Foul Play? Cooling Tower Cleanliness Key to Plant Efficiency

Foul Play? Cooling Tower Cleanliness Key to Plant EfficiencyAt most commercial and industrial plants, chiller systems get the lion’s share of investment, attention, and maintenance. It’s no wonder: HVAC plant chillers account for approximately 45 percent of utility costs and use more than five times the energy of cooling towers on average. As a result, companies are willing to invest in tube wire brushing, chemical descaling, and eddy current monitoring to keep these systems running.

What’s often overlooked, however, is the direct link between cooling tower performance and chiller efficiency—if fouled, towers can bog down an entire plant or even spread infectious diseases such as Legionella. Bottom line? Clean towers are key to better cooling.

Big Risks

The nature of cooling towers makes them a hotbed of biological risk. Acting as massive air scrubbers, the fill in these towers comes in contact with dust, suspended solids, pollen, and insects—all materials which act as the foundation of bacterial growth. What’s more, the combination of sunlight and water on cooling tower surfaces can promote the growth of algae, while flash evaporation may cause hard scale deposits and calcium fouling.

Worst case scenario? Poorly-cleaned towers cause problems for local residents. That’s what happened in Christchurch, New Zealand, where a cooling tower contaminated with legionella pneumophila caused the hospitalization of four women and two men since the beginning of April. While the tower was treated immediately and overall public health risk was low, the damage to brand image and investigations by government compliance authorities can have serious repercussions.

Lowered Efficiency

Beyond public health issues, the overall performance of industrial and commercial plants can quickly decline if cooling towers aren’t properly maintained. Consider that for each degree that condenser supply temperature is above design specifications, chiller efficiency is reduced by two percent. This, in turn, promotes the deposit and growth of foulants which may corrode both tower fill and the tower itself, eventually requiring costly and time-consuming replacement.

But with narrowing profit margins and plant chillers always topping the maintenance list, how do companies keep cooling towers clean and performance at maximum? Cutting-edge research suggests that a specific type of red algae may be able to repel biological foulants and so-called “smart dirt” which is resistant to many common chemical treatments. But this technology is just out of infancy; corporations need an effective way to deal with fouled cooling towers that doesn’t demand days of downtime or break cleaning budgets.

Solutions like Goodway’s new TFC-200 Tower Fill Descaler are ideally poised to help: In three simple steps, plants can clear fouling and restore system performance. First, rinse with 3 GPM, 300 PSI, and then apply Goodway’s ScaleBreak Gel cleaner. Switch the unit to turbo nozzle high volume and foulants melt away.

Chillers get all the attention, but cooling towers are just as critical to plant performance; clean both regularly to avoid foul play.

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