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Behind most modern portable and fixed evaporative cooling systems is a component known as rigid evaporative media. At first glance, this component appears to be a simple block of corrugated cardboard-like material. Outside appearances are often deceptive though, and this is most assuredly the case with evaporative media. Within the intricately and proprietarily designed flutes and angles is the ability to cool many everyday aspects of our lives, from data centers that support our daily online lives to the agriculture environments where our food is sourced. While you may have never heard of evaporative cooling, it is all around you. The simplest definition of evaporative cooling is cooling with water. Used since the ancient Egyptian days to generate natural cooling, a few examples of evaporative cooling at work include the cooling sensation felt when climbing out of a swimming pool, or feeling the cool breeze blowing across a lake. By evaporating water, the temperature of the air in contact with the liquid water will lower as an endothermic reaction takes place. During this reaction, the liquid water changes to a gas state and the temperature of the air lowers. This is where rigid evaporative media comes into play. The simplest definition of evaporative cooling is cooling with water Rigid Evaporative Media As mentioned earlier, rigid evaporative media is the technology behind portable evaporative coolers and fixed evaporative cooling applications. The quality of the evaporative media chosen for these systems makes a crucial difference in the effectiveness of the cooling achieved. The expert engineering of rigid evaporative media ensures even water distribution and is imperative to maximize the interaction between air and water for the most efficient evaporation, and therefore, the most effective cooling. Composing the media of only superior raw materials is the key aspect to producing strong media that does not easily break down in water, and it is designed in a way that the water self-cleans the media when it runs across it. Higher-end evaporative media is coated with a proprietary blend of resin material to ensure longevity and inhibit the growth of algae. Reputable evaporative media manufacturers have the ability to meet specific performance specifications, considering a customers’ desired pressure drop, saturation, wet out rate and more. Evaporative cooling offers an energy efficient, environmentally friendly and economical cooling solution over traditional air conditioning methods. There is no need for refrigerants or a compressor, meaning there is no additional heat to vent from the system. The expert engineering of rigid evaporative media ensures even water distribution and is imperative to maximize the interaction between air and water for the most efficient evaporation So where exactly does this cooling technology meet daily life? Food chain supply Did you know that agricultural applications from poultry houses, dairy farms, swine industries and greenhouses all utilize fixed evaporative cooling? Before we find food options on grocery store shelves or restaurant tables, there has been a process to provide the freshest, best-quality option for consumers. Meat and dairy production Whether talking about egg-laying hens, broilers or free-range chicken, it has been proven that cooling improves the production and efficiency rates in chicken houses. The same is true for the dairy industry. Cooling the cows and reducing heat stress improves overall milk production. When it comes to meat production, it should be noted that animals such as pigs and broilers do not have sweat glands. Due to this physiological limitation, heat is intensified if their environment is not well managed. It’s important to keep these animals cool – from small, artisan farms to large, agricultural operations – to ensure production meets the quality and quantity demand of the food chain. Greenhouses Greenhouses are another area that must maintain a delicate balance of keeping temperatures from soaring when dealing with certain fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers. As growers seek to find year-round crop growing options, evaporative cooling in greenhouses plays an important role in providing nutritious options in the food supply chain. This touches consumers who have become more conscientious about buying local and embracing farm-to-table practices. Data centers They are the backbone to the fibers of our online and social media lives. Computers that power our cloud data run 24/7. Cooling the air surrounding these machines via the fixed evaporative cooling system helps reduce the load on a traditional air conditioning approach. According to a trade publication on the matter, growing demand for digital services and data centers means effectively meeting the power requirements of the IT industry in some geographies, which often means more and larger facilities. Media streaming makes up the biggest portion of global traffic, and it is steadily increasing to become the energy guzzler of the internet. This