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Filtration Options

Open loop cooling towers are subject to wind blown contamination such as dirt, dust and
sand; debris from trees, plants, shrubs, leaves, and seedlings; silt, sand, and turbidity from
make-up water; and biological growth that may form without proper chemical treatment.
Likewise, closed loop chill and heating waters have problems with sediment from makeup water, scale, and biological growth. All of which can be removed by adding filters to
improve your chemical treatment program.
Cooling process water filtration is becoming more common as companies discover the
relative low cost of the filtration systems that help:

Increase cooling tower efficiencies. Solid contaminants in cooling towers reduce


cooling tower efficiencies. Deposits on heat transfer surfaces increase the fouling
factor which significantly increases energy consumption. These same solid
contaminants can clog small spray nozzle orifices causing poor distribution
through the fill. Filtration minimizes deposits on heat transfer surfaces and
prevents
nozzle
clogging

Increase cooling tower life. The life of the cold water basin may determine the life
of the cooling tower. A thick layer of solid contaminants in the cold water basin
reduces the benefit of treatment chemicals such as corrosion inhibitors or
oxidizers to reach the basin. Filtered cooling tower water prevents solid
contaminants
from
building
up
in
the
basin.

Reduce treatment chemical costs. A layer of solid contaminants in the cold water
basin provides an excellent environment for bacteria and algae growth. Also,
suspended solid contaminants may buffer the beneficial effects of treatment
chemicals, hence requiring additional chemical treatment. Filtering cooling tower
water prevents solid contaminant contribution to bacteria and algae growth, and
minimizes
the
need
for
additional
chemicals.

Reduce maintenance. A layer of solid contaminants will eventually require


removal from the cold water basin. Filtration of the cooling tower water will
minimize
the
need
for
manually
cleaning
the
basin.

Reduce shut-down time for the manually cleaning of cooling towers.

Solid contaminants enter cooling towers from three primary sources:


Ambient air dirt load. Cooling towers make excellent air scrubbers. Relatively
high volumes of air pass through cooling towers and most of the contaminants in
the
air
end
up
in
the
cooling
tower
basin.

Circulation water build-up. Calcium carbonate scale that forms in the tower can
flake off. Treatment chemical residue and algae will also build up in the

circulation

water.

Make-up water. Depending on the source, the make-up water may also contribute
to contaminant build-up.

Side Stream Filtration or Full Flow?


For circulating systems which operate on a continual basis (as in cooling and heating
loops), it is not necessary to filter the entire flow of the system because side stream filters
will clarify the water after an initial start-up period. The water becomes crystal clear by
continually filtering the water through the filtration system, as in a swimming pool.
Ten percent of the flow is typically used to size a side stream filter properly. By using
side stream filters, smaller filters are required and installation costs are dramatically
reduced since smaller pipe fittings and smaller valves are needed. For example, a 300
GPM filter is needed for a 3,000 GPM cooling tower, costing dramatically less than a full
flow, 3,000 GPM filter. Space requirements are also reduced.
With 10% of the full stream filtered, the water is cleaned and its particle load condition
stabilizes in a very short time (two to three days).
There are several technologies available that have been used to filter cooling tower water.
They include:
Centrifugal separators
Sand media
Screens
Bag Filters
Hydrocyclones
Cartridge filters
Combination Cyclone Separator and Cartridge Filters
Centrifugal Separators
Centrifugal separators may remove more than 90% of the particles that have a specific
gravity greater than water and are larger than 70 micron. This means that any particles
that are organic or lighter than water or any particles smaller than 70 micron will not be
filtered. Some centrifugal separator manufacturers claim that smaller particles will be
removed with multiple passes through the separator. These devices are cleaned by either
purging the particle collection chamber or by allowing a continuous small flow from the
collection chamber.
Sand Media
Sand filters are well established as an effective way to lower turbidity and remove solids
from cooling tower water. Typically, sand filters are installed directly on the basin of the
cooling tower, where the water is circulated continuously. Obviously, this is where the
highest concentration of solids accumulate, so filtration is provided where it is needed
most. Sand filters are totally automatic, and backwashing is based on differential pressure
or time. Removal efficiencies vary and depend on manufacturer and model.
Components of a conventional sand filter include pressure vessel, inlet, outlet, outlet for
backwash, control valve, and optional pump. Particulate is removed by the filter bed, and
backwash is automatically accomplished by reversing flow. Selection is generally based
on capacity, pressure rating, micron removal capabilities, warranty, and cost.

