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Most Common Defects in Cooling Towers That Call for Repair

May 31st, 2016

Blog: On checking out cooling towers from the outside, the near featureless monoliths impress us with their size but not much else. We need to take our viewpoint inside. A complex network of heat exchanging assemblies are at work in here, with tubes and nozzles passing water while fill packs channel cooling power. In order to keep all of these meshing parts operational, we use intelligent maintenance programs and intensive cleaning practices, but defects are just a fact of life. Still, regardless of the facts of life, a prudent engineer avoids breakdowns by monitoring the system for common defects. Let’s list a few of these system-debilitating issues

Water-Based Defects

There’s always a cost to be paid when water is part of a system. We offset the cost by using special seals and water-resistant materials, but water is as problematic as it is essential. Filtration systems handle mineral-laden water sources but “scaling” issues are still part of the battle. The coarse white substance clogs nozzles and deposits a crystalline residue that can hamper mechanical parts. Next on the agenda, we look at biological growths and corrosion. Microbial films, dirt, and debris all pose a health threat. Meanwhile, the water undermines mechanical function by oxidizing metal. Fortunately, strong alloys and engineering plastics deal with corrosion, but the health question requires a more potent solution. Water treatment stages and intensive sanitation programs take on this burden.

Mechanical Problems and Their Solutions

Electrical motors burn out and require replacement units. Louvers lock-up and need to be freed. An audited study of these events usually reveals a pattern. These aren’t random events, not chaotic breakdowns. Instead, a train of incidents, one after the other, is affecting the cooling towers. It’s usually the environmental half of the system causing the breakdowns. The towers tie one subsystem to the next, so, for example, when a drive shaft freezes due to a corroded component, then the motor will overheat and cause an eventual short circuit. Poor heat exchange dynamics next impacts the drift eliminators as drift carry-over exceeds design specifications.

Poor material design causes corrosion, just as substandard parts fail inside the cooling towers. System balance is lost unless redundant systems, motors and drive belts, can automatically accept the burden. Fortunately, repair and maintenance teams don’t sit idly waiting for catastrophic breakdowns. They initiate a timely response and add a scheduled element to the work by inspecting individual parts for potential problems and by keeping every square meter of the massive construct within sanitary guidelines.


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