Which Material is Right for Your Cooling Tower?
At Industrial Cooling Solutions Inc., we want to make industrial cooling tower design as easy as possible. We realize that, for the most part, our clients are interested in two things: efficiency and installation cost. To help provide some more information on these particular concerns, we are going to spend today’s post explaining the difference between two of the most common cooling tower construction materials, concrete and FRP and why we feel that FRP outperforms concrete in almost every category. Continue reading below to learn more.
FRP Materials Offer Certain Benefits Over Concrete
Designing, installing, and outfitting an industrial cooling tower for a project takes time, energy, and effort. Because of this, the best material must be chosen for the job. Once installed, cooling towers become an integral part of the facility they are built for. Ideally, the towers will provide a long service life and are durable enough to withstand harsh weather conditions. In that regard, two main materials are used for cooling towers – concrete and FRP.
This guide will help you compare the two materials concerning quality, strength, construction, and other factors to make the best decision for your project. Let’s get started.
Quality is of the utmost importance when constructing a cooling tower. FRP structural components are produced by an off-site factory that inspects and certifies each component before it leaves the factory. An additional inspection is performed before the components are put in place to double-check that the materials are up to our standards.
Concrete, on the other hand, is poured into place on-site and cannot be accurately inspected until the concrete has cured. This makes certifying the structural integrity of concrete cooling towers much more challenging than FRP towers. Additionally, because all FRP structural components are pre-drilled at the factory, the overall dimensional accuracy of the tower can be better gauged than concrete towers, which must be constantly measured to ensure that their dimensions are accurate and that they are level.
In most cases, an industrial cooling tower must be completed promptly. Designing and building an FRP cooling tower can be done quicker and simpler than a concrete cooling tower because once the overall design is completed, the structure can immediately be put into production.
Concrete cooling towers require a great deal of engineering and communication to finalize the design. Before the cooling tower can even be constructed, large concrete foundations and extensive piling must be set to handle the weight. The construction process for concrete cooling towers is further slowed by the fact that each tower segment must be allowed to dry before another segment can be placed. Because FRP cooling tower segments are lightweight and pre-molded, the basic framework of the tower can be completed in as little as a few days compared to the weeks to months required for concrete towers.
3. Strength And Flexibility
For areas that suffer from earthquakes, the durability of FRP cooling towers is incomparable to concrete. Fiberglass is stronger and more flexible than concrete, making it better equipped to endure seismic activity. This makes inspections after an earthquake easier, since there’s no need for specialists—the tower can be quickly inspected for any damage.
On the other hand, concrete towers involve steel reinforcements to help keep their shape and strength. Poor support of the concrete cooling tower or inadequate reinforcement can result in damage, even with small earthquakes. After an earthquake, a thorough inspection from a qualified engineer is necessary to detect any hidden areas of damage.
For FRP cooling towers, washing or brushing is usually enough to remove algae or biofilms that may have grown. Concrete cooling towers require more laborious scrubbing to get rid of dirt and biofilm due to their porous nature. This makes FRP cooling towers much easier and more time efficient to clean. Scrubbing can also cause damage to concrete towers and reduce their longevity. Thus, FRP cooling towers offer longer-lasting performance with less fuss.
The fiberglass cooling tower is designed to be assembled quickly and easily with minimal equipment and scaffolding, making the overall construction process much simpler than a comparably sized cast-in-place concrete cooling tower. The basic framework can typically be completed within days rather than weeks.
In contrast, designing and erecting a concrete cooling tower involves extensive engineering and communication between the supplier and concrete supplier to size and locate all components. Foundations must be built to accommodate the tower’s weight, and scaffolding is needed to form the concrete. The progress of erection is slowed due to the required curing times for poured concrete before additional work can proceed.
No special attention is required for FRP cooling towers. Any damaged components can be easily replaced with readily available parts if the need arises. This type of repair can typically be completed within a few hours.
The cost of long-term maintenance for concrete cooling towers is higher than that of fiberglass, as concrete tower structure may become cracked or corroded over time and require difficult and costly repairs. This is especially true for seawater cooling towers which are especially prone to spalling due to chloride intrusions into the rebar. These repairs can take several days to cure fully.
To ensure safe access to the cooling tower, FRP cooling towers have safety ladders and handrails available in various colors and never need painting. The decking on an FRP cooling tower is also supplied with a non-skid surface for safe walking even in wet conditions.
Concrete cooling tower fan decks can be slippery when wet and require extra maintenance for the paint to remain in good condition. Special non-skid safety coatings must also be painted on the concrete cooling tower fan deck, requiring additional work.
8. Fire Protection
For those looking for additional fire protection, FRP allows ordering fire retardant additives designed to prevent or put out any fires quickly. Furthermore, damaged components can be easily identified and replaced with commonly stocked, locally available shapes.
The survival rate of concrete cooling tower structures under fire is much higher than that of most other materials. However, damage to the concrete must be carefully assessed. This is due to the effects of firefighting which can cause some areas of the structure to cool faster than others. Losses in ductility in the reinforcing steel may remain hidden from view and hot water distribution system may also be affected.
Moving a concrete cooling tower is nearly impossible, making them a permanent part of the facility where they are installed. Conversely, FRP cooling towers can be disassembled and transported to another site should circumstances require it. Furthermore, cells on FRP towers can be easily expanded in 1.8m increments. This flexible design makes upgrades and modifications much easier than concrete cooling towers.
Concrete cooling towers may appear to be a more cost-effective option however when you add in the added costs of extensive piling and reinforced basins and the extra engineering and design manhours, the concrete towers are more costly. FRP cooling towers are often an economically sounder choice over time as well since they require less maintenance and repairs in the long run. Plus, their flexible design facilitates future updates, making them capable of meeting ever-evolving market demands.
11. Environmentally Friendly
FRP cooling towers are more environmentally friendly because their construction uses fewer resources and materials than concrete cooling towers. Additionally, their lightweight build makes them easier to transport and set up due to reduced fuel consumption. In contrast, concrete coolers consume substantially more energy for production and transportation.
Consult Us For Your Cooling Tower Projects
Comparing concrete and FRP cooling towers for your project? Join us again as we dive deeper into why FRP materials are the preferred choice for your industrial cooling tower design. We have the expertise and resources to manage any project you may have – so don’t hesitate to reach out for a consultation today. From design to installation, we have the tools and experience to get you the best outcome for your project. Let us help you make the right decision with cooling tower materials. Contact us today!