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Adiabatic Cooling – Short 130


In this short podcast episode, Bryan explains the science behind adiabatic cooling. Adiabatic cooling occurs in specific HVAC/R applications and in our environment as air temperatures and pressures change.

When we think of cooling, we refer to the loss of heat; we are either referring to the change in the total BTU content of the air mass or the temperature change. Adiabatic cooling takes sensible heat and transforms it into latent heat.

The most simple forms of adiabatic cooling can be seen in cooling towers and swamp coolers. In evaporative or swamp coolers, you have a pad saturated with water, and air moves over it. When air moves over the media, some of the energy helps evaporate the moisture on the pads, so the air loses sensible heat and becomes cooler. The thermal enthalpy (total heat content) stays the same, but some of the sensible heat has transferred to latent heat.

Air that goes through a swamp cooler goes in with higher temperature and lower humidity, and it leaves with a lower temperature and higher humidity. The BTU content stays the same; the energy merely transforms. As a result, we usually only use swamp coolers in arid environments where higher humidity is desirable. You also can’t compare these to compression-refrigeration systems because compression refrigeration aims to change the BTU content and is NOT adiabatic.

When we run air over an evaporator coil, some of the water vapor in the air condenses to liquid water in the drain pan. Some of the energy in the refrigerant changes the state of the water vapor to liquid water instead of changing the temperature. You’ll see a lower delta T when your return relative humidity (RH) is higher.

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