Despite being developed during the industrial age, the technology behind cooling towers is not archaic. In fact, recent technological advances are stimulating the market, as evidenced by a recent MarketsandMarkets study that estimated the cooling tower market will reach $2.88 billion — a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 4.2 percent — by 2020.

In addition to technological breakthroughs, cooling towers — which are used in a variety of process cooling applications, such as chemical, petrochemical, oil and gas, power generation and more — are being further driven by increasingly stringent efficiency and environmental regulations.


Concerns about water management and evaporating water are major trends in the industry, according to Chris Bowman, director of business development – North America, Brentwood Industries Inc.

“With the mass droughts on the West Coast, and a growing concern with global water usage, we’re seeing a lot more emphasis on water management and the analysis of water consumption versus energy consumption,” Bowman said. “The American market is pretty mature. There’s a certain level of quality and performance that’s expected in cooling towers at this point. So, really, the market drivers are developing more efficient technology — trying to get those last couple of percentage points and last little bit of performance out of the equipment.”

The industry is also diverting time and research to study the effects of using reclaimed water in cooling towers, Bowman noted.

“As water becomes more of an issue, we’re looking at using reclaimed water in cooling towers,” he said. “However, there are concerns with that. Reclaimed water may carry different chemicals and water qualities that should be addressed. Brentwood is continuing its research and testing on the effects of it on cooling towers, and we’re finding that there very well may be new products needed so these waters can be used within cooling towers without having a big loss in performance. That’s one big growth potential here in the states.”

Scott Maurer, global product manager, SPX Cooling Technologies Inc., said water conservation is just one of the major trends currently facing the industry.

“We’re seeing a greater focus on increased cooling capacity, greater energy efficiency, water conservation, quieter operation, longer component life, and easier inspections and maintenance,” he said. “Products that have higher energy efficiency, greater longevity, less maintenance, and quieter operation are driving demand.”

SPX Cooling Technologies’ Marley® NC Everest™ Cooling Tower addresses several of those market needs.

“Its increased capacity means cooling is achieved with fewer cells, less piping, and fewer electrical connections, which positively impacts installation costs,” said Maurer. “Fewer cells contain fewer components, which make inspections and maintenance safer and easier. Quiet operation is another important market need. The NC Everest’s sound level is independently verified per CTI ATC-128 by a third-party-certified acoustical engineer and CTI-licensed test agent.”

Jamie Facius, vice president, North America Sales, Evapco Inc., said water and energy savings are the driving forces behind the chiller market’s expansion.

“For water, it’s cost and scarcity of the resource,” Facius said. “The cost of water is increasing, and the cost of disposal is steadily climbing. And, of course, energy rates are increasing steadily. These are all factors we’ve put a lot of research and development effort into here at Evapco. Ultimately, this led us to solutions that tackle both challenges. Evapco’s eco closed-circuit coolers, coupled with our Sage Control System, can operate dry — with no water used in the process — about 85 percent of the year. The system automatically switches to evaporative cooling during the hottest days of the year, typically in July and August. So, for cities like Phoenix and Los Angeles, where water is very scarce and expensive, our technology offers optimal cooling solutions for commercial buildings.”

Facius noted that while new commercial construction has not recovered to what it was prior to 2008, it is picking back up. Additionally, retrofit work has filled in some of the gaps. “Today, energy audits for existing buildings — or at least building owner knowledge that operational costs for large cooling systems is climbing steadily — have spurred growth for us. Tied closely to that is the need to improve our ability to meet, or preferably exceed, their expectations of the latest technologies. Old evaporative cooling systems are often inefficient and use a lot of water to accomplish cooling. New technology is designed to use less water and electricity while offering higher capacities with the same footprint, which is a frequent need because of the common expansion of commercial facilities. Hospitals may add or expand clinical facilities or add beds. Inner-city hotels and office structures often see the same need for more space.”

Water and energy efficiency are two major areas on innovation within cooling tower markets, according to David Klee, director of HVAC and industrial for Baltimore Aircoil Co. (BAC). “Ease of installation continues to be important to mechanical contractors, while reliability and ease of maintenance are becoming even more important to owners, operators, and service contractors.

“Water-cooled systems have historically delivered lower energy costs when compared to air-cooled systems,” continued Klee. “The entire cooling tower industry continues to innovate with offerings that further reduce energy usage while providing equal or greater cooling capacity. In fact, BAC received honorable mentions during this year’s AHR Expo in three different product categories. In the Cooling category, the Series 3000 Cooling Tower with ENDURADRIVE Fan System™ won acclaim for the energy savings, high reliability, and low maintenance costs. In the Green Building Category, the PFi with OptiCoil System™ was recognized for its clever use of direct and indirect heat transfer to achieve thermal efficiency gains of 30 percent or more. The TrilliumSeries™ Condenser for transcritical CO2 applications was recognized for its miserly use of water to attain signifacant energy savings. All three products are built to easily replace existing equipment and cost less to operate due to lower maintenance costs and energy use. All three products use water conservatively to deliver the energy savings, while the PFi and Trillium can operate dry when conditions warrant.”

According to Klee, the primary drivers for innovation in industrial markets are the unrelenting demand for lower installed costs, higher reliability, and reduced maintenance costs.

