Everything You Need to Know About Cooling Tower Systems

No one wants to stay in a building with bad air conditioning—at least not for too long. On the other hand, buildings with excellent cooling make you want to return, even if it’s just to enjoy the air. That’s thanks, in large part, to the continued modernization and innovation of cooling tower systems.

What is a cooling tower system?

These large-scale cooling units are designed to remove heat from buildings or equipment. They’re often used in the HVAC systems of commercial buildings or industrial processes, like manufacturing plants, hotels, and universities. In fact, you’ve probably seen one and didn’t know what it was. Here’s everything you need to know about cooling tower systems and what makes them so cool.

How does a cooling tower work?

Air conditioning equipment and industrial processes can generate heat in the form of tons of hot water that needs to be cooled down. That’s where cooling towers come in. Overheated water flows through the cooling tower where it’s recirculated and exposed to cool, dry air. Heat leaves the recirculating cooling tower water through evaporation. The colder water then reenters the air conditioning equipment or process to cool that equipment down, and the cooling cycle repeats over and over again.

What types of cooling tower systems are there?

When it comes to cooling tower designs, there are two primary groups: Air-cooled and water-cooled.

The most modern, efficient systems are water-cooled—they use less energy than air-cooled ones and (surprisingly) have a lower consumption of water, due to how they harvest and recirculate it. Bonus: Water-cooled systems may also require less maintenance.

The mechanisms that cool the air can be natural or mechanical. Natural draft uses a non-mechanical heat transfer to circulate air throughout the cooling tower. Warm, moist air rises, while cooler, dryer air falls, generating a cyclical air flow that cools the water within the tower. Mechanical draft cooling towers often use centrifugal or propeller fans to circulate air throughout the tower. These towers tend to be more effective than natural draft, but they can also consume more power and therefore raise operating costs.

There are also different methods by which water or air flow through a cooling unit. The three main types are counterflow, crossflow, and hyperbolic. Think about in directional terms: Crossflow forces a horizontal flow; counterflow flows vertically; hyperbolic creates an effect where cooler air pushes against warmer air to move it through the cooling tower in a somewhat curved motion.

What is the best material for a cooling tower system?

Water-cooled systems are primarily made from two materials: Metal or plastic. As you know, metal can rust and corrode, and whatever’s inside of it can begin to leak over time. To no surprise, metal cooling towers only have an average shelf life of up to 15 years and require maintenance with epoxy paint, sealants, and more. And that maintenance can lead to downtime for your business. However, plastic is designed to stand up to wear and tear. It doesn’t rust or chip—and it can weather harsh environmental conditions. It also requires almost zero maintenance. High-density polyethylene (HDPE), a best-in-class engineered plastic used by Delta Cooling Systems, is seamless and resistant to environment-induced corrosion. And with a life expectancy of more than 50 years, you can install it once, and have confidence knowing that you won’t need to worry about it afterward.

Are cooling tower systems environmentally friendly?

The best ones can be. In general, water-cooled cooling towers save more water and energy when compared to air-cooled systems or older technology cooling towers. In fact, business can save up to 40 percent on energy costs. In addition, the most innovative plastic cooling towers, like the ones developed by Delta Cooling Towers, use a process that ends up conserving more water by reducing the make-up water requirements and drift losses that occur when the water is cooled. Get more details here about Delta’s sustainable technology and products.

What’s the connection between cooling tower systems and Legionnaires’ disease?

According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cooling towers can be a breeding ground for Legionella bacteria, the microbes that cause Legionnaires’ disease. Here’s why: Bacteria thrive in warm, wet conditions, making cooling towers an ideal environment. As a result, people can get Legionnaire’s disease, which can cause pneumonia, when they breathe in water droplets dispensed from HVAC systems that contain Legionella bacteria. In fact, a 2017 study by the CDC found six Legionnaires’ outbreaks in New York City that resulted in 213 cases and 18 deaths. Three of those outbreaks were linked to cooling towers.

To address this public health concern and liability, companies are treating the water inside of their cooling towers with antimicrobial substances that kill the bacteria.  As another precaution, plastic cooling tower systems can be manufactured with antimicrobial resins built into the unit materials and components to provide an additional layer of defense against Legionella. Find out more about the anti-microbial product technology at Delta Cooling Towers.

How can cooling tower systems help businesses save money?

Think of it this way: Cooling tower systems are essential to many businesses, which means looking for efficiencies in operations and products can help impact the bottom line. Water consumption can be a major operating expense, and cooling towers have the ability to recycle about 98% of water used in process cooling or air conditioning. If the unit is made from plastic and uses water instead of air as a cooling method, business owners can anticipate reduced energy costs, little-to-no maintenance, and extended product longevity, compared to older, metal systems. That’s a highly desirable scenario for any business to cut down on costs. Furthermore, many customers appreciate knowing that the businesses and industries that support communities are environmentally-conscious and working toward sustainable practices. That may not be a money-saving factor, but it could boost consumer confidence. And that’s good for business, too.

As you can see, there’s a lot to learn about cooling tower systems. Not only do they perform a function many of us couldn’t live without (that’s air conditioning, of course), they’re highly technological and, yes, cool. Perhaps knowing more about cooling towers will give you a greater appreciation for cool air.

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