Cooling Tower Repair or Replacement – What’s Best For Me?

Factory Authorized Service Inc.

Have you heard that saying “nothing lasts forever”? I’m sorry to say this, but it also applies to your cooling tower.

In general, cooling towers' life expectancy ranges between 15 – 20 years with proper water treatment and proper maintenance.

After years and years of relentless operation, cooling towers require more than regular service or components replacement to maintain their original performance. Unfortunately, sometimes not even that is enough to bring your tower back to a satisfactory level of operation. In these cases, replacement ends up being the only option.  

Thankfully, many times, there is hope. That means you will eventually come across a difficult decision that many of our customers do…

Should I replace or repair my cooling tower?

man in doubt about cooling tower repair or replacement

To be honest, there’s no “do this as opposed to that” in this situation, but we are here to help you make a decision.

As a rule of thumb, if the cooling tower repair costs reach 60% of the price of a new unit, replacing it would be a smarter approach. However, we’ve seen customers making decisions to replace a tower by comparing just the final price of a new unit versus the investment required to repair their current equipment, ignoring the hidden costs associated with the replacement.  

What hidden costs?

Well, when you choose to replace your unit, you have 1) re-piping, 2) disposal, 3) electrical, and in many cases 4) crane costs that need to be accounted for.  The financial investment on those can easily surpass the cost of the tower itself. Just so you have an idea, crane equipment can cost between $ 12,000 and $ 15,000 per day!

That’s why the investment necessary to repair a unit is usually worth it. There is an exception, though: if the cold water basin cannot support the water weight anymore, then it’s time for a replacement.

But here is the thing: you can prevent this from happening. How? Tip #1…invest in a good water treatment system that reduces rust and tip #2…act immediately after seeing the first signs of rust. In this particular situation, the service team can still fix the problem by applying a liquid leak-proof membrane called CIM liner.

cooling tower repair of collection basin
Source: TMI Coating

In many cases, replacing the fill media or repairing a spot here and there will improve the performance of your unit temporarily, but as long as the structural integrity of the tower is addressed, you’re still going to have an unstable structure that affects operation.

A successful cooling tower repair project of this magnitude is actually called a cooling tower reconstruction, and addresses both cooling capacity and structural integrity, extending the lifecycle of a unit and restoring its performance.  

No matter what are you leaning towards – if repair or replacement - we recommend that you take two steps before making a final decision.

First, get your unit thoroughly inspected to determine the current status of it. Ask a professional team to come over, and they will check the following:

  • Corrosion and deterioration of cooling tower structure and mechanical components
  • Fill conditions for damage or build-up scale
  • Deterioration of ladders and access platforms, including guardrails
  • Pipe conditions for possible leaks
  • Overall conditions of louvers and drift eliminators

Second, run a performance test to evaluate whether the age or physical deterioration of the unit took a toll on its capacity.

man checking performance for cooling tower repair
Source: Tower Thermal (Australia)

Also, ask yourself if your current unit, when fully repaired and restored, could handle the load. Over time a building’s demand for heating and cooling can change for many reasons, increasing the load and capacity needed to create a comfortable environment. If the unit can “get the work done”, then cooling tower repair is still an option, and most likely a more affordable one.

Lastly, don’t let small issues in your cooling tower progress so that they are irreversible. Let me give you an example: if you have a galvanized tower, you need to think that a galvanized coating cannot be put back onto the tower, and the coating is exactly what prevents the unit from rusting and making everything worse. So work on preventing the issues from happening, instead of trying to fix what’s already damaged.

In addition, address problems right away. Don’t let them advance to a point when they all need to be done at the same time. The material and labor costs and the downtime would be discouraging.

Create a maintenance schedule and plan to restore one of the main components of the tower every year or so. This way, you will ensure that your tower will last the longest time possible and won’t have to replace the tower before it’s time.

man working on cooling tower repair
Source: Process Cooling

If you need assistance with anything related to cooling towers, contact us. We have 3 offices in California, and we can inspect your tower for FREE!

Factory Authorized Service is the only company you’ll need to plan your cooling tower repair — 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.