Understanding The Function Of A Cooling Tower In A Commercial AC System

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A commercial air conditioner has to work hard to provide cooling to an entire building. In the process, the chiller system generates a large amount of heat itself--heat that has to be dispelled in some manner. If you would like to learn more about one of the most common strategies for dispersing the heat of a commercial air conditioner, read on. This article will provide a helpful overview of the component known as a cooling tower.

The Basics

The purpose of a cooling tower is to help return the heat generated by an air conditioner to the atmosphere by means of evaporation. While this may sound like a basic enough task, the fact is that it requires a large and fairly extensive system. At the heart of this system are two streams: one of water and one of air.

As the stream of water circulates past the air conditioner, it absorbs heat. As the heated water moves through the system, it encounters relatively cool air, which takes on the heat through evaporation. As a result, the temperature of the water is lowered, thus allowing the process to be repeated.

Benefits Of Evaporative Cooling

The utilization of both water and air in an evaporative cooling tower is what makes cooling towers capable of safely dispersing such large amounts of heat. A "dry" cooling system like the radiator in a car, on the other hand, has much more defined limitations. In other words, evaporative cooling is able to do more work more quickly. Not only that, but it is also able to do so in a highly cost-effective manner.

Direct And Indirect

A particular evaporative cooling tower can fall into one of two main types: direct or indirect. Direct cooling towers, which are often also referred to as open circuit systems, allow the air stream and the water stream to directly contact each other. This interaction occurs in the part of the tower known as the fill--a labyrinth of open channels and tubes.

Heated water is pumped to the top of the tower where gravity moves it downward through the fill. As it percolates back down, air moving upward absorbs its unwanted heat.

Although the hot water is still pumped to the top and allowed to trickle downward, in an indirect cooling tower it never actually comes into contact with the air. In other words, they pass through the tower by means of two different circuits. The heated water moves through a system of interior passageways, while the air--often mixed with cool water--passes along an outer system. The heat transfer takes place indirectly, through the metal walls that separate these two system.

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