Checklist for Installing a Process Chill Water Loop
Updated: Dec 22, 2021
The chilled water loop consists of pipes and pumps that move chilled water around a building. A chilled water pump (CHWP) pushes chilled water through the chiller and through the chilled water line around the building. We’ve had a ton of success with designing and installing process chill water loops and they aren’t that daunting if you know what you’re doing. The following are a few simple items to check off the list as you consider installing a process chill water loop for your industrial plant or commercial facility.
In a lot of the sites we are in, there are usually pipes, wires, conduits, machinery galore in every square foot of the plant. Be sure you select a location that you can run your pipe and set your equipment.
No room inside? Consider building a chiller plant outside with an air-cooled chiller solution in lieu of a water-cooled chiller solution.
For smaller plants, depending on heat load needs or tonnage, many are migrating to screw or mag bearing technology in lieu of the typical centrifugal design. Screws especially may be needed due to their positive displacement, an inability to surge.
As you see more manufacturers coming out with more efficient air-cooled options, many of our clients are desiring to go with air-cooled chillers in lieu of water-cooled so they don’t have the added maintenance of a cooling tower, condenser water pumps, and additional condenser water piping. When our clients have several thousand-ton plants, we need to stick with water-cooled as many manufacturers do not go higher than around 500 tons for air-cooled. Why? Usually it is a function of space constraint. Whatever a manufacturer builds must fit in the confines of a tractor trailer that can safely haul the machine down the road.
Does your plant have the power available in the location where you want to put the chill water process loop? If not, where will you run it from? This often-overlooked piece of the puzzle can result in serious costs depending on wire size and run length.
Is your power grounded properly and clean? If you are in an older facility, sometimes you can run into a “floating ground” and you will need a transformer installed at the machine that is properly grounded to the earth. This is not as expensive as you may think, you just need to account for this.
I can’t tell you how many times I have walked into an industrial site and the client is running some disgusting water through their chillers that have all types of chemicals in the water that are byproducts of the process or needed to make the process happen. Do not ruin your chiller! Get a heat exchanger instead to take the abuse. If the water is nasty, consider a shell and tube heat exchanger in lieu of a brazed-plate or plate-frame. The minimal additional cost up front will allow you to have an easier time cleaning your heat exchanger for many years down the road.
I have also seen clients that will run all kinds of temps through their chillers. This will cause tons of expensive problems that will kill the chiller very early. So if you need to run wild temperatures, no big deal, just select the right heat exchanger to take the abuse.
Your process requires the heat exchanger to be non-ferrous. We have done several of these and they are no problem to find.
Process loops require more volume than normal comfort cooling, so be sure you have enough piping to cover the volume and if you do not, consider a baffled buffer or storage tank.
Processes vary wildly in pressure drop so be sure your pumps have enough horsepower to overcome the needed force to push through the process.
Two-way valves in the loop? Want a soft start every time? Consider a variable frequency drive in lieu of across-the-line or wye-delta starters.
Be sure you are keeping your loops clean and well-maintained. You can often get on a rotation to have them serviced.
Controls have come a long way and have gone down vastly in price. You will need to have the different parts and pieces talking to each other in the system. This helps run the system efficiently.
I highly recommend adding remote monitoring that you do yourself. You can literally view how all pieces of your plant are running from your smart phone so that you don’t have to run to the plant at 3am because no one knows what’s going on.
Any mechanical system must be maintained. You should have a service company perform a major shutdown on the chiller and pumps every year prior to your season starting or during a plant shutdown. You should also consider having routine running or operation inspections so the machine can be logged and reviewed over during the year. Maintenance agreements will, absolutely, positively save you money over the life of the machine.
Hopefully, this check list will help you as you are thinking through your businesses needs for a process chiller plant. We have done several of these and if you have any questions, we are here to help. Our footprint is Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. If you are outside of this area, we may still be able to help, we’ll just need a minute to look into the logistics to ensure we are the right fit for you and your site.