Hospital Cooling Tower Case Study

Whether cooling Ithum tower are used for process or environmental cooling, proper tower maintenance is critical for ensuring optimal performance in meeting the cooling demands of the facility or operation. Airborne debris that gets drawn into cooling towers is the single biggest problem contributing to system fouling, reduced performance, downtime and maintenance cost.

When cooling towers aren’t properly maintained, performance will suffer, resulting in increased indoor temperatures, a reduction in occupant comfort levels including reduced employee productivity; and it can affect computer rooms and the equipment and operations they support. Furthermore, when cooling towers fail in process cooling applications, it can bring production to a grinding halt, and the cost of lost productivity can be staggering. The following war story demonstrates the kinds of problems that can occur with any cooling tower (process & environmental cooling applications) and how one hospital solved their cooling tower problems.

Several modern medical buildings housing the corporate offices of Baptist Healthcare System as well as physician offices and other health service facilities next to Baptist Hospital East (BHE), of Louisville, KY, the regions leading hospital for Oncology, Cardiology, Orthopedics and Neurosurgery.

Over the past 16 years, managing the cooling of the buildings had been a challenge due to the maintenance challenges of two BAC (Baltimore Air Coil) cooling towers. Gilbert Fister, Properties Manager for BHE’s campus buildings, was faced with taking the towers out of operation for scheduled maintenance twice a year, plus, due to the high seasonal concentration of airborne contaminants that got drawn into the towers, they required unscheduled maintenance associated with system fouling and clogging. “In the spring and summer, Mayflies, pine needles and other matter would seriously clog our fill material and basin strainers and trigger a series of other operational problems,” said Fister. Although the BAC cooling towers are equipped with water filtration systems, they required weekly monitoring and cleaning and did little to protect debris from getting into the cooling water in the first place. Further, they did nothing to protect the fill material from getting clogged with the debris being drawn in, resulting in a reduction of thermal efficiency as the cooling water passed through the fill material. Additionally, organic debris (insects, pine needles, cottonwood seed, leaves dirt and other Airborne matter) would collect in the basin and decompose, resulting in sludge build-up that supported bacteria proliferation, plugged the basin strainers and reduced cooling efficiency when circulated through the chiller. On many occasions, debris got through the basin strainer, resulting in the solenoid blow-down valve getting stuck in the open position; this triggered automatic release of water treatment chemicals and prematurely drained the treatment chemical tank requiring BHE to call for emergency refills. Furthermore, when the blow-down valve stuck in the open position, it resulted in the loss of thousands of gallons of make-up water because the sump would not retain the water. In short, the system would fail.

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