Many problems are preventable with some cooling tower maintenance.

Key takeaways

  • Cooling towers provide additional cooling capacity for large buildings
  • They utilize water to assist with the cooling
  • This water has the potential to cause problems within the system
  • Proper maintenance can prevent many of these issues

Cooling towers are typical commercial-building equipment as a way to keep large buildings cool. Air-conditioning units aren’t always practical for massive spaces, and a more efficient method becomes necessary. 

A cooling tower removes heat from buildings through a combination of cold water and evaporation. Coolant chills a constant stream of water, which absorbs heat and removes it from the building. You’ll often see cooling towers on the roofs of large buildings that require cooling power in addition to their existing HVAC systems.

Some problems can arise with cooling towers, primarily due to water in the system. Fortunately, some cooling-tower maintenance can keep your system in excellent condition. Here’s a look at five of the most common issues to expect with cooling towers.

1) Metal corrosion 

One of the most common issues commercial-building cooling towers encounter is corrosion. Corrosion occurs when air and water meet. Water contains sodium and other chemicals that react when they mix with air, leading to metal breakdown over time. 

At first, this corrosion will be relatively minor, although it could create system inefficiencies that waste energy. Eventually, your cooling tower could sustain significant damage that will cost a lot of money to repair. Regular maintenance and inspections will identify locations where corrosion could be present, allowing you to address the problem before it gets expensive.

2) Mineral scale on tower surfaces

Scaling is another issue for cooling towers that arises over time. This process results from minerals and chemicals left behind on tower surfaces. 

Generally, scaling starts slowly. Like corrosion, you won’t notice any significant damage to the system, although it could reduce the tower’s efficiency and increase your operating costs. Ultimately, it can damage internal tower surfaces, leading to major repairs. 

Like corrosion, regular inspections and maintenance can help identify scaling. A contractor can recommend a treatment plan to reduce the excess mineral and chemical buildup while operating your cooling tower.

3) Disease-causing bacteria

Contamination is also a noteworthy, but different, cooling-tower issue. This problem won’t damage your system, but it could make employees and customers very sick by infection from exposure. 

The most significant threat is legionella, a bacterium often found in aquatic systems. When inhaled, this bacterium can infect lungs with Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of bacterial pneumonia. While Legionnaires’ disease is often treatable with antibiotics, it can be fatal in some situations and isn’t to be taken lightly. 

The best way to prevent cooling-tower-related Legionnaire’s disease outbreaks is to have your cooling tower thoroughly and regularly cleaned and complete the necessary maintenance. You’ll also want to stay current on your contamination risks via your local government and train your staff to recognize potential issues so you can address them.

4) Expensive component breakdowns

As with any HVAC system, cooling towers have mechanical components that eventually break down, especially when necessary maintenance is ignored. You can avoid putting additional strain on these parts by keeping them lubricated and hiring a contractor to conduct required maintenance. 

Mechanical issues place additional strain on internal components, causing them to falter. For example, poorly functioning mechanical parts could loosen the unit’s pulleys and fan hubs, causing them to rip and tear. This could create a worn fan shaft, a significant and expensive repair. You’ll save some money by maintaining your cooling tower throughout the year and addressing smaller repairs as they arise.

5) Loud noises

A final issue your cooling tower might develop is excessive noise. Generally, this noise comes from fans, airflow, and fan motors, although water droplets hitting the basin could also cause disturbances in the building. Fortunately, steps taken during installation and maintenance can limit your cooling tower’s noise.

Invest in premium cooling fans. These fans have an aerodynamic design with optimized blade profiles, creating less noise without making the device less efficient. You can also opt for new drives or motors that regulate fan speed with a variable-frequency drive. The result is less noise and a more efficient system.

If condensation causes too much noise pollution, you can purchase noise-reduction mats and place them in the water basin. These mats dull the sound of falling water from the system, making it less noticeable to those inside the building. 

If you don’t already have a cooling tower, ensure the one you buy is the right size for your building. Purchasing a unit that’s too large or small could lead to excessive noise because the  machine won’t be operating within its ideal capacity.

Maintaining your cooling tower

Investing in necessary cooling tower maintenance is essential because without it, you could end up with costly repairs or sick employees and customers. These systems are critical to large commercial properties, and you’ll want to take good care of yours once you install them.

Universal Electrical Services can find the ideal HVAC contractor to assist with your cooling tower installation and maintenance while handling electrical work. Contact Universal Electrical Services today to learn more.