Any individual who is responsible for managing a building or facility that operates a cooling tower must be sure to keep the tower in good working order. This is important not only from a health and safety perspective but also as part of ensuring the longevity and efficiency of the system to reduce costs and the need for repairs. Cooling towers require regular maintenance, and understanding the specific risks that an unmaintained tower could pose is an important part of developing a robust strategy to care for the system.
Why Clean Cooling Towers?
Cooling towers serve a number of functions for a building, primary among which is regulating the temperature of an HVAC system. This means that they are most active during the warmer months and are vital in keeping buildings habitable during the hottest hours of the day. However, even when a cooling tower is not directly in use, it can degrade or wear and experience a reduction in function and even safety. Cleaning cooling towers is vital for keeping them in good repair.
Cooling Tower Risk Factors
While the equipment in a cooling tower may fail simply due to use, cooling towers are at particular risk for a certain set of issues if not properly maintained. Regularly cleaning a building’s cooling tower and equipment will prevent these risks and ensure that the system continues to function at peak performance and safety for years to come.
One of the primary risks of an unmaintained cooling tower is bacterial growth. The growth of bacteria within the water system and basin of a cooling tower is not limited simply to scum that can be scrubbed off and may reduce efficiency; certain dangerous bacteria such as Legionella can also proliferate and pose a significant risk to people’s health and lives.
Legionella transfers to humans via airborne particles or water vapor; cooling towers typically produce mist during their regular operation, making them a particularly high risk location. Once a human has contracted Legionella bacteria, they may experience a variety of illnesses. Most commonly, individuals will develop Pontiac fever, a flu-like sickness characterized by many of the same symptoms as the seasonal bug: headache, muscle aches, chills, nausea, and fever.
However, Legionella bacteria are also the cause of their namesake Legionnaires’ disease. This highly dangerous illness causes severe inflammation of the lungs and should be treated by emergency healthcare professionals as soon as possible. Legionnaires’ disease can be fatal in one in ten individuals, on average.
By regularly utilizing a cooling tower cleaning service, you can prevent the development of Legionella bacteria colonies within your water system. This improves performance and keeps visitors to your facility safe and healthy.
Algae and Biofilms
Another key risk to cooling towers that go unmaintained is algae and other biological materials. When algae are allowed to proliferate, they can combine into thick, oily sections called biofilms that can dramatically impact the heat transfer of a cooling tower, reducing its efficiency and resulting in higher costs to operate. Biofilms also provide a safe haven for bacteria to grow, so even water treatment focused on removing bacteria may be less effective if additional steps are not taken to combat algae. When long strands of algae break off, they can foul clog strainers and other small orifices in the system, such as intake screens.
Preserving Longevity and Function
A cooling tower that is cleaned regularly will last longer without repair and function better during its life, resulting in cost savings due to increased efficiency and fewer repairs and replacements. Corrosion and scaling brought about by bacteria and sediment buildup on chiller end bells and condenser pipes can dramatically shorten the life of the equipment and cause increased water usage. However, regular cleaning can remove scale and other sediment before it becomes an issue, and proper water treatment can reduce the occurrence of these challenges in the first place. Cleaning services are an investment in the long-term health and safety of a cooling system.
Work With the Cooling Tower Cleaning Experts
Whether you have already established a cooling tower cleaning schedule or are looking to have your tower cleaned for the first time, be sure to trust the experts. Potentially hazardous challenges such as Legionella should be handled with care and a thorough inspection. The experienced professionals at Tower Water set the standard in water treatment and would be happy to provide guidance for the proper cleaning of your cooling tower. Reach out to schedule an appointment to receive individualized advice to tackle Legionella and other water system issues.