A cooling tower primarily uses latent heat of vaporization (evaporation) to cool process water. Minor additional cooling is provided by the air because of its temperature increase. Cooling tower selection and performance is based on water flow rate, water inlet temperature, water outlet temperature and ambient wet bulb temperature. Ambient wet bulb temperature and its affect on performance is the subject of this article. Ambient wet bulb temperature is a condition measured by a device called a psychrometer. A psychrometer places a thin film of water on the bulb of thermometer that is twirled in the air. After about a minute, the thermometer will show a reduced temperature. The low point when no additional twirling reduces the temperature is called the wet bulb temperature. The measured wet bulb temperature is a function of relative humidity and ambient air temperature. Wet bulb temperature essentially measures how much water vapor the atmosphere can hold at current weather conditions. A lower wet bulb temperature means the air is drier and can hold more water vapor than it can at a higher wet bulb temperature. For example:
|Dry Bulb Temperature||% Relative Humidity||Resultant Wet Bulb Temperature|
What does it mean when your cooling tower water temperature is higher than the normal 5-7°F above the current wet bulb temperature?
1) Your cooling load may be larger than the rated capacity of your cooling tower.
2) Your cooling tower may have lost efficiency
- Due to scale build up on the tower heat exchange surfaces.
- Due to loss of air flow across the heat exchange surfaces.
- Due to improper water flow from clogged nozzles or pump performance
What can you do to improve your tower performance?
- Add tower cell capacity
- Check for the efficiency losses described above
- Replace the heat exchange surfaces with new clean fill
- Check for proper airflow
- Check the water flow is at design
- Check that nozzles are not clogged or broken
Cooling tower performance is tied to ambient wet bulb conditions. Higher wet bulb temperatures occur in the summer when higher ambient and relative humidity occurs. Initial system design and proper system maintenance is critical to be certain your cooling tower is providing desired cooling.