5 Ways to Prevent Cooling Tower Breakdown

Factory Authorized Service Inc.

Cooling tower breakdown is a nightmare. It's emotionally and financially costly. That's why maintaining a reliable, efficient, and safe industrial HVAC system is not an option when managing a large-scale building or complex.

It’s a requirement.

Even though it may not use as much energy as other parts of your system, keeping your cooling tower operating properly is critical to the overall health of your commercial HVAC system. Failure to make a comprehensive and sincere effort to properly inspect, maintain, and repair each element of your cooling tower can have severe negative consequences on your business, your building, and the people who use it.

The inside of your cooling tower is a harsh environment that is ideal for the growth and incubation of many living organisms, including—most critically—the Legionella bacteria. These bacteria are what cause the deadly Legionnaires Disease. Periods of non-use, such as the winter season, can increase the opportunity for these organisms to grow.

According to The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Technical Manual, cooling tower cleaning and chlorination should be performed a minimum of twice a year—usually right before initial start-up at the beginning of the cooling season, and right after shutdown in the fall. However, if you undergo a more rigid maintenance plan, you will have additional peace-of-mind that your system will continue to run smoothly, safely, and without unexpected energy costs.

Here are five basic, but crucial, components to maintaining your cooling tower and preventing breakdowns.

1.  Treat Your Water

Service technician checking cooling tower water quality.

Monitoring your water quality is often an overlooked aspect of maintenance since it doesn’t involve cleaning or repairing system components. However, by treating your water properly, you can eliminate harmful bacteria and biofilm, and prevent excessive scale, solids, and corrosion. Without proper water treatment, the build-ups of these materials can cause a breakdown of the entire system.

A proper water treatment program, including regular chemical treatment, is recommended for controlling all manners of biological organisms, scale, and corrosive elements. At FAS, we can evaluate your system to provide the proper water treatment program, including chemical and non-chemical options, that will provide the best results.

2.  Dispose of Scale Deposits

Your cooling tower operates via evaporation, so it’s inevitable that you will see significant buildups of scale deposits on your fill occasionally. These deposits are created by the minerals in the water, which are especially prevalent if the quality of your water is lower than it should be. Scale build-up inhibits heat transfer from the water to the air, which reduces the fill's effectiveness.

This problem can decrease the efficiency and performance of your entire HVAC system, leading to added repairs and premature degradation of the unit. They can even pose a health risk to maintenance personnel.

3.  Clean Your Tubes. Clean Everything.

Deposits can form in other places than just the surface of the fill. Algae, mud, slime, scale, and solids can make their way into the cooling water, and collect in the water basin. This will clog the tubes and the spray nozzles. The clogging will cause uneven water distribution over the fill and uneven airflow through the fill, impeding the evaporation process.

Every unit experiences some buildup, but how often you’ll need to clean your tubes will depend on the water quality and speed of buildup. Clearing your chiller tubes of deposits regularly will prevent total blockages and make debris removal easier. An industrial HVAC system has miles and miles of tubing—so you may need them cleaned by professional technicians to ensure it’s done correctly.

However, many people stop at cleaning the tubes and nozzles. Deposits can build-up anywhere, so we recommend elevating your cleaning routine, including cleaning the tower basin, the fan housing, distribution fans, tower sump, and any other surfaces.

4.  Encourage Adequate Airflow

Improper airflow can reduce the transfer of heat from the water to the air. This can cause the air to feel less-than-cool, disrupt fan performance, and even lead to breakdowns of your entire system. This issue is normally caused by debris gathering at the inlets of the tower, outlets of the tower, or in the fill. Use a tower vacuum to remove these contaminants. Adding a biocide can reduce the occurrence of bacterial and algae growth in your cooling tower.

Improper airflow can also be caused by damaged fan blades, improper fan pitch, poor gearbox maintenance, excessive vibration, or misalignment between the motor and fan. So, check each part thoroughly during your maintenance checks.

5.  Ensure Proper Water Pump Performance

The right level of water flow is important in achieving optimum heat transfer. If your pump is operating correctly, it will increase your energy efficiency and the lifespan of the unit. Inspect your pup for loose connections, failing bearings, cavitation, clogged strainers, and severe vibration. You should also lubricate your pump, motor bearings, and the water seal periodically.

Factory Authorized Service is the only company you’ll need to plan a proper maintenance plan for your cooling tower—and the rest of your industrial HVAC system. We have experience in servicing all the major brands, including Evapco, Baltimore Aircoil, Marley, Recold, and more! Contact us today to start the process of ensuring your cooling tower is reliable, safe, and performing at optimum energy efficiency.