How Do HVAC Cooling Towers Work?

If you have a large commercial space that needs to be kept cool, you’ll probably need a commercial cooling tower. They come in a wide-range of varieties, all of which work in several ways. For this reason, you might have a few questions, like:

  • What is an HVAC cooling tower?
  • What are the most common commercial cooling tower types?
  • Do cooling towers need maintenance?

Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about these industrial structures, and how they help keep your building comfortable and cool.

What Is an HVAC Cooling Tower?

Air conditioning and cooling units typically use condensers to provide a chilling effect. Condensers take heat and run it through a series of coils, which then allow the heat to dissipate. In other words, they take heat out of a system and return a cooler material to the point of entry.
A cooling tower is a massive, typically square unit that uses fans or other features to function as a heat exchanger to cool water through evaporation. This cooling tower is typically used in combination with a chiller, which provides immediate cooling to your commercial area.
The process goes something like this. The chiller removes heat from the system and provides warm water to your cooling tower. The cooling tower allows the warm water to dissipate into the atmosphere or otherwise cools this material. Then, the cooling tower returns cool water to the chiller, where it can be used again to cool the area.

What Are the Most Common Commercial Cooling Tower Types?

While all commercial cooling towers work in fundamentally similar ways, there are a few types of cooling towers you should be aware of:

  • Natural draft: Natural draft cooling towers are most commonly used in power plants and in industries where cooling water flow is practically infinite. Primarily, this tower functions by taking advantage of hot air rising into the atmosphere. Shaped hyperbolically to encourage proper air flow, these towers tend to be tall.
  • Mechanical draft: With mechanical draft towers, air is forced through the cooling tower with the help of a circulating fan. Both propeller fans and centrifugal fans can be used for this purpose. While mechanical draft towers are more effective than their close counterparts (natural draft towers), they tend to be more expensive to install and operate, since they use much more power to keep the fans running.
  • Crossflow cooling: In a crossflow cooling tower, the design of the tower permits air to flow horizontally into an open plenum area. For this type of tower, it’s critically important to include weatherproofing; if moisture gets in and freezes, it can make the tower much less efficient.
  • Counterflow cooling: In this type of cooling tower, air moves upward, against a countercurrent with hot water. From there, the air falls downward in a cooling effect. This minimizes requirements for pump heads and tends to be uniquely efficient in cold weather conditions. While more expensive to install, it can save money in the long run.
  • Induced draft: With an induced draft tower, you’ll have a fan at the top that allows hot air to circulate up and out; since this is such a powerful force, hot air typically doesn’t have an opportunity to recirculate. These towers are highly efficient, saving energy when compared to forced draft designs.
  • Forced draft: Forced draft designs are similar to induced draft, but the fans are placed at the base of each tower rather than at the top. Because they face challenges with high energy use and water distribution efficiency, they aren’t especially common.

What Is Cooling Tower Maintenance?

If you’re thinking about buying a new cooling tower, your primary priority is going to be choosing the correct type for your business needs. But if you already have a cooling tower, you’ll need to think about proactive maintenance. These are some of the most important tasks associated with cooling tower maintenance:

  • Cleaning: As part of regular maintenance, you’ll need to clean your cooling tower inside and out. This is a great way to boost its efficiency while simultaneously reducing wear and tear that can prematurely shorten your cooling tower’s lifespan.
  • Removal of scale deposits: Over time, your cooling tower may build up scale deposits, which can interfere with its efficiency. During maintenance, these can be removed.
  • Inspection and minor repairs: This is also an opportunity to conduct a thorough inspection to ensure everything is working as intended. If minor repairs are necessary, we can make them.

Overdue for cooling tower maintenance? Here’s a secret: the quality of service depends on the company you choose. When vetting potential providers, here’s what you need to look for.

The Importance of Regular Tune-Ups for HVAC Cooling Towers

Cooling tower maintenance is important because it helps you reduce costs and save time in the long run. Spending a few hours and a few hundred dollars on proactive repairs and cleaning is much better than spending tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars for a full system replacement. Additionally, practicing regular maintenance can help you improve the total lifespan of your system, boosting your ROI.
Maintenance also prevents true HVAC emergencies. If you need to keep a commercial space as cool as possible as consistently as possible, an HVAC emergency can stop you in your tracks. It can bring your operations to a halt and cause significant loss of revenue. To make matters worse, because we’re currently dealing with supply chain issues and a labor shortage, it may be several weeks before repairs can be made to your unit.
The bottom line? You’re much better off practicing preventative maintenance than waiting for an emergency to occur.

Image of a worker inspecting HVAC cooling towers

Frazier Service: Your Top Choice for Boiler, HVAC, and Cooling Tower Maintenance

Are you interested in a cooling tower for your business? Is your existing cooling tower in need of maintenance or repairs? Frazier can help. Contact us for a free quote or assessment today!

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