Sand media filters require a relatively large foot print and the flush waste is relatively
high. Back-flushing sand media takes about 3 minutes and is off-line during the backflush process. Sand media can remove particles to 10 micron or less and is excellent for
organic removal. However, it is difficult to back-flush heavy particles (such as dirt/sand)
collected from the tower from the sand media without loss of the media itself. So,
occasional replacement of the media is part of the maintenance requirement of sand
media filtration systems.
Screens
Screens are typically made of a stainless steel mesh material, and they are designed to
remove various sized particles, depending on mesh size. Screens are generally used for
full flow filtration to remove very large solids from influent waters supplied to a cooling
or heating system. Screens are very effective to remove large particles ("sticks and
stones") from make up water.
Automatic self-cleaning screen filters are becoming more common with cooling tower
filtration applications. This technology removes both organic and inorganic particles
down to 10 micron and uses a very small amount of water for the cleaning of the screen.
Also, the filtration process is uninterrupted during the cleaning process.
Bag Filters
Bag filters are widely used in the HVAC industry because filter bags are low cost and
easy to use. Single and multiple bag filter housings are available, and sizing is generally
based on flow rate and the amount of solids to be removed.
Filter bags come in several sizes. A wide range of micron ratings are available, and the
bags are generally made of polyester felt. Polypropylene media for chemical resistance
and nylon mesh for coarse filtration are also available.
In high solids applications, bag filters may be less effective compared to other options
because the filter area of the conventional filter bag is fairly limited.
Because filter area is restricted, filter bags may reach their capacity prematurely as
sediment accumulates on the surface of the filter bag, blinding off the filter media,
reducing flow. In many applications, however, bag filters are appropriate for HVAC
filtration applications and provide cost-effective performance.
Hydrocyclones
Cyclone separators are ideal for cooling tower filtration because they have the ability to
remove dense, larger particles using centrifugal force without the use of a replaceable
filter media. They work using a tangential entry to direct the water to flow in a rotational
pattern within the filter vessel. Gravitational forces are used to separate larger particles,
which in turn are purged from the filter vessel automatically or continuously. With the
larger particles separated, clean liquid is discharged through the clean side discharge pipe.
System components include the cyclone separator, inlet pipe, outlet pipe for clean water
discharge, purge drain, timer actuated purge valve (if automatic purge is used), check
valves, ball valves, and solids collection vessel if 100 percent recovery is necessary in the
event no drain is available to discharge the solids which have been purged from the
system.
Hydrocyclones have become exceedingly popular for cooling tower filtration because
they are easy to install, easy to operate, and require no filter media to replace. Often they
are installed as stand alone filters. However, polishing filters are frequently used
downstream of hydrochclones because they separate only the larger, more dense particles.

Particle removal claims by the various manufacturers range widely; however, most agree
the lion's share of the particles above 74 micron are removed using hydrocyclones along
with other solids that have a specific gravity significantly greater than water.
Cartridge Filters
Cartridge filters are particularly well suited for closed loop, side stream filtration in the
HVAC industry because they offer low capital cost; they are also highly effective, and
depending on cartridge selection, economical to operate. For best results, install cartridge
filters on chill and heating water loops using a 10 percent side stream, described above.
Often, a relatively small cartridge filter housing is required to remove sediment, scale,
rust particles, and other suspended matter to be removed. To complete the side stream
installation, tee off after the pump, connect the filter to the side stream, and return the
filtered water to the main line before the pump for differential pressure. A regulator valve
may be required in the main line to direct water through the filter for greater throughput
and extended cartridge life. Be sure to install valves and pressure gauges before and after
the filter housing to know when and be able to replace (or clean) the filter cartridges.
Two cartridge types are generally used in side stream filters. Depth cartridges include
spiralwound, spun poly and resin bonded elements which use the depth of their filter
media to entrap solids for removal. Pleated cartridges use their expanded surface area to
entrap solids for greater throughput. Depth cartridge cannot be reused. However, some
pleated cartridges made of polyester can be cleaned and reused in water filtration in
medium and coarse micron ratings to reduce cartridge replacement costs. For proper
cartridge selection, users are encouraged to evaluate cost to use versus looking only at
cost to buy.
Combination Cyclone Separator and Cartridge Filters
Combination cyclone separators and cartridge filters (e.g. Hurricane Filters) are
commonly used for cooling tower filtration because they are two filters in one. First, they
separate dense solids in the filter's outer chamber for prefiltration. Second, the finer
particles are removed in an inner chamber where a single, jumbo filter cartridge is
located. As more of the particulate is removed during the prefiltration process and
subsequently purged from the filter, there are fewer solids to be removed by the cartridge,
extending cartridge life. Purging can be accomplished manually or automatically using
timer actuated valves.
Hurricane filters use a unique pleated cartridge made of polyester, and they are available
in a wide range of micron ratings. Hurricane cartridges are cleanable and reusable in the
micron ratings used for cooling tower filtration. Some users report they have cleaned and
reused their cartridges up to thirty times!
Hurricane filters can be installed on side streams for very effective filtration. A number of
models are available, depending on flow, and it is common to install several filter
housings in parallel to accommodate higher flow rates.
Filtration Selection
Operators will choose a technology that:
Minimizes flush waste
Removes finer particles that are both organic and inorganic
If an efficient tower with a long life, and low maintenance costs is the objective, then he
solution is to provide cooling tower water filtration. Several filtration technologies are

available for cooling towers and work well removing these particles. Filtration features to
look for include:
1. Remove both organic and inorganic suspended solid particles with the filtration
technology.
2. Uninterrupted filtration during the flush or screen cleaning process. Keep the
filtration process on line.
3. Low flush flow rates somewhere in the range of 5 to 10 percent of the filters total
flow rate. Lower flush flow rates in percent of total flow will minimize wasted
treatment chemicals as well as minimize make-up water.
4. Short cleaning cycles (15 seconds) result in less water waste to clean the screen.
5. Simplicity for ease of maintenance. Less moving parts and simpler controls result
in less maintenance and training requirements. Look for the simplest drive
mechanisms.
6. 25-micron filtration is the most common filtration degree for cooling tower water.
The filtration degree required may be less depending on tower location and local
conditions.
Advantages
Filtration equipment cuts maintenance and operational costs by removing suspended
solids to clarify the water. As a result, fouling is dramatically reduced along with
maintenance labor to clean condenser tubes, heat exchangers, and basins which is
frequently required without the use of filters.
As dirt, dust, sand, and other debris are removed, circulation and heat exchange
efficiency are improved. Energy costs are reduced. There's less wear-and-tear on pumps.
Less down time due to maintenance problems. And blow-down frequency and water
consumption are reduced after filters are installed.