The Importance of Cooling Tower Cleaning & Maintenance
Cooling towers are a vital part of many commercial and industrial HVAC systems. However, when you hear about the importance of preventive maintenance programs, often, the narrative revolves around rooftop or package units. Unfortunately, as a result, cooling tower maintenance and cleaning is often completely neglected. This lack of proper maintenance, including regular cleaning and disinfection, can cause major issues that can significantly reduce the lifespan, reliability, and efficiency of the equipment. These consequences can result in serious financial impacts on your business and can even affect the health of those within and around your facility. That’s why we wanted to dive deeper into why it is a smart business investment to implement a proper cooling tower preventive maintenance program.
During routine operation, cooling towers continuously scrub bacteria, dust, pollen, insects, and other debris from the air. Without a proper cleaning and disinfecting program in place, during periods of non-use such as winter months, the cooling tower becomes a breeding ground. The buildup of bacteria and debris along with stagnant equipment conditions combine to form an idea environment, assisting in the development of biofilms, or slime, which can infest an entire HVAC system. Due to the infestation of microorganisms, which biofilms are comprised of, a wide range of problems can ensue including clogged piping and reduced heat transfer efficiency, which we will discuss later, along with the development of Legionella bacteria that causes Legionnaires disease. When warm water from the system is cooled, vaporized, and released by the tower, that moist air can carry the Legionella bacteria far and wide. It is important to catch this process very early as removing biofilms can be a rigorous and costly process. They are very difficult to completely eliminate even when subjected to high levels of chlorine or other disinfectants. Because of all this, the United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Technical Manual recommends cooling tower cleaning and chlorination should be performed a minimum of twice a year. More frequent cleanings may be required if an inspection shows the visible presence of microbiological growth or an excessive buildup of debris. Additionally, systems that have been out of service for an extended period should be cleaned and disinfected before startup to significantly reduce Legionella risks.
Energy Efficiency and Equipment Lifespan
If a cooling tower’s water is not cleaned regularly and in the correct fashion, studies have shown that the cooling tower’s efficiency can be reduced by as much as 40% – 50%. If not properly maintained, the bacteria, airborne dirt, and debris deposits collect and affix to different components of the cooling tower. This restricts air flow, forcing the fans and pumps to operate longer and harder to maintain the desired water temperatures. If water temperatures are allowed to increase by even as little as 2-3%, the return water from the tower will cause the chiller to work longer and harder. All these inefficiencies add up to take money out of your energy budget and can result in a loss of cooling effectiveness for your customers and your employees. Not only will the increased workload on the cooling tower’s components eat away at your bottom line from an energy standpoint, the chances for equipment failure increases, and the expected lifespan of the parts and entire unit decreases. While the process of cleaning and disinfecting a cooling tower can be arduous and labor intensive, the payback can be significant over time. If you currently do not have routine maintenance performed on your cooling towers, contact Hunton Services. Our in-house team of cooling tower experts offers a wide range of services. With the number of cooling tower savvy technicians decreasing across the country and the risks involved with improper cleaning, we want to make sure you are getting the best service possible.