What are the Different Cooling Tower Types?

Wet cooling tower

Did you know that the different cooling tower types originated out of the development in the 19th century of condensers for use with steam engines? These removal devices transfer process waste heat to the atmosphere, to keep systems running efficiently, without the possibility of breaking down as a result of overheating.

The larger, more common cooling tower types are all mainly used to remove the heat that’s absorbed in the circulating water systems used in power plants, petroleum refineries, petrochemical plants, natural gas processing plants, food processing plants, semi-conductor plants, and for other industrial facilities. However, some common cooling tower types are used as HVAC systems to help cool buildings.

These cooling tower types can vary in size, from small roof-top units to very large hyperboloid structures associated with nuclear power plants that can be as large as up to 200 meters tall and 100 meters in diameter. There are even rectangular structures that can be over 40 meters tall and 80 meters long.

There are a few ways to break down the different cooling tower types, but the most effective way to classify them is by their usage. Of this differentiation, there are two kinds: HVAC and industrial.

HVAC cooling tower types are small cooling towers, which dispose or reject unwanted heat from a chiller. Chiller that are water-cooled are normally more energy efficient than air-cooled chillers because of their heat rejection to tower water at or near wet-bulb temperatures, whereas air-cooled chillers have to reject heat at the higher, dry-bulb temperature, resulting in lower efficiency. These HVAC cooling tower types are used for large office buildings, hospitals and schools.

Industrial cooling tower systems remove heat from a number of sources, like machinery or heated process material. These are the larger cooling towers previously mentioned for factories and plants. These are important, because if the same plant or factory had no tower and only used a once-through cooling water method, it would require about 100,000 cubic meters an hour. This amount of water would have to continuously return to the ocean, lake or river where it came, and then return back to the plant. Discharging such large amounts of hot water back into the environment can have disastrous results on local fauna and wildlife, as it raises the temperature of lakes or other bodies of water to unacceptable levels. Thankfully, cooling towers dissipate the heat into the atmosphere, where the wind can diffuse it and spread it over a larger area.

There are many cooling tower types, which can be broken down into several categories like HVAC and industrial usage. Each kind has its own purpose, and if you have any questions about them, feel free to ask in the comments!

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