25th January 2023

Ask an expert: Air-cooled condenser winterization 

If your air-cooled condenser (ACC) is currently exposed to winter weather, you could find yourself facing unexpected and costly repair and maintenance bills over the coming months.

Icy conditions and high winds can easily damage the sensitive and expensive components within your ACC, which means winterization – putting measures in place to protect your ACC from winter weather – is key. In this Q&A, Galebreaker expert Gary Mirsky explains why it’s so important to winterize your ACC and how to get started.

Q1) How can winter weather affect cooling equipment?

Freezing temperatures can cause serious problems for air-cooled condensers, as freezing can lead to sub-cooling, which causes the turbine to work less efficiently. Ice can also form within the condenser tubes, this can cause the tubes to split and steam to leak from the condenser tubes. 

As the air becomes denser in colder temperatures, your air-cooled condenser’s fans will also run at a higher amperage (which can also be exacerbated by wind), and if the fans exceed their amperage set points they are likely to trip.

Q2) What’s the risk of doing nothing to protect cooling equipment?

If you don’t do anything to protect your ACC from winter weather, you’re at real risk of experiencing the issues I’ve just mentioned above. Putting measures in place to winterize your ACC is therefore essential if you want to ensure your cooling equipment runs efficiently year-round and to avoid costly repairs caused by tubes splitting or fans and motors tripping.

Q3) What are some of the mistakes people make when it comes to winterization? 

Either they don’t take any steps to winterize their cooling equipment or they attempt to make their own winterization screens. The problem with most homemade solutions is that they’re not robust enough to withstand extreme winter temperatures and winds, which means they tear easily and don’t provide adequate protection for the ACC.  

Q4) How do Galebreaker’s winterization solutions work? 

We can fit fixed or rolling winterization screens to your ACC, and they work by controlling the airflow into your system. Balancing the airflow creates a more uniform temperature throughout your ACC. This prevents subcooling, stops pipes from freezing, and reduces the risk of fans and motors tripping by enabling them to run at a lower amperage. 

Q5) What are the benefits of winterization?

By winterizing your ACC, you’ll be able to gain two key benefits. Firstly, you’ll protect your ACC from damage caused by ice and high winds, which means you’ll be able to keep your repair costs down and avoid downtime. Winterisation will ensure that your ACC continues to run efficiently, no matter how low the temperature falls, so you can get maximum performance from your system.  

Q6) Do you have any real-life examples of the benefits of winterization?

When Kipcon approached us for help with winterization, we found that their ACC’s original design had wind screens installed one bay back. However, they had been struggling with issues due to components freezing, so they asked our experts for a solution.

Our CFD analysis found that a bespoke combination of perimeter and cruciform screens in a range of fabrics would provide the ACC with the best protection from winter weather. Since we installed our winterization screens, Kipcon has not only stopped experiencing issues from ice during the winter but also discovered their ACC’s thermal performance has improved in the summer. Read the full case study here

Q7) What makes Galebreaker’s products different from other winterization solutions? 

Thanks to our CFD modeling, our winterization screens are custom-made to your ACC’s specifications and designed to protect your equipment from the unique weather conditions in its location, which means that you can rest assured that you’re getting the maximum benefit from our solution.

Our winterization screens are also uniformly reinforced and attached to the columns of your ACC with no sharp edges. They are also very simple to install, requiring no drilling for bolts or welding, so they can be fitted quickly and cost-effectively.

Q8) How do you ensure that you’re providing maximum protection for cooling equipment? 

We use Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) modeling to optimize every solution we provide. CFD modeling enables us to simulate different winterization screen configurations, taking into account the structures and wind flow around your cooling equipment. By modeling the impact of wind on your equipment’s fan flow rate, recirculation, and dynamic fan blade loading we can identify and design the solution that will provide maximum protection for your cooling equipment.

Q9) Are winterization solutions only beneficial during the winter? 

While our winterization screens are designed to protect ACCs from winter weather, they actually provide benefits year-round. In the summer months, high winds can still present a real issue for ACCs – so by balancing out the airflow through the ACC, our winterization screens help to improve the ACC’s performance in all seasons. Our winterization screens have also been proven to boost summertime power station output – such as at Kipton – and they can also prevent debris from clogging your system and negatively impacting its efficiency. 

Q10) Can a fabric solution withstand harsh winter weather? 

At Galebreaker, we have over 35 years of experience in fabric technology and design, which means our fabric winterization screens are incredibly hard-wearing and designed to withstand years of extreme weather. We have installations in Canada that are exposed to ambient air temperatures as low as -25°C, for example, and the winterization screens we installed for Kipton lasted for two decades before they needed replacement. So wherever your cooling equipment is located, you can be confident that our fabric solutions will be able to provide long-term protection from winter weather.

Ready to winterize your air-cooled condenser?

Don’t wait until winter weather causes costly damage to your ACC before you invest in a winterization solution. Galebreaker’s winterization screens can be installed quickly and cost-effectively, providing your cooling equipment with immediate protection. To find out more about our winterization solutions, talk to our team today.