A cooling tower is a machine that redirects excess heat into the earth’s atmosphere through the direct meeting of air and water. Known as evaporative cooling, this operation is intended to bring as much water as possible into contact with as much free-flowing air as possible.
The process involves pumping industrially heated water into the cooling tower by means of water lines. The warm water is sprayed through nozzles onto patches of fill media. The absorptive material slows down the water flowing through the tower while exposing the maximum amount of the water’s surface area to the air. While the water passes through, it comes into direct contact with air that is being drawn through the equipment by an electrically powered fan.
When the air meets the water, a small portion of it evaporates, which lowers the temperature of the liquid. Now cooled, this water is circulated back into the condenser or other machinery where it soaks up heat. It is then recirculated through the tower for cooling just as before. There are various types of cooling towers that utilize different methods to cool water.
Cooling towers come in a variety of different sizes and types, and certain applications require specific kinds of towers. Knowing the different types available, as well as their strengths and disadvantages, is essential when maintaining this equipment.
There are two primary types of cooling towers: Direct, or open circuit, and indirect, or closed circuit. A direct cooling tower is an encased structure that internally distributes the heated water streaming into it over the fill material. In these towers, the water must be directly exposed to the air in order for evaporative cooling to occur.
An indirect cooling tower, on the other hand, requires no direct contact between the air and the water being cooled. The water that is being cooled flows through a closed circuit and does not come into direct contact with the atmosphere or the recirculated external water.
Cooling towers can be further classified by which direction the air and water flows through them, and by how the air is propelled through them. Crossflow and counterflow units are the most popular types of these towers in terms of directional air/water flow. Forced and natural draft units are the most prevalent types with regard to how the air gets circulated.
In crossflow cooling towers, the in-flowing air passes horizontally through the fill media and across the water as it flows downstream from the upper distribution reservoirs.
In counterflow cooling towers, the in-flowing air is pushed vertically up through the material. This movement is in opposition to the downward flow of the water as it exits the tanks above.
Forced, or mechanical draft, cooling towers use a mechanized force such as an electrical fan to push air into the tower. Natural draft cooling towers utilize the rising of warm air, along with a high chimney, to move air throughout the tower via natural means.
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