Preparing Cooling Towers and Heating Boilers For Winter Operation: Part 1

This is that in-between time of year when facilities managers are preparing both heating boilers and cooling towers for winter operation.  Here are two checklists that will assist in getting these systems ready for cold weather operation and help avoid unexpected equipment failure.


Fall is an excellent time to prepare cooling towers for the rigors of winter operation.  Here is a list of major maintenance items to take care of:

Change the gear box oil.  Fresh oil now should get you through until spring.

  1. Replace the V-belts.  There is no good way to tell when a belt will fail.  If you replace the belts now, you can be reasonably sure you will not face an emergency change-out in mid January.
  2. Clean the hot water distribution system and the cold water collection basins.  Debris has no doubt accumulated during the warm, dry months.  A thorough cleaning eliminates the risk of clogged filters and strainers and the risk of biological growth.
  3. Make sure all distribution nozzles are clean and in place.  Proper water distribution is even more important in winter than in summer.
  4. Inspect the distribution system and cold water collection basin and seal all leaks thoroughly.  These leaks are probably the most common cause of serious ice damage in the winter.
  5. Balance water flow so that all fan cells (on towers serving a common process) receive equal amounts of incoming water.  This balance assures efficient, trouble free service.
  6. Verify that all motor control circuits are properly operating, particularly if you use fan reversal to control ice buildup.
  7. If your system includes a bypass valve to divert water around the cooling tower fill, operate this valve and make sure that it provides complete shutoff.
  8. Repair any worn or damaged access devices, such as doors, ladders or stairways.  Proper winter operation demands free access to the cooling tower.  Access devices should be made safe for operating personnel.

By – Mark Botsford, CWT

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