver the packages to the Oakland shipping hub myself, so that helps a bit (by avoiding sitting in a truck on my side). Still, I was pleased/surprised they performed so well.


M A T T H A R T L E Y wrote:We put a thermometer in the back of the FedEx truck and when it was 95 degrees outside it was 135 in the back of the FedEx truck.

I would assume it would spend close to 15-20 hours during the entire shipping process in the back of said vehicle.

No bueno.


Delivery trucks to business addresses almost always have more geographically compact/shorter routes (based on a full truck) than residential routes. So it's worth the effort to find a business address to ship to so the time-in-truck can be shorter on the back end. Lower incidence of delivery problems to business addresses as well. Delivery problems really cause havoc with wine...I had one this spring (totally my fault unfortunately). The wine spent 3 weeks travel time (cross country shipment). The wine was in ok/drinkable shape but it was slightly affected. An extreme case, but delivery problems are to be avoided at all costs for the happiness of the wine.
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Post #35  Postby Fred C » June 29th 2016, 1:08pm

M A T T H A R T L E Y wrote:We put a thermometer in the back of the FedEx truck and when it was 95 degrees outside it was 135 in the back of the FedEx truck.

I would assume it would spend close to 15-20 hours during the entire shipping process in the back of said vehicle.

No bueno.


This would mean that even at 70 degrees (what most would consider safe shipping weather) that it wouldn't be unusual for the back of a FedEx truck to be above 90 degrees which would still mean that the wine itself would at times hit 80+ degrees.
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Post #36  Postby c fu » June 29th 2016, 1:24pm

Fred C wrote:
M A T T H A R T L E Y wrote:We put a thermometer in the back of the FedEx truck and when it was 95 degrees outside it was 135 in the back of the FedEx truck.

I would assume it would spend close to 15-20 hours during the entire shipping process in the back of said vehicle.

No bueno.


This would mean that even at 70 degrees (what most would consider safe shipping weather) that it wouldn't be unusual for the back of a FedEx truck to be above 90 degrees which would still mean that the wine itself would at times hit 80+ degrees.


I don't think it's an instant correlation though. Maybe at 95 degrees the sun radiates at a higher strength and raises interior temperatures more. I'll tell you based on my experiences of not having AC on when it's 95 degrees outside, the interior of the house gets up to 85 or so. But when it's 80F outside it doesn't get past 75. lol
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Post #37  Postby andy velebil » June 29th 2016, 1:34pm

Eric Lundblad wrote:There are "summer shippers" that are made with much thicker outer walls (styro, stand up type shippers) that include slots for frozen cold packs in the middle (1 cold pack for a 6 pack, 2 for a 12 pack). I assume these are what Crush is using? Would be interesting to see what the performance of these are (with and without the cold packs).

I got one of these recently during our heat wave. Two days after being shipped...wine was still cold and so was chiller pack.
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Post #38  Postby ky1em!ttskus » June 29th 2016, 1:38pm

Fantastic thread, Paul. Thanks a lot for doing this.

I'm looking forward to more experiments and results.
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Post #39  Postby Chris Tyler » June 29th 2016, 5:09pm

This is great - thanks for posting, Paul! Nice to see some real data.

Has anyone heard of a "not to exceed" temperature for wine? I see a lot of stuff on where wine should be stored (69 degrees as the upper limit), but I have not heard anything about what's considered hot enough to cook the wine.
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Post #40  Postby Scott Watkins » June 29th 2016, 6:27pm

Nice work and thanks for the data Paul.
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Post #41  Postby P Intag » June 29th 2016, 6:37pm

Mikhail M wrote:Very nice data, but the second (right) half of the data doesn't make sense to me.
Let's look at the part where the top & bottom temps are stabilized.
Why is it that the liquid warms up by about 3-4 degrees when the temperature differential is over 20 degrees, and then cools down over about the same time period by 4-5 degrees but with a temp differential of only 5-6 degrees? What is it that makes it easier to cool down as opposed to warm up? Inside the styro shipper the heat transfer up or down should be the same, no?

Yes, I agree that it doesn't seem to make sense. Also, look at how the bottle temp cools slightly before the ambient temp (on its way down) even reaches the bottle temp. Doesn't seem to make sense.
I can tell you that I tracked both sensors in air for about a week prior to this experiment and they were dead-on with each other (and with a mercury thermometer that I used to verify that the sensors were accurate).
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Post #42  Postby P Intag » June 29th 2016, 6:38pm

Tom G l a s g o w wrote:Some 24 hour graphs would provide more detail and probably answer Mikhail's question.