consumption essentially equates to energy usage and high demand on data centers during high traffic times such as the first half of 2020 during the unprecedented global quarantines that were put in place. Increased online data usage through work from home initiatives and added streaming applications will only increase the burden on data centers. Reducing the heat generated is a benefit of using a fixed evaporative cooling system to ensure data centers run efficiently, and consumers have the internet and social platform usage they want when they want to access it. Gas turbines Gas turbines are used to create mechanical energy from a combustible fuel source to provide electrical energy to homes and businesses. Studies have shown gas turbines located in regions that experience high seasonal temperatures are prone to significant losses on both efficiency and output during these high-temp seasons. In response, engineers have begun installing evaporative coolers to cool the ambient air, resulting in increased performance and output. Portable evaporative coolers They provide cooling in a variety of settings from automotive shops, manufacturing facilities, and warehouses to outdoor sporting events and recreational settings, as well as home patios. Formerly referred to as swamp coolers, modern-day evaporative coolers are more energy efficient and effective thanks to the quality of rigid evaporative media that evaporates the water. Portable coolers create mobile cooling where traditional air conditioning is ineffective or cost prohibitive. As countries and governments focus more and more on the ravages of heat stress and heat-related illness in the work place, employers are looking to evaporative cooling as an effective and cost-efficient method of protecting workers and avoiding government fines. As consumers look for more green options, evaporative cooling is considered to be an environmentally friendly solution. Utilizing natural elements and staying away from harsh chemicals used in traditional air conditioning options, rigid evaporative media in a fixed or portable system can provide efficient and cost-effective cooling relief.
“Evaporative cooling, direct, indirect, and two-stage solutions, are being used across the board in a wide variety of commercial and industrial solutions,” said Randy Niederer, Director of Marketing, Cambridge Engineering Inc. “It is currently experiencing a renaissance, as large manufacturing and distribution facilities are choosing this technology to provide cooling relief for employees.” This renaissance, along with several new technology factors, creates a backdrop for contractors to benefit from the sale of evaporative cooling solutions. Direct evaporative cooling Effectively selling evaporative cooling solutions to customers begins with understanding the different ways to accomplish evaporative cooling. Direct evaporative cooling is the traditional technology of which most contractors and technicians have knowledge. Direct evaporative cooling systems put the process fluid, typically water, into direct contact with air According to ‘Evaporative Cooling 101’ on Evapco’s website, direct evaporative cooling systems put the process fluid, typically water, into direct contact with air. Water flows through fill as a fan draws air across it, facilitating the transfer of heat from the warm water to the cooler air. This is the system used in open-air cooling towers. Indirect evaporative cooling Indirect evaporative cooling is much the same as direct in concept; however, instead of coming in direct contact with the water, the air is pumped through coils, and water flows across the coils. Two-stage solutions, a combination of both indirect evaporative cooling and direct evaporative cooling technologies, use a plate heat exchanger with the indirect section’s airstream, which then passes through the direct evaporative media for additional cooling. Two-stage evaporative cooling According to Niederer, “Direct evaporative cooling works well in dry arid climates, whereas indirect evaporative cooling works well in a much broader geographic area. Two-stage evaporative cooling is being used in many situations, and evaporative cooling is also being used to efficiently pre-chill intake air being used in refrigerant-based cooling applications.” He explained that there are tradeoffs between evaporative cooling and DX or VRF that should be communicated to the customer. “Contractors must determine what their end user is trying to achieve with their IAQ and then design that solution with either in-house engineers or with an MEP [mechanical, electrical, plumbing] engineering firm,” said Niederer. Higher efficiency and cost savings He adds, “If the end user just wants to set a thermostat at 70°F and be assured that the temperature never gets warmer then evaporative cooling may not meet their requirements. End users that want to condition their space to be more user-friendly than the outside air, yet perhaps not as cool as a residential setting, will find that evaporative cooling can often meet their needs.” He gave the example of conditioning a