Manufacturer Reports

Indiana State Graduates to Engineered Plastic Cooling Towers

August 29, 2011

Universities and colleges are seeing dramatically rising costs on every front. One of the areas where overhead can be contained or reduced is in the operation of the chilled water systems that support air conditioning throughout college campuses, specifically the cooling towers.

Some colleges are upgrading their cooling towers from the conventional designs constructed with galvanized steel-sheeted shells to models based on shells constructed of engineered plastics. These newer designs, particularly those constructed with seamless, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) shells, have been designed to require less maintenance, be more energy efficient, and reduce costly downtime.

In a recent case, Indiana State University (ISU) began installing engineered plastic cooling towers at its 190-acre main campus located near the center of Terre Haute in west central Indiana. ISU residences, academic centers, labs, recreational, and sports facilities are situated in a park-like community that is separate from the rest of the city and maintains an infrastructure of its own.

Several new cooling towers manufactured by Delta Cooling Towers Inc. have been installed or are planned to support the central and satellite chilled water systems that supply the campus’s academic, student, and research facilities.

“About two years ago we were nearing the completion of a renovated building that became the College of Education,” said Mark J. Pupilli, ISU building and facilities manager. “Because the capacity at the central chilled water plant had become nearly exhausted, we decided to install a standalone chiller and also allow the building to be connected to the chilled water plant. So, of course, we were going to need a cooling tower. At the suggestion of one of our suppliers, AC Equipment in Indianapolis, we looked at the Delta plastic cooling towers.”

Pupilli noted that the Delta line offered many features that he liked, and the fact that they were engineered plastic meant that a number of maintenance issues could be avoided. He was also impressed with the selection of available models and a long-term (15 years) warranty on the double-walled HDPE shells.

After considering the applicable designs, Pupilli decided to purchase a 550-ton Delta Premier Series tower for the new College of Education building. This model is an induced draft, counterflow design, and features a low pressure drop, self-propelled PVC water distribution system. It also features a direct drive fan powered by a totally enclosed, energy-saving VFD motor. Modular construction allows the tower to be clustered to provide greater cooling tonnage.

According to Delta, the Premier model is relatively light in weight, impervious to UV rays, and virtually corrosion-proof.

More recently, ISU received funding to build a satellite chilled water plant to provide some redundancy as well as much needed additional capacity in the central chilled water system.

“When we were working on the design of the satellite chilled water plant, we realized that we wanted to utilize Delta cooling towers at that location as well. And so I have two four-cell TM Series towers with a cooling capacity of 2,500 tons at the new satellite chilled water plant. And each of the towers is connected to a VFD.”

The configuration at the satellite plant is two banks of four TM towers, Pupilli said, but that are operated as eight separate towers. “We also have the space to expand the facility in the future,” he added. “For example, we could put in another 2,500-ton chiller in there at a later date, and also add two more banks of eight cooling towers.”

The TM Series is a selection of induced draft, counterflow design cooling towers that are available in single unit capacities from 250 to 2,000 cooling tons.

“The towers that have been installed are working painlessly,” said Pupilli. “We did have a minor fan motor problem, but the treatment we got from Delta has left a very positive impression, because they took care of the matter so quickly. But we have never had any problems with the cooling towers, and look forward to many years of trouble-free operation.”

Pupilli said the primary maintenance issue with the metal cooling towers was the need to do a lot of coatings and repairs. The main reason for going with the newer, engineered plastic technology was the expectation that those problems would go away.

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Publication date: 08/29/2011

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