Yes, I'll try to post a zoomed-in view of the data shortly.
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Post #43  Postby D@v!d P@rt@!n » June 29th 2016, 6:58pm

Paul, great stuff, thank you!
My experience living 75 miles south of satan's blast furnace makes shipping a no-go nine months of the year. I've found that using the styro shippers with the cold pack works fine for overnight from LA wine shops. I do not hesitate to order a case of rose for immediate consumption during the summer here. I don't ship anything else though. I'll wait for cooler days in Nov, Dec and Jan for anything valuable or destined for the cellar. [cheers.gif]
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Styro Shippers - Finally some data on their effectiveness

Post #44  Postby Arv R » June 29th 2016, 9:06pm

Very cool and thanks for sharing the pictures. Post of the month!
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Styro Shippers - Finally some data on their effectiveness

Post #45  Postby P Intag » June 30th 2016, 1:11pm

Here's a 2 day zoom-in of the chart after it had stabilized a bit:
Tempchart_2Day.png
Tempchart_2Day.png (101.62 KiB) Viewed 2488 times


My earlier comment about the liquid cooling before the ambient temp got below its temp is false - it just appeared that way on the wider chart. It's now clear that this is not happening.
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Styro Shippers - Finally some data on their effectiveness

Post #46  Postby Neal.Mollen » June 30th 2016, 1:13pm

P Intag wrote:Here's a 2 day zoom-in of the chart after it had stabilized a bit:
Tempchart_2Day.png


My earlier comment about the liquid cooling before the ambient temp got below its temp is false - it just appeared that way on the wider chart. It's now clear that this is not happening.

You know if you keep posting useful stuff it is going to make the rest of us look bad. Or worse.
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Styro Shippers - Finally some data on their effectiveness

Post #47  Postby J.Durham » June 30th 2016, 6:41pm

Kelly Walker wrote:
mattcitrang wrote:Thanks for the interesting data points. I think styro is better than pulp shippers in this aspect.


Styrofoam has about 30% lower thermal conductivity coefficient than paper/cardboard. More importantly, styro shippers are generally much thicker than most pulp shippers I am familiar with. This is the why people who choose to use pulp usually do it for environmental reasons.



Some empiric data; In 2012 I drove my wine up from Texas to Virginia. It was all packed in various boxes--moslyt styro but some pulp and started at cellar temp. It was a 3 day drive and temps were pretty consistent. I had an ambient temp monitor in the U-Haul truck and another wireless monitor in a styro box. Generally, lows at night were in the 50s, highs in the upper 70's. In the styro box temps were more less extreme, more like 60-70. I did all kinds of crazy things when it got warm/sunny like pack the truck with dry ice and park in the shade and wait till dark to drive, etc. When I got there ambient temps were 78! Styro box ~74, but wine bottle clearly cooler, probably high 60's. Wine in pulp boxes felt room temp(but none felt warm). I took this to mean after ~72hrs the pulp boxes had nearly equilibrated with the ambient temp while the styro hadn't yet. I think the op's post would support this conclusion with the styro shippers.
Thanks for real data!
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Styro Shippers - Finally some data on their effectiveness

Post #48  Postby Joe Webb » July 1st 2016, 2:26pm

Thanks for the data keep it coming. Specifically I wonder how much better the wine would fair if it was a full case with 12x the thermal mass of liquid and glass.
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Post #49  Postby Jim Salvito » July 1st 2016, 2:55pm

Great work, Paul! This somewhat confirms what I've always thought - I prefer the styro shippers. I know they're the least environmentally friendly, so it would be great if there was a way to re-use them.
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Post #50  Postby Cameron Hughes » July 1st 2016, 3:56pm

Kelly Walker wrote:
mattcitrang wrote:Thanks for the interesting data points. I think styro is better than pulp shippers in this aspect.


Styrofoam has about 30% lower thermal conductivity coefficient than paper/cardboard. More importantly, styro shippers are generally much thicker than most pulp shippers I am familiar with. This is the why people who choose to use pulp usually do it for environmental reasons.


Counter intuitive, I know, but most evidence (more anecdotal but there are some tests on wine biz monthly) says this is a wrong assumption...styrofoam is not the insulator people think it is when its comes to wine shipping. Takes a bit longer to heat up, yes, but also longer to cool down. I'm no expert, but I think that over the course of 24 hours the faster cooling is more of an advantage over slower heating. I've had this conversation many times over the years with FedEx and with big DTC fulfillment providers and everyone says same thing...they've done the tests and pulp performs better.

Can we run this experiment with styro and pulp shippers with same thickness of outer shipper?

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