Cooling tower interchanger

In the average data center, chillers represent one of the highest consumers of utility electricity. The result is often high operating costs and significant environmental concerns due to increased carbon footprint. Cooling towers, which are widely used to dissipate heat from data centers, can also be used in free cooling mode to bypass the chiller and thus help solve these challenges.

However, open cooling towers can also be a major source of fouling in data center cooling systems, leading to reduced thermal efficiency, laborious maintenance, cleaning needs and equipment failure. All of this, in turn, further increases operational costs.

Installing a gasketed plate-and-frame heat exchanger is the smart way to both enable free cooling and minimize the risk of fouling. Best of all, there is no impact on the cooling performance of your system!

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More sustainable, efficient and cost-effective data centers

Liquid cooling can help data centers save up to 30% of their cooling energy costs, while reducing their overall environmental impact. Plus, more efficient cooling can allow for increased rack density, so data centers can make more revenue per square foot. Lower costs and higher revenue? It’s possible. Let our guide to driving data center cost savings with energy management technology show you how.

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Cooling tower system with a chiller


Chiller cooling towers are one of the highest consumers of electricity within a data center. Large compressors run constantly to compress refrigerant gases as part of the refrigeration cycle. This means both high operating costs and concerns in terms of environmental sustainability.

Chiller bypass with plate heat exchanger


The possibility of free cooling during extended cold weather periods means the chiller can be turned off, saving potentially thousands. This requires a gasketed plate-and-frame heat exchanger designed with the closest possible temperature approach in order to maximize the amount of time the chiller can be switched off. When relying on an open cooling tower, the heat exchanger can also function as an interchanger, protecting the condenser from unwanted debris and calcium carbonate formation. Doing so reduces the power usage effectiveness (PUE) by 7%.

Solving fouling challenges

In most data centers, the cooling system is almost completely closed. The one exception is often an open cooling tower data center, which forms the system’s only interface with the atmosphere. This creates a major source of fouling that, over time, increases costs from reduced performance, maintenance and repair, and even equipment shutdowns.

Alfa Laval can help you avoid these challenges with proven gasketed plate-and-frame heat exchanger solutions, combined with our leading expertise in managing fouling. Watch this video with our expert Olga to learn more.

Cooling tower without heat exchanger (open system)


Fans in a cooling tower attract airborne particles, which find their way into the cooling water and, ultimately, into the cooling system equipment within the data center. The debris settles in low-flow or dead spots, leading to high costs in maintenance and the possibility of unplanned shutdown.

These so-called “open” cooling tower systems can also be a source for increased levels of calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and chloride (Cl) ions. As the unwanted minerals accumulate over time, they cause deposits and corrosion that greatly reduce heat transfer efficiency and increase pumping costs

Cooling tower with heat exchanger (closed system)


Using a gasketed plate-and-frame heat exchanger as a “circuit breaker” in your cooling water loop allows you to “close” the system. The water that is sent into the plant from the cooling tower is free from debris and high levels of CaCO3 and corrosive Cl ions. This translates into increased savings due to the reduction in maintenance downtime, cleaning chemicals and pumping costs.

Alfa Laval’s well-designed heat exchangers with a counter-current flow make it possible to achieve a temperature approach as low as 1°C, meaning the impact on overall cooling performance is limited.

The benefits of a gasketed plate-and-frame heat exchanger in free cooling:

  • Enables bypassing of chiller for free cooling when outdoor temperature and climate allows
  • Reduces use of water and pumping costs thanks to cleaner pipes and minimized flushing needs
  • Reduces maintenance costs for downstream cooling equipment
  • Improves uptime with no unplanned shutdown due to corrosion issues
  • Simplifies heat exchanger cleaning by one operator in just a few hours
  • Performance certification according to AHRI


Learn more about our gasketed heat exchangers

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Savings across many dimensions

Installing an Alfa Laval cooling tower system with a well-designed gasketed plate heat exchanger ensures a wide variety of ways to improve the cost-efficiency and sustainability of your data center. For example, by reducing your power usage effectiveness (PUE) by 7%, you are also decreasing the carbon usage effectiveness (CUE) of your facility by the same percentage. Operated and maintained correctly, a heat exchanger can also have a big impact on your water usage effectiveness (WUE) as well. A cooling tower heat exchanger also enables heat recovery and, altogether, this means lower OPEX.

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Design your system for maximum profitability

To get the most from your cooling system, it’s critical you have a set-up that is optimized for your data center and the local climate. Designing a closed cooling water loop is therefore about more than just installing any plate heat exchanger. When you bring in Alfa Laval from day one, we work with you to make sure you get a solution that is tailored to your circumstances, with performance guaranteed by the AHRI certification program. That’s how you ensure maximum thermal efficiency with minimal risk of fouling to get the highest possible savings.

Discover the future of green IT with Alfa Laval

Alfa Laval has supplied solutions for cooling server rooms since the earliest days of the internet. Today, we offer a wide range of solutions for data center cooling, all backed by a worldwide service network with experts who understand your business. By partnering with us as you begin planning your data center project, we can help you design a system that ensures you get maximum cooling efficiency and reliability.

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