5 Cooling Tower Upgrades that Are Worth Every Penny

Factory Authorized Service Inc.

Choosing a cooling tower is similar to buying a car – ok, maybe not THAT exciting.

But here's the thing: when you’re looking for a new car you start by researching make and model.

When you find the one that best fits your needs, you start customizing it and including all the accessories and extras that will make that car perfect for you.

The same happens with cooling towers. There are many options available in the market, and even more options for accessories and components that will boost performance, reduce maintenance, or simply make your life easier.

We chose 5 of the best upgrades we think you should get with every tower.

If you order them from the factory, they cost a fraction of the price, and you save a ton on materials and installation services later.

Why these?

They have a huge impact on reducing your workload and increasing the lifespan of the tower.

Ok, enough intro … let’s dig in!

1. Outside Motor

Let’s think about motor longevity. What do you think is the best:

1) To have a motor inside the tower unprotected from the moist airstream of the unit?

2) To have a motor that is outside the tower and exposed to the natural environment?

If you are still unsure because none of the answers seem to be ideal, I’ll tell you: it’s best to have your motor outside the tower. In addition to protecting it from moisture, the outside motor makes it easier to maintain by giving you better access.  

Source: YouTube

What most people don’t realize is that motor maintenance is more than just checking the bearings. It also involves:

  • Cleaning starter coils
  • Tightening mechanical and electrical connections
  • Measuring operating voltages
  • Checking bearings to ensure proper lubrication and unusual wear

Make your life easier by investing a little bit more to move your motor outside the tower. You may think it’s no big deal at this point, but we guarantee you’ll see the difference it makes over time.

2. Stainless Steel Structure

When choosing the structural material of your cooling tower, you can either be economical and go with galvanized steel, or look at the big picture and opt for stainless steel.

We know they both look the same, but don’t be fooled, They're very different in strength and composition.

Galvanized steel is a cheaper initial investment, but stainless steel is much stronger. That’s because stainless steel is the result of adding at least 10% chromium to the steel in its molten stage, while galvanized steel is just steel with a thin coat of zinc.

cooling tower outside motor

Because zinc only offers an outer layer of protection that wears off over time, when you choose a galvanized steel tower you may eventually have to deal with corrosion of the underlying steel or white rust right off the bat, and you don’t want that.

White rust is a chalky substance that happens when zinc is exposed to hydrogen and oxygen. The water that circulates in the tower is made =by these 2 elements … so if you are not careful with maintenance, you'll most likely have anticipated rust issues.

In addition, white rust can cause damage to the coating, and its porosity does not protect the steel structure and will quickly develop pitting corrosion. If left unchecked, leaks can be found in your tower within 2 months.

If you're thinking of buying a new tower, talk with your local sales rep about the stainless steel cooling tower upgrades. Even if the initial cost is up to 50% more, what you get for the difference you pay is totally worth the investment.

3. Gearbox

Cooling towers have fans that require a mechanism – a driver – to transfer energy from the motor to the fan shaft. Direct drivers don’t have transmission components, but indirect drivers require either a gear driver or a belt driver.

Why should you upgrade your unit to operate with a gear driver instead of a belt driver?

Because you’ll have less work to do down the road. Although changes in technology such as rust-free aluminum sheaves and grade belts have increased the life and lessened the maintenance of this type of system, belt drivers still require more maintenance than gearboxes.

cooling tower gearbox

Most manufacturers recommend maintenance for gearboxes every 5 years when there is no evidence of unusual wear that requires immediate assistance.

New belt drivers produce about 95% efficiency, and over the course of one year, they stretch and wear, calling for a replacement. Not to mention that belt drivers require monthly inspections to check belt tension, alignment, and lubrication.

At first, belt drivers seems to be a great deal because the initial cost is lower than the gearbox, but the extra work that comes with belt drives is not worth the difference in price.

Gearboxes can handle cooling tower differences in temperature and the humidity much better than belts. The housing box protects the gears from damage, and many come with a built-in vibration control that prevents gears from wearing out faster.

Gearboxes offer silent operation, and proper maintenance ensures a long life to the component. And when service is required, if the box itself is not damaged, the gear system can be rebuilt by a professional maintenance team, saving you money.

If your cooling tower already has a belt drive system, think of upgrading the standard V-belt with high-efficiency COG type V-belt. Cogged belts have slots that reduce bending resistance. They run cooler, last LONGER, and offer 2% more efficiency than standard V-belts.

4. Mechanical Access Platforms

Maintenance plays a huge role in ensuring that your unit operates at the design level, and if you are responsible for a cooling tower in your facility, you know that you basically need to check the unit daily just to see if it’s operating as it should.

Accessing a cooling tower is not easy if you don’t have a mechanical access platform, and maintenance becomes more time consuming and dangerous.

That’s why we recommend mechanical access platforms as a safety measure. They are made in accordance with OSHA design specifications, and your options vary according to your cooling tower access profile, the location of the access, the size of your access way, etc.

cooling tower mechanical access platform

If you are the “go big or go home” kind of person and are willing to invest a little more to make your life even easier, you should also consider adding some landings, walkways, ladders, safety cages, and even fan-stack access doors that will take you and your team anywhere in the tower safely.

Our recommendation for the material is fiberglass. It’s corrosion-resistant, slip-resistant, ultraviolet-resistant, strong, lightweight, and fire-retardant.

5. Shaft grounding Ring

If you have a VFD in your cooling tower, the shaft grounding ring is a must-have cooling tower optional upgrade on your list.

In standard generated sine waves, the voltage is balanced; this means that the amplitudes of the waveform on both the positive and negative sides are equal.

However, VFDs produce induced electrical currents on the motor shaft that are not balanced. This unbalance can cause voltage potential in the motor structure, because the current always seeks the path of least resistance to the ground, and that’s normally through the bearings, damaging the parts prematurely.

When current passes through the bearings,  electricity causes brinneling and fluting, which results in noise and vibration. Believe it or not, your shiny new bearings could need replacement in just 3 months without a shaft grounding ring.

And this is what bearings failure mean to you:

  • Bearing replacement with motor removal and reinstallation expenses
  • Downtime
  • Possible bearing fit and winding failures

Grounding rings divert VFD-induced shaft currents around bearings and safely to the ground. The rings are made of conductive microfibers that encircle the motor shaft and are installed on the drive end of the motor.

cooling tower Shaft grounding Ring

Many of them have an anti-clog slinger drain system to prevent debris from plugging up the drain and lowering the component performance.

The good news: most motors now have the option to come with grounding rings preinstalled, and ordering from the factory is always an advantage.

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 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.