What Are Process Chillers? [Quick-Start Guide]

What Are Process Chillers Overview: Every industry and business requires the application of water chillers to create, shape, or maintain the ideal temperature for its product, materials, and equipment. From manufacturing and welding to construction and brewing, water chillers have made a tremendous impact on the world, especially in our daily lives. 

With a variety of systems available, each with its own specific purpose, industrial water chillers are the perfect solution for business processes that require continuous access to cold water for optimal production.

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Understanding the basics of industrial water chillers is the key to understanding how they work, what they do, and their different uses. And in our relentless pursuit to helping you make your business more efficient, the following sections feature a detailed discussion of the basics of industrial water coolers and how they differ from air-cooled chillers.

Introduction to Process Chillers (Industrial Water Chillers) – What Are They?

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘chiller’? For most people, the first image that comes to mind is the air conditioner that seems to be the staple in every house or office environment. However, despite its popularity, air-cooled chillers are not the best solution for most heat-sensitive industries such as food industries, meat packing, beverage manufacturing, and other chemical and pharmaceutical industries. This is because although air-cooled chillers tend to keep temperatures within acceptable tolerances, they are inefficient and require a large energy source to keep up with demand.

Process chillers, in contrast, are extremely efficient in transferring heat while still maintaining a cold temperature. The efficiency comes from the fact that these chillers transfer their heat into an artificial, non-combustible liquid medium such as ammonia (NH3) or glycol (H2O).

The terminal expansion of these liquids allows for rapid heat transfer, while the lower freezing point of ammonia allows the water to remain at a constant temperature. As a result, a process chiller is capable of producing chilled water at a high rate. Some industrial water chillers even have the capability to cool water to temperatures as low as 5°C.

What Are Process Chillers? Who Uses Process Chillers?

1. Manufacturing:

Cooling water chillers are an effective means to control both the process temperature and environment for a wide variety of critical manufacturing applications. From glass bottles and flasks to food processors and machinery, they all require water chillers to achieve required cooling in a very specific area or to achieve precise temperature control over production processes.

2. Food Processing & Storage:

Food processing and storage businesses have to maintain extremely accurate and low temperatures in order to retain the quality, safety, and nutritional values of all their food products.

3. Breweries & Wineries:

Breweries and wineries require ultra-clean water temperatures to ensure the quality of their products, so they use industrial process chillers for this purpose. These water-cooled chillers use a chilled water system to cool process water down to precise temperatures, which in turn prevents bacteria and organisms from forming. Using chilled water in this manner also enables the brewing or wine-making process to go smoothly with minimal downtime.

4. Petrochemical:

The petrochemical and chemical industries have unique needs regarding industrial water chillers. It is the only industry that requires water temperatures within a range of 4°C to 20°C (in certain cases, 30°C) to maintain the integrity of its processing equipment. For this reason, the use of a process chiller is essential.

5. Pharmaceutical:

Pharmaceutical companies are faced with the unique challenge of maintaining precise temperatures over a wide range, as different processes are conducted in different areas within the pharmaceutical plant. These temperatures must be monitored and controlled to ensure the quality of production and the safety of workers. Process chillers, due to their inherent efficiency in heat transfer, are the most efficient way to achieve this.

6. Plastics & Rubber:

Plastics and rubber industries operate under a wide range of conditions and require extreme temperature control to ensure the quality of their products. In order to achieve this, they utilize industrial water chillers. These water-cooled chillers allow for the precise temperature control needed to ensure that the desired temperature can be maintained in all areas of the plant.

How to Process Chillers Work?

Unlike an air-cooled chiller, which is designed to cool air and subsequently cycle the cold air through the system multiple times, industrial water chillers perform heat transfer through the process of expansion.

As the temperature difference between the chiller and its surroundings increases, water is evaporated from the interior of the machine into a liquid medium. This changes the overall characteristics of the system.

As the temperature of the interior drops below that of the surroundings, water begins to condense. In contrast, the pressure in the system increases as it’s able to handle more air than previously. As a result, the system must now cycle air through itself in order to maintain an operating temperature.

Since the condensed water acts as a heat sink and absorbs heat from the system, this cycle must repeat over and over again until the system is able to keep up with demand. Therefore, industrial water chillers are inherently highly efficient in the way they perform heat transfer.

What Is the Difference between Water Cooled Chillers & Air Cooled Chillers?

Water-cooled chillers use the evaporative cooling of water, while air-cooled chillers use a blower to circulate air. Air-cooled chillers are less expensive to operate, are more reliable, and can offer a wider range of capacities than water-cooled chillers.

Water-cooled chillers, on the other hand, are more energy-efficient, capable of providing more cooling capacity, and offer more flexibility when it comes to system design. Overall, both water-cooled and air-cooled chillers have their benefits and downsides and play a major role in what is right for your specific cooling needs.

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