The season is still being warm, but as usual during this period of the year is a good thing to talk about water and freeze in cooling equipments. As we all know, water is a peculiar fluid, which has a different behavior compared to other common fluids: when it freezes, water decreases its density, therefore expanding.
It happens because when water solidifies, ice particles acquire an hexagonal shape forming a precise geometrical configuration, which decreases density while increasing the volume. That’s the reason why ice floats over water at liquid state.
This phenomenon of volume increase its quite curious, but it can also be very dangerous for pipings and industrial plants, tanks or containers with fixed volumes. When water freezes and expands, they break. There are several cases of heat exchangers broken by frozen water.
How to prevent troubles? Clearly adding glycol to the water in industrial plants installed outdoor, that can reach extremely cold temperatures during the winter season. Or when fluids in the plant are cooled by a chiller at low temperatures near zero or below 0° C.
The concentration of the glycol depends on the level temperature to be reached, or the ambient temperature forecasted during the coldest time of the year. During maintenance intervention it is then crucial to periodically check the concentration of the glycol in the water, using dedicated equipments called densimeters, which also happen to be cheap devices. These allow to verify that the glycol concentration in the water is suitable for the level of temperatures involved.
Be very careful and aware, because ice breaks everything!
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