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What is a chiller?

Industrial water chillers are used in a variety of applications where water or coolant circulates through process equipment. Chillers commonly used to cool products and machinery are used in a variety of applications such as injection moulding, die and cutting, food and beverage, chemical, laser, machine tool and semiconductors.

The function of an industrial chiller is to transfer heat from one location (usually process equipment or product) to another (usually the air outside the manufacturing plant). It is common to use water or a water/glycol solution to transfer heat from the chiller, which may require the use of an accumulator and pump system in the process chiller. Ensuring adequate cooling, regardless of industry or process, is essential for productivity and cost savings.

Why use a cooler?

Industrial processes, machines and motors are not 100% efficient and heat is the most common by-product of these inefficiencies. Failure to remove this heat can lead to heat buildup over time, reducing production time, equipment downtime, and even premature equipment failure. To avoid these problems, it is important to integrate cooling into the design of industrial process systems.

Using a cooler for cooling has many benefits. Chillers provide constant temperature and pressure for industrial processes. Eliminating temperature and pressure variables simplifies process development and optimization, ensuring the highest quality products. Instead of an unnecessary once-through system, the chiller circulates cold water. Recycling reduces water costs, but is neither expensive nor environmentally friendly.

How does a chiller work?

In most process cooling applications, the pump system circulates cooling water or water/glycol solution from the chiller to the process. This cold fluid removes the heat from the process and the hot fluid returns to the chiller. Process water is the medium by which heat is transferred from the process to the chiller.

The process cooler contains a compound called coolant. There are different types of refrigerants, which have different uses depending on the desired temperature, but they all work on the principle of compression and phase change from liquid to gas and liquid of the refrigerant. This process of heating and cooling the refrigerant, converting it from gas to liquid and then back to liquid is a refrigeration cycle.

The refrigeration cycle begins with the entry of a low pressure liquid/gas mixture into the evaporator. In the evaporator, the process heats water or a water/glycol solution to boil the refrigerant, converting it from low pressure liquid to low pressure gas. Low pressure gas enters the compressor and is compressed into high pressure gas. The high pressure gas enters the condenser, where ambient air or water in the condenser removes heat and cools it into a high pressure liquid. The high pressure liquid passes through the expansion valve. The expansion valve controls the amount of liquid refrigerant entering the evaporator and restarts the refrigeration cycle.

Two types of condensers are used in the chiller, air-cooled and water-cooled. The air-cooled condenser uses ambient air to cool and re-condense hot refrigerant gas into a liquid. It can be inside the cooler or a lot outside, but it will eventually dissipate the heat from the cooler into the air. A water-cooled condenser cools the water in the cooling tower and condensers the refrigerant.