Air-Cooled Chillers vs. Water-Cooled Chillers

When researching commercial HVAC systems for your facility, you have a lot of requirements to consider. chillers, like facilities, come in various sizes, shapes, and capabilities. Commonly we get the questions, which chiller is better, air-cooled chillers or water-cooled? Which system is the most energy efficient? Honestly, there are too many factors to contemplate before coming to a conclusion. Here is some information on air-cooled chillers vs. water-cooled chillers to think about before you decide.

Money Matters

Let’s be real, money one of the most important factors when looking at what chiller to install. Initially, air-cooled chillers are lower than water-cooled chillers. Why? Water-cooled chillers require cooling towers, condenser water pumps, and other associated HVAC components. Air-cooled chillers do not need any of these additional building blocks.

Many find water-cooled chiller to be more efficient. If you look at compressor costs, this is very true. However, depending on the technology in your system, air-cooled chillers can be the better choice when looking at overall operating expenses.

Why Air-Cooled Chillers?

An air-cooled chiller has a condenser that is cooled by the environment air. That is all that is necessary. Therefore, theses are perfect for smaller or medium installations. Space is also a consideration of importance in some applications. Meaning, the location where you intend to install the physical unit. Air-cooled chillers tend to utilize open space, such as a parking lot, roof or ground level area. The unit requires less functional space. Water-cooled chillers need a large physical area for installation, including a mechanical room and a place for cooling towers.

Why Water-Cooled Chillers?

If noise is a primary concern, then water-cooled chillers are the way to go. They are much quieter. Noisy HVAC machines can be an annoyance, especially in buildings occupied by doctor’s offices, call centers, or other business offices. They are also popular where there isn’t ample air recirculation. Any obstructions adversely affect the performance of air-cooled chillers. So, if you perceive a problem with air flow restriction, consider a water-chilled cooler, instead.

Water-cooled chillers are installed in the building, therefore protected by the elements and giving them a longer lifespan. At times, this is the only option for larger installations and can provide better energy efficiency. Low-pressure water-coolers offer a significant reduction in emissions over the system’s lifetime (compared to higher pressure centrifugal chillers).

Which is Better?

I think you can tell by now, it just depends. There is no single answer to this question. The final takeaway is that water-cooled chillers have a longer life, higher efficiency, larger capacity and refrigerant containment. Air-cooled chillers have a lower efficiency, yet are getting much better with technology advances, lower maintenance costs and less to install. If you have specific questions about air-cooled chillers vs. water-cooled chillers for your facility, contact The Severn Group. Our HVAC Systems experts are here to answer all of your questions.