Measurements of Thermal Performance in Cooling Towers

Annual thermal performance testing is a critical practice to ensure that your cooling towers are functional, efficient, and not a safety hazard. However, some common questions can arise for cooling tower operators and owners when it comes to this form of testing, such as how it’s conducted and what exactly it’s evaluating. In this blog, we’ll touch on these questions regarding measurements of thermal performance as well as others, such as:

  • What are cooling towers?

  • What is the importance of measuring cooling tower thermal performance?

  • What does a typical cooling tower thermal test consist of?

  • How do I participate in cooling tower thermal performance testing?

What are Cooling Towers?

Cooling towers are commonly used in power stations, refrigeration, heating, and air conditioning industries to extract heat from a building or facility. This is a cost-effective and energy-efficient means for cooling large buildings such as power plants, petroleum refineries, petrochemical plants, natural gas processing plants, food processing plants, and other sizable industrial facilities where HVAC equipment would not be feasible.

How Do They Work?

As air enters from the sides of the tower and passes through falling water, heat is exchanged and some of the water evaporates. As a result, the heat and evaporated water rise out of the tower in the form of mist, and the cooled water accumulates at the bottom of the tower. This water can then be pumped back into the building for reuse.

What is the Importance of Measuring Cooling Tower Thermal Performance?

Routine measurement of thermal performance allows operators to determine how to best increase the thermal capacity of their equipment, ensure it’s functioning, and keep their facility safe. The Cooling Technology Institute has developed a thermal performance guide to promote the benefits of thermal performance acceptance testing of water cooling towers and help operators achieve ideal functionality in new and custom cooling towers. Each year, the Cooling Technology Institute also provides a review of the previous year’s cooling tower test results, so it’s easy for owners and operators to keep track of their tower’s performance.

What Does a Typical Cooling Tower Thermal Test Consist of?

Most thermal performance testing is conducted by a third-party agency using data acquisition systems to measure temperatures over a period of time. To start the process, the third-party testing agency will inspect the cooling tower and identify points of measurement for the various criteria. Then, the testing agency will install the necessary instruments and begin the test.

How Long Do Tests Take?

Depending on the size of the tower as well as weather and operating conditions, this process can last anywhere from two hours to several days. The testing process for mechanical draft towers is typically one to two days, and natural draft towers can take anywhere from three to five days.

What Does the Testing Agency Measure?

Once the process is underway, the testing agency will monitor the cooling tower, measuring the fan power and the rate of water flow. The following measurements will be documented:

  • Water flow rate

  • Hot water temperature

  • Cold water temperature

  • Web bulb temperature

  • Fan power (for mechanical draft towers)

  • Dry bulb temperature (for natural draft towers)

  • Wind speed

Additional data regarding tower operation may also be recorded, such as:

  • Pump discharge pressure

  • Make-up flow and temperature

  • Blow-down flow and temperature

  • Auxiliary streams entering the collection basin

How do I Participate in Cooling Tower Thermal Performance Testing?

Any manufacturer wishing to participate in the Cooling Technology Institute’s voluntary thermal performance testing program will need to follow the procedure listed below in order to ensure accurate results:

Submit an Application to a CTI Administrator

The application should include a listing of the non-custom lines and models (per STD-201) to be excluded from the custom tower program. Additionally, the application should designate a point of contact for the participating manufacturer. This contact will receive information regarding testing from the CTI Licensed Thermal Testing Agency. Upon acceptance, the CTI Administrator will provide a formal letter of acceptance to the applicant.

A CTI Licensed Testing Agency Will Conduct the Testing

To be valid, all testing must be conducted and reported by a CTI Licensed Testing Agency. Additionally, only new tower and tower repack/rebuild acceptance tests will be reported. Tests will not be considered a CTI STD-202 Reportable Test unless the participating manufacturer has been given a minimum of two weeks’ notice to attend the testing. Reportable test results will be presented to the Cooling Technology Institute as well as the designated contact for the participating manufacturer. This report will be sent no later than 30 days after the completion of the test.

Test Results Will Be Reported on an Annual Basis

Each year, the CTI Administrator will publish a report for each participating manufacturer. This report will be available by December 1 and will include a rolling summary of the test capabilities. The performance results for each participating manufacturer will be published in each issue of the CTI journal as well as on the CTI website. Each report will include the following information:

  • Name of the participating manufacturer

  • Period of time in which the test was conducted

  • Measurements

  • Percentage of test results greater than or equal to 100%

  • Percentage of test results greater than or equal to 95%

  • Average of test results that are less than 95%

  • Average flow rate of all tests with reported results below 50,000 GPM

  • Average flow rate of all tests with reported results greater than or equal to 50,000 GPM

  • Comparable values for all acceptance tests

The Results of the Thermal Performance Test Will Be Evaluated

For each test, the manufacturer’s guaranteed design performance will be used to evaluate tower performance. Any participating manufacturer may choose to include or exclude specific test results from the published CTI Journal by March 1 of each year.

We Offer Independent Thermal Performance Testing

Cooling Technology Institute provides third-party, independent thermal performance testing to help participating manufacturers and owner/operators achieve the best performance from their cooling towers. Whether you have a new, custom cooling tower or a repacked/rebuilt tower, we can conduct thorough thermal testing and provide accurate results. For more information, contact us today or purchase our Standard for Publication of Custom Cooling Tower Thermal Performance Results.

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