Evaporative cooling and elephants: debunking common misconceptions

Posted by Laurence Cockman on 05/11/13 11:30

colt evaporative cooling elephant

Evaporative cooling (also known as adiabatic cooling), is an extremely efficient and cost effective means of cooling. It is particularly well suited to warehouses, data centres and other industrial buildings where the manufacturing processes generate relatively high levels of heat.

The best technologies have been developed after looking at how nature works, and evaporative cooling is no exception. It is a process that we see all around us, and elephants are excellent demonstrators of the principles that make it work: when overheated, they spray water all over themselves with their trunks. In addition to the immediate direct cooling effect of the water, as it evaporates on the skin, its temperature drops and the elephant feels cool and comfortable. That’s the simplicity and effectiveness of evaporative cooling, in a nutshell. 

It is not a new technology, and it is widely used around the world. However, due to a number of common misconceptions, it is still relatively unusually applied in theUK. This is a missed opportunity for facilities managers and factory owners to achieve considerable savings on their operating costs.

Evaporative cooling works very well in the UK’s climate

A common misconception about evaporative cooling is that it’s not effective in our relatively wet and cool climate. Our experience with the systems we have installed tells us that the opposite is true. Whilst the cooling effect is less marked in wet weather, it increases as outside temperatures rise – just when it is needed. This is the opposite of compressor refrigeration systems, whose performance diminishes as outside temperatures rise.

Its cooling performance matches weather conditions

Another common argument used against evaporative cooling is that its cooling performance is lower in the temperate weather conditions we have most of the year. While it’s true that the cooling effect is greater when the outside temperature is hotter, that is precisely the time when it is most needed. When it’s cool outside, you don’t need a big reduction in temperatures to achieve the conditions you want to have in your facility.

Water is far cheaper than electricity!

“With evaporative cooling water usage is very high”. This is another common complaint, but if you consider that it only uses about 20 to 30 litres per unit per hour, at around £0.002 per litre, it immediately becomes obvious that the power savings far outweigh the expense of the water costs. Overall operating costs of an evaporative cooling system are far lower than other comparable technologies.

Simplicity is good for your bottom line

Evaporative cooling systems are relatively simple in design. The big advantage of simplicity is that it means lower maintenance, less chance of a breakdown, and therefore lower operating costs and greater reliability.

If you are convinced, or want to find out if this could be the solution for your facility, why don’t you:

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Laurence Cockman Laurence Cockman is a Senior Consultant for Colt UK and specialises in the design and product application of energy efficient HVAC systems.

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Topics: Energy saving, Climate Control, Evaporative cooling