An HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) cooling tower is used to dispose of (“reject”) unwanted heat from a chiller. Water-cooled chillers are normally more energy efficient than air-cooled chillers due to heat rejection to tower water at or near wet-bulb temperatures. Air-cooled chillers must reject heat at the higher dry-bulb temperature, and thus have a lower average reverse-Carnot cycle effectiveness. In areas with a hot climate, large office buildings, hospitals, and schools typically use one or more cooling towers as part of their air conditioning systems. Generally, industrial cooling towers are much larger than HVAC towers.
HVAC use of a cooling tower pairs the cooling tower with a water-cooled chiller or water-cooled condenser. A ton of air-conditioning is defined as the removal of 12,000 British thermal units per hour (3,500 W). The equivalent ton on the cooling tower side actually rejects about 15,000 British thermal units per hour (4,400 W) due to the additional waste heat-equivalent of the energy needed to drive the chiller’s compressor. This equivalent ton is defined as the heat rejection in cooling 3 US gallons per minute (11 litres per minute) or 1,500 pounds per hour (680 kg/h) of water 10 °F (6 °C), which amounts to 15,000 British thermal units per hour (4,400 W), assuming a chiller coefficient of performance (COP) of 4. 0. This COP is equivalent to an energy efficiency ratio (EER) of 14.

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