distribution center in Dallas and compared the cost of purchasing and operating a refrigerant-based system for this application versus an evaporative cooling system solution. “In this application, the cost for refrigerant-based cooling could be exorbitant,” said Niederer, adding “Yet direct evaporative cooling can provide a delta T drop of 20° for a fraction of the purchase and operating cost.” Awareness and technical understanding The role evaporative cooling and the impact it can make is completely undervalued by the HVAC industry" With an understanding of what evaporative cooling is and how to better communicate with customers about the topic, contractors will next need to ascertain which solutions will work and where to find the right customers. “Although awareness and technical understanding of the latest technologies is increasing, I feel the role evaporative cooling and the undoubted impact it can make is completely undervalued by the HVAC industry as a whole,” said Mike Sullivan, CEO of Air2O. “With the phase out of HCFCs and, now, HFCs with a high GWP, it is only natural that the industry will have to start to seriously consider where possible R-718, water.” Effective evaporative cooling application Sullivan noted that when using evaporative cooling as the primary cooling measure, regions with low wet bulb often yield the best results. Dependent on the application, however, evaporative cooling technologies can have benefits to all regions. Niederer suggests that HVAC contractors look for customers in industrial manufacturing, warehouse/distribution, higher education, prisons, and utilities for ideal evaporative cooling customers. Other applications mentioned included data centers, confinement farming, hospitals, and indoor sporting facilities. Reducing CO2 footprint and energy consumption “Evaporative cooling is the preferred method of cooling whenever reduced footprint and/or reduced energy consumption are of the greatest importance,” said Adam Radford, Global Product Manager, Closed Circuit Coolers, Evapco. “The technology is suited for all areas of the United States, depending on the application and site requirements.” Identifying a good evaporative cooling application customer is not based solely on location and humidity. According to Scott Jacobs, Director, Engineering, Portacool LLC, there are many tell-tale signs that contractors can identify. High application in hot, humid conditions Evaporative cooling popularity has surged in high-heat areas where people, equipment, and animals need relief" “Look for the current use of subpar attempts of cooling, like barrel fans,” said Jacobs, adding “Even in hot and humid areas, evaporative cooling can provide some cooling relief when used properly. Evaporative cooling popularity has surged in high-heat areas where people, equipment, and animals need relief.” He explained that contractors can use the current regulatory environment and laws to highlight the need for worker health and safety to potential customers. Jacob further said, “Even though using evaporative cooling in enclosed buildings becomes much more difficult in humid climates, savvy users can supplement an evaporative system with proper ventilation in order to maintain a comfortable environment.” Future scope of Evaporative Cooling technology A push for energy and financial savings continues to drive innovation in the evaporative cooling market. Manufacturers take different avenues to improve the technology for further diverse applications. For example, according to Evapco, both internal tube enhancement and extended surface fin technology have significantly increased the efficiency of the current technology in the evaporative cooling market. “From data centers located in a dry, desert environment looking to save on water and footprint to large commercial HVAC buildings in Seattle looking to go ‘green’ with the provision of environmentally sustainable cooling solutions, hybrid coolers are really where the present and future of the industry is headed,” said Adam Radford. Energy recovery ventilation technology Portacool has found that by manipulating different factors in its manufacturing process, the company can get different results. “This has resulted in a more efficient product and has allowed evaporative cooling to become a legitimate option in many more parts of the world,” added Scott Jacobs. Cambridge Engineering expects to achieve even more energy efficiency from evaporative cooling units via more efficient fan technologies and variable frequency drives in the future. “We also foresee adding ERV [energy recovery ventilation] technology to the units and finding ways to reduce water consumption and improve the quality of the water used,” said Niederer. Improved performance Air2O is aware of many concepts to improve efficiency and performance, especially at the times of high wet bulb. “We are working on a few ourselves,” said Sullivan, adding “In the meantime, great advancements have been made in evaporative cooling technology in recent years, and it is now a viable, and, in many cases, superior ,form of cooling for many projects.”