“Water and energy efficiency also continue to be important,” he continued. “As modular, factory-built towers expand in capacity and performance to meet these demands, more customers will choose modular, factory-built solutions in lieu of field-erected options. BAC’s continued innovations allow customers to expand capacity, reduce energy consumption, and inimize total cost of ownership all within the existing installation footprint. Modular or field-erected systems with evaporative heat rejection continue to be among the most energy-efficient systems in the world.”


A rash of Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks and cooling towers have placed a great deal of scrutiny and negative media attention on cooling towers. In 2015, a major Legionnaires’ disease outbreak in New York City sickened at least 127 people and killed 12. Multiple cooling towers in the South Bronx were found to be infected with Legionella bacteria at the time. Additionally, the number of people diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease increased nearly fourfold between 2000 and 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Because of these recent outbreaks, cooling towers are getting a bad reputation, when in fact, Legionella bacteria, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), can grow in evaporative condensers; fluid coolers that use evaporation to reject heat; domestic hot water systems with water heaters that operate below 60°C (140°F) and deliver water to taps below 50°C (122°F); humidifiers; decorative fountains that create a water spray and use water at temperatures favorable to growth; spas and whirlpools; and other sources, including stagnant water in fire sprinkler systems, warm water for eye washes, and safety showers. Therefore, many manufacturers are working to educate industry professionals and end users about Legionella bacteria and cooling towers.

“For us, we follow recommendations from the Cooling Technology Institute (CTI) for regular service, maintenance, and water treatment,” Bowman said. “It’s mainly about proper management. But monitoring, cleaning, and treating your cooling tower water are only half of the best practices to reduce risk of causing a Legionnaires’ outbreak. The second half of the equation is to keep as much water from escaping outside of the cooling tower structure as possible. Proper cooling tower upkeep via quick visual inspections to look for displaced drift eliminators and louvers is important. However, many cooling towers are not utilizing the most advanced drift eliminator or cellular inlet louver technology available in the market and, as such, may be exposing owners/operators to higher risk and liability of causing a Legionella outbreak via their cooling towers.”

Brentwood offers a complete line of counterflow and crossflow drift eliminators, which are designed to maximize drift removal efficiency and minimize pressure drop. These products yield the greatest surface area for droplet capture in a given volume. This restrict the droplets, which contain the same chemical and particulate matter of the circulating water from exiting the tower. Additionally, Brentwood’s AccuShield antimicrobial compound, which is permanently incorporated into its raw material, further improves the long-term performance of fills by slowing the growth of biofilm.

“These products work in conjunction with a water-treatment program,” Bowman said. “AccuShield reduces the ability of bacteria to grow, which keeps the bacteria count to a minimum. It’s not a cure all, but it has shown efficacy in the lab against Legionella bacteria and a drastic reduction in biofilm weight gain in real-world testing that can make the water treatment protocol much more effective.”

Addressing Legionnaires’ disease concerns has been a key concern for Evapco, Facius said.

“Our AT family of evaporative cooling equipment is designed for installation wherever there are concerns about Legionella bacteria risks,” he said. “It offers counter-flow technology that doesn’t allow direct sunlight in the basin due to our Sight Tight air inlet louver design, which greatly reduces the opportunity for biological growth. Also, we’ve used highly efficient drift eliminators to reduce airborne water as opposed to cross-flow systems that have significantly higher rates with some as high as .005 percent of the recirculated water rate, which is 10-times higher than an AT-style unit. Additionally, our eco closed-circuit coolers with the Sage Control System and factory-mounted water treatment offer protection against the risks of Legionnaire’s Disease, superb energy efficiency, and help reduce water use.”

SPX Cooling Technologies does not manufacture or sell water treatment as part of its cooling tower packages, Maurer noted. The company instead relies on the expertise of companies that specialize in process water quality to recommend appropriate systems to address the specific customer applications and conditions.

“Education about Legionella bacteria and how Legionnaires’ disease is contracted is our primary way of addressing health concerns,” said Maurer. “We have joined with an alliance of manufacturers, trade associations, and public health organizations in an initiative to educate government agencies, building owners, facility operators, and the public at large about Legionella in the public water supply.”

Evapco and Baltimore Aircoil Co. are also part of the alliance, which recently launched a website designed to educate the public about Legionnaires’ disease causes and prevention.

“As part of the alliance, we’ve led an effort to pull together scientists, medical professionals, facilities managers, engineers, industry professionals, and environmental advocates to provide more complete and accurate information,” Klee said. “In June, the alliance released the website, “Prevent Legionnaires Disease,” which we feel is required reading for anyone who works with building water systems. Its fact-based and data-driven approach will scientifically and objectively inform readers beyond commonly accepted beliefs surrounding Legionella. The fact is that as much as 98 percent or more of Legionnaires’ disease cases have no relationship to cooling towers. Further, the CDC has released a toolkit that makes it clear that the majority of Legionella cases stem from exposure to the bacteria in drinking water. The CDC recommends a more comprehensive approach to address Legionella risks, including examining public water systems and taking a whole building approach. We believe this is the right direction.”

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Publication date: 10/3/2016

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