What is the Purpose of a Cooling Tower

If you are ever looking down from a high-rise building, you might notice square units with fans on top of them on the buildings below. Most people assume cooling towers can only be found on a city building but they can be found on buildings everywhere.  Basically, a cooling tower is used to cool water and is a huge heat exchanger, expelling building heat into the atmosphere and returning colder water to the chiller. A cooling tower receives warm water from a chiller. This warm water is known as condenser water because it gets heat in the condenser of the chiller. The chiller is typically at a lower level, like in a basement. The cooling tower’s role is to cool down the water, so it can return to the chiller to pick up more heat.

When the warm condenser goes into the cooling tower, the water is passed through some nozzles which is sprayed into small droplets across the fill, which increases the surface area of water and allows for better heat loss thru greater evaporation. The purpose of the fan on top of the cooling tower is to bring in air from the bottom of the tower and move it up and out in the opposite direction of the warm condenser water of the top of the unit. The air will carry the heat thru evaporating water of the cooling tower into the atmosphere. For every pound of water evaporated approximately 1,000 BTU of water cooling occurs.  The heat that gets rejected into the atmosphere is all the unwanted heat from the building.

Water costs money so in order to keep costs and water consumption down, cooling towers will use drift eliminators, which are located above the fill packaging and spray nozzles below the fan. The drift eliminators push some of the water moisture out of the air which then runs back into the fill for further cooling and eventually will gather in the basin of the cooling tower to go back to the chiller. Once it returns to the chiller it will pickup heat and the cycle will begin again.

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