A Chill in the Air and a Chiller in the Building

by Breana Cronk, IQS Editor

With a stark chill in the autumn air and leaves changing all around, it is evident that winter will soon be here. The shifting seasons bring on many changes in the Northern Hemisphere. Faithful outdoorsmen make the transition from swimsuits to snowsuits, sandals are traded for skates and children turn from crafting castles out of sand to creating families out of snow. Even calls for ice cream slowly fade into the frosty air, replaced by teeth-chattering requests for hot cider and cocoa. As residential furnaces are coaxed into high gear and air conditioners begin a long hibernation, it may surprise many to know that heaters are not the only industrial temperature regulators that are operating all winter long. Chillers, in fact, operate in industrial, commercial and residential buildings all year long.

Photos courtesy of Advantage Engineering, Inc.

Though the coming gusts of frigid winter wind seem more than sufficient at cooling just about anything to its very core, chiller systems are refrigeration devices needed in a number of industrial and commercial applications. Simply put, they cool process liquids such as brine, oil, alcohol, chemicals, water and more in order to maintain safe operating temperatures. Liquid chillers are extremely versatile and used to cool both equipment and materials. Printer inks, blow molded plastics, dairy milk, frozen yogurt and the process equipment employed in their creation list just a handful of the applications for chillers. Even ice skating rinks employ multiple process chillers below the surface. Without them the ice made choppy from use would quickly turn into a sloppy slush.

To many, cold is cold, ice is ice and snow is snow. As professional athletes and professional outdoorsmen are quick to point out, however, each of these winter elements is highly diverse. So too are chillers. To accommodate the many applications listed above and the thousands that are not, industrial chillers come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and designs, though their general operation follows a similar pattern. Coolants, which vary in composition, interact directly or indirectly with the process stream to absorb the excess heat, effectively reducing the temperature of the process material and equipment. The heated coolant, also known as a refrigerant is then transferred to the condenser which allows the heat to dissipate through evaporation. As a single cycle does not deplete the coolant, recirculating chillers are often used and require the gas or fluid be routed to a recycling tank after evaporation. Here a compressor filters and cools the refrigerant before returning it for re-use.

Photos courtesy of Thermal Care, Inc.

The approach of winter brings with it newfound appreciation for furnaces and heaters across the Northern Hemisphere. In truth, even the coldest of months warrant an appreciation for chillers, the often overlooked essentials of all seasons. From sprinkler systems prompting spring flowers to ice cream and chilled air on a hot summer day to cider and pharmaceutical processing to get through the cold and flu season of fall and all the way to the ice rinks of winter, chillers are crucial to operations producing products that are hot, cold and everywhere in between. While distaste for the chill already in the air may persist until spring, it is certain that the many products and processes they allow year round make chillers welcome in almost any building.

Photos courtesy of Advantage Engineering, Inc.

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