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Cooling Towers Vs Chillers: Principle, Benefits And Applications

Aug. 22, 2022

Are you wondering if a cooling tower versus an industrial chiller is better for your application? We're here to help! Cooling towers and industrial chillers have similar uses - both systems can be used to cool industrial processes such as food processing units, metal plating etc. However, they operate in different ways.

To find out which system is best for your cooling needs, you should understand how cooling towers and chillers work, their benefits and applications.

What is the difference between a cooling tower and a chiller?

Cooling towers require water to operate, whereas chillers do not necessarily require water, but they use liquid refrigerant as the medium rather than ambient air.

Air Cooled Scroll Chiller

 Air Cooled Scroll Chiller

What are the benefits of using cooling towers? 

Cooling towers are commonly used in air conditioning and refrigeration systems. They can also be used for other applications such as industrial cooling, power generation and even water filtration.

The use of cooling towers has many benefits. The most important benefit is the ability to reduce CO2 emissions by up to 20%. Another benefit is that it can be cooled without the use of electricity or fossil fuels. It uses evaporative cooling, which means that it does not require any type of air conditioning unit to work.

The cooling tower requires only a small amount of water as an input and produces a large amount of fresh air as an output. Another advantage is that it doesn't require much space and doesn't have any moving parts, making it easy to maintain.

Box Type Water Cooled Scroll Chiller

Box Type Water Cooled Scroll Chiller

What are the benefits of using a water chiller?

Water chillers are used to reduce noise, vibration and heat from machines. Because of the benefits they bring, they are often used in the refrigeration and air conditioning industry.

The main benefit of using water chillers is the reduced risk of electric shock injuries. It helps to reduce the risk of injury by lowering the temperature of the equipment, reduces movement by reducing vibration and minimises noise by reducing pressure changes in pumps with heat exchangers.

How do cooling towers work?

A cooling tower is a large heat exchanger unit that provides cooling water to remove heat from a coolant (usually water) that has been used to cool machinery, process fluids or buildings. When the cooling water meets the air, a small portion evaporates, thus reducing its temperature. This is known as 'evaporative cooling'.

Cooling towers are often conveniently found near bodies of water such as lakes and rivers to ensure a continuous supply of cooling water.

Water Cooled Screw Chiller

 Water Cooled Screw Chiller

Hot water from industrial processes can either enter a heat exchanger or condenser and be piped into the cooling tower to dissipate the heat, or flow directly through the cooling tower. Nozzles in the tower spray water onto the filling material, whose large surface area maximises contact with the air and increases the evaporation rate.

A cooling fan located in the tower aids the cooling process and a water separator removes the tiny droplets of water generated in the tower air stream during evaporation.

Cooling tower applications

Cooling towers are commonly used in large cooling operations such as power generation, oil and gas refining and thermal power stations. A very important deciding factor in choosing a cooler or cooling tower should be based on the required coolant temperature.

Cooling tower temperatures vary depending on local wet bulb conditions and ambient air temperature. Typical low temperature coolant temperatures for summer conditions will rarely fall below 75F-80F when using cooling towers. chillers can achieve typical temperatures of 70F and below all year round.

Some chiller designs can allow for cooling temperatures from 70F-100F+ if designed to accommodate such conditions. Again, depending on the system design, chillers can often maintain a closer temperature tolerance relative to the desired temperature set point.

Air Cooled Screw Chiller

 Air Cooled Screw Chiller

How do industrial chillers work?

Industrial chillers use water or a heat transfer fluid to remove heat from the hot gaseous coolant from the process and transfer this heat to the refrigerant. The hot (used) refrigerant is then cooled and regenerated with ambient air or water from the tower or an external source, and returned for recirculation.

Industrial chillers can be air-cooled or water-cooled, depending on the medium used to dissipate the heat from the system. In air-cooled chillers, the hot coolant, which has undergone a phase change into a gas (in the evaporator), is exposed to the air surrounding the system, which cools it and transforms it into a liquid. In water-cooled chillers, cooling towers provide water to cool and condense the coolant.

There are several types of chiller systems available, including water cooled chillers (which use water flow from the cooling tower to dissipate heat from the coolant in the condenser) and air cooled chillers (which use ambient air and cooling fans to dissipate heat from the condenser coolant).

Cooling towers versus chillers - do I only need one or two?

As you now know, the main difference between chillers and cooling towers is the mode of operation. Cooling towers and chillers can be used individually or in combination to achieve efficient cooling on a large scale.

Before deciding to use both, consider factors such as the amount of cooling you require, the water source, the space available and your budget. Feel free to use our tools to help make an informed chiller capacity calculation for your application.

For more information about the difference between a cooling tower and a chiller, welcome to contact us at +86 15262310939 or write to us at j.li@szhuateeng.com. We will be happy to help you out!    

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