by Steve Petrakis
In an age of increasing concerns about our water resources, manufacturing is a prime target for water-use improvements. In developed countries, industry uses 45% of available clean water. A big contributor to the problem is use of traditional cooling tower systems that have been the industry norm for over 80 years. Substantial water consumption and ongoing water treatment expenses associated with these systems have long been accepted as a fact of doing business. But significant savings can be had by those looking to employ innovative alternatives.
An Green Alternative
With over 5,500 installations worldwide, a closed-loop, dry-cooling system called the Ecodry significantly reduces the amount of water a facility uses. Originally developed in Europe as a way to address the costly challenges of water quality and energy use, the system offers many eco-friendly benefits not common to traditional cooling towers.
The Ecodry system features a closed-circuit fluid cooler that provides clean water at the proper temperature to processes year round. It operates by pumping the water returning from the process into heat exchangers and cooling it with ambient air flow. Whether you're experiencing record heat or sub-zero temperatures, the system self-adjusts to ensure optimum performance and less downtime.
To maintain water below setpoint in hot weather, outside air passes through an adiabatic chamber – adabiatic meaning occurring without gain or loss of heat – before reaching the heat exchanger. Water, via misters, is pulsed into the chamber, and humidified air drops the water temperature at or below the setpoint. To ensure consistent cooling, the control panel continuously adjusts the amount of water sprayed. This process also helps conserve water by spraying only when outside temperatures are at their highest.
During colder months, this cooling system has a fully-automatic, self-draining apparatus that, when used in conjunction with Microgel, a compact water-cooled integrated chiller/TCU (temperature control unit), protects it from freezing and also provides free cooling when ambient air temperatures permit.
In addition, the system eliminates the need for costly cleaning chemicals – a necessity for manufacturers with cooling towers that expose water to outside elements such as dirt and bacteria. Because of the closed-loop process, the need for constant water testing and chemical treatments is completely eliminated.
Smart Conservation, Recycling
With chemically treated water comes the additional challenge of proper disposal. Many facilities are subject to local government regulations on disposal of contaminated water associated with traditional cooling towers. Noncompliance can mean huge fines, while compliance can still require the additional costs of having an outside service haul away chemically treated wastewater. By contrast, this closed-loop system minimizes environmental impact by using the same clean water continuously – recycling it – and not disposing chemically treated water into the environment.
While a conventional 100-ton cooling tower might use as much as 1 to 1.5 million gallons of water per year, an Ecodry system with the same capacity requires only 20,000 to 40,000 gallons per year. The reduction in water used in the cooling process means more savings for manufacturers in the long run due to less water used, less energy and chemicals, etc., to treat that water, and fewer equipment, storage and/or hazardous materials handling – not to mention manpower – needs.
Change for the Better
As manufacturers continue to search for affordable and effective ways to improve water use in their facilities, closed-loop cooling technology can pay huge dividends. Many outside entities, including government officials and environmental groups, continue to put pressure on U.S. manufacturers to implement better water conservation processes. Therefore, it makes sense to assess your facility's water challenges and look for proven methods that can help not only reduce water use, but also use it more intelligently.
Change is inevitable – and long overdue in the case of water use in U.S. manufacturing facilities. Forward-thinking companies should seek strategic ways they can make a significant impact through water conservation. The Ecodry is a viable solution that embraces new technology, conserves water and significantly reduces a company's ecological footprint.