Alfa Laval - Cooling tower interchanger

Cooling tower interchanger

In the average data center, chillers represent one of the highest consumers of utility electricity. The result is often high operating costs as well as significant environmental concerns due to the increased carbon footprint. Cooling towers, which are widely used to dissipate heat from data centers, can also be used in free cooling mode to bypass the chiller and thus help solve these challenges.

However, open cooling towers can also be a major source of fouling in data center cooling systems, leading to reduced thermal efficiency, laborious maintenance, cleaning needs and equipment failure. All of this, in turn, further increases operational costs.

Installing a gasketed plate-and-frame heat exchanger is the smart way to both enable free cooling and minimize the risk of fouling. Best of all, there is no impact on the cooling performance of your system!


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Cooling system with a chiller

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Chillers are one of the highest consumers of electricity within a data center. Large compressors run constantly to compress refrigerant gases as part of the refrigeration cycle. This means both high operating costs as well as concerns in terms of environmental sustainability.

Chiller bypass with plate heat exchanger

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The possibility of free cooling during extended cold weather periods means the chiller can be turned off, saving potentially thousands of euros. This requires a gasketed plate-and-frame heat exchanger designed with the closest possible temperature approach in order to maximize the amount of time the chiller can be switched off. When relying on an open cooling tower, the heat exchanger can also function as an interchanger, protecting the condenser from unwanted debris and calcium carbonate formation. Doing so reduces the power usage effectiveness (PUE) by 7%.

Solving fouling challenges

In most data centers, the cooling system is almost completely closed. The one exception is often an open cooling tower, which forms the system’s only interface with the atmosphere. This creates a major source of fouling that, over time, increases costs from reduced performance, maintenance and repair, and even equipment shutdowns.

Alfa Laval can help you avoid these challenges with proven gasketed plate-and-frame heat exchanger solutions, combined with our leading expertise in managing fouling. Watch this video with our expert Olga to learn more.

Cooling tower without heat exchanger (open system)

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Fans in a cooling tower attract airborne particles, which find their way into the cooling water and, ultimately, into the cooling system equipment within the data center. The debris settles in low-flow or dead spots, leading to high costs in maintenance and the possibility of unplanned shutdown.

These so-called “open” cooling tower systems can also be a source for increased levels of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and chloride (Cl) ions. As the unwanted minerals accumulate over time, they cause deposits and corrosion that greatly reduce heat transfer efficiency and increase pumping costs

Cooling tower with heat exchanger (closed system)

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Using a gasketed plate-and-frame heat exchanger as a “circuit breaker” in your cooling water loop allows you to “close” the system. The water that is sent into the plant from the cooling tower is free from debris and high levels of CaCO3 and corrosive Cl ions. This translates into increased savings due to the reduction in maintenance downtime, cleaning chemicals and pumping costs.

Alfa Laval’s well-designed heat exchangers with a counter-current flow make it possible to achieve a temperature approach as low as 1°C, meaning the impact on overall cooling performance is limited.

The benefits of a gasketed plate-and-frame heat exchanger

  • Enables bypassing of chiller for free cooling when outdoor temperature and climate allows
  • Reduced use of water and pumping costs thanks to cleaner pipes and minimized flushing needs
  • Reduced maintenance costs for downstream cooling equipment
  • Improved uptime with no unplanned shutdown due to corrosion issues
  • Simple and easy cleaning of heat exchanger by single operator in just a few hours
  • Performance certified according to AHRI

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Savings across many dimensions

Installing a cooling tower with a well-designed gasketed plate heat exchanger means a wide variety of ways to improve the cost-efficiency and sustainability of your data center. For example, by reducing your power usage effectiveness (PUE) by 7%, you are also decreasing the carbon usage effectiveness (CUE) of your facility by the same percentage. Operated and maintained correctly, the heat exchanger can also have a big impact on your water usage effectiveness (WUE) as well. A heat exchanger also enables heat recovery and altogether this means lower OPEX. 


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Design your system for maximum profitability

To get the most from your cooling system, it’s critical you have a set-up that is optimized for your data center and the local climate. Designing a closed cooling water loop is therefore about more than just installing any plate heat exchanger. When you bring in Alfa Laval from day one, we work with you to make sure you get a solution that is tailored to your circumstances, with performance guaranteed by the AHRI certification program. That’s how you ensure maximum thermal efficiency with minimal risk of fouling to get the highest possible savings.

Discover the future of green IT with Alfa Laval

Alfa Laval has supplied solutions for cooling server rooms since the earliest days of the internet. Today, we offer a wide range of solutions for data center cooling, all backed by a worldwide service network with experts who understand your business. By partnering with us as you begin planning your data center project, we can help you design a system that ensures you get maximum cooling efficiency and reliability.


See our total data center solutions

Ready to learn more?

Want to find out how we can boost the cost efficiency and sustainability of your data center with smart cooling tower solutions based on leading plate heat exchanger technologies? Contact us today, and our experts will be in touch!

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