Maintenance for Cooling Towers: Protecting Process Cooling Systems from Costly 'Fatigue'

If your cooling tower and related equipment are not in good physical shape, there could be a terrible price to pay in loss of process efficiency, damage to downstream equipment, and loss of production. The loss of cooling capability from industrial cooling towers that are not running at optimum can result in a number of serious consequential ‘systemic’ problems, including paralysing and costly damage such as excessive downtime, destruction of equipment and, ultimately, loss of product due to quality issues.

Like your car, when you run a cooling tower in the ‘red,’ you are going to see consequential damage. When you continuously run a car in the red, you are exposing yourself to a series of heat-related problems, including damaged gaskets and seals, pre-mature cylinder wear, warped cylinder heads and even catastrophic engine damage. When a cooling tower is suffering from a lack of preventive maintenance, you could experience over-heated equipment, increase in scrap material, refrigeration losses, heat exchanger inefficiencies and a host of other severe operational consequences.

Cooling towers play a critical role in cooling process equipment used in pulp and paper production, petrochemical processing manufacture of plastics, metals and textiles, the processing and storage of food, beverage and pharmaceutical products and many other HVAC systems. If cooling towers are not kept in good shape and receiving preventive maintenance, they can become ‘fatigued’, which can, in turn, put a strain on system equipment and processes downstream.

Unless the cooling tower is well maintained, the water it provides devices such as heat exchangers, production machinery and HVAC systems will be less able to draw off heat. For example, the ‘cold side’ of a heat exchanger will receive water that is not as cool as optimum. Therefore the heat exchanger will be less able to draw off heat from process fluids. If the cooling tower shell is in bad shape, or requires too much repetitive maintenance, then perhaps the system should be replaced with one of today’s more advanced models, such as seamless plastic cooling towers.


The cost of overlooking the maintenance of a cooling tower can be heavy, almost regardless of the final application. In the pulp and paper industry, for example, a process interruption for unscheduled service can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. The same thing can occur in chemical processing. If you do not cool that equipment sufficiently, forget the normal fears about downtime. You are going to be repairing and replacing expensive hardware, so you will have an impact that is both loss of production and also loss of capital equipment.

The impact can be amplified in applications where there are cooling towers operating with sometimes dozens of devices daisy-chained off them. That is often the situation in the injection molding industry. So you have to be concerned about downtime plus the loss of machinery that is vital to your application.  If the cooling tower is not cooling enough, and causes a series of injection molding machines to overheat, the very expensive molding equipment is going to produce scrap parts or just going to lock up like a seized engine. It could takes weeks to replace the equipment, if necessary, and certainly days to clean it up – if no catastrophic damage has occurred, that is.

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