Sep 09

Water-Cooled or Air-Cooled Chiller. Which Chiller Best Suits Your Needs?


Water-Cooled Chillers vs. Air-Cooled Chillers – Which Type of Chiller Best Suits Your Needs?

Before that question can be answered, a clear understanding of what is a chiller and then the difference between a water-cooled chiller and what is an air-cooled chiller can to be answered.

What Is a Chiller?

A chiller is a refrigeration system that cools a process fluid in an industrial facility.  A chiller is comprised of 4 basic components: evaporator, compressor, condenser and expansion valve.  There are two types of chillers; water-cooled or air-cooled.

What Is a Water-Cooled Chiller?

Water-Cooled Chillers remove heat from one location and move it to another location by circulating a liquid to cool products and machinery. Water-Cooled Chillers require a cooling tower or another source of chilled water and are also often used in high temperature areas because they use an external source.

What is an Air Cooled Chiller?

Air-Cooled Chillers, using air to fuel condenser cooling, remove the heat from process water and then release the heat into the air.   Outdoor applications typically use air-cooled chillers as excess heat is released into the ambient air.

Space Issues

A key factor when considering water-cooled chillers and air-cooled chillers is the difference in the ways each must be housed.

Air-Cooled Chillers can occupy any flat, open space and generally require less room than water-cooled chillers. However, since the heat is released in to the ambient air, sufficient air flow is required.  Simply, Air-Cooled Chillers should not be placed near walls that block airflow  or too close together.

Water-Cooled Chillers which use water (or another liquid) from a cooling tower (or other external source) for cooling may result in the need for re-piping and makes a water-cooled chiller less portable.


Air vs. Water Cooled Chiller Cost Comparison

From an installation and maintenance standpoint, Air-Cooled Chillers have the advantage.  Requiring the outside water source Water-Cooled Chillers are typically more expensive in regards to installation.  However, water-cooled chillers generally have a longer life span and are typically more efficient because of that outside water source.


Pros and Cons Considerations

Water-cooled chillers often present:

  • More precise heat-transfer
  • More Energy Efficient
  • Longer Lifespan
  • Outside Water Source is Required
  • Additional Maintenance
  • Lack of Portability

Air-Cooled Chillers, on the other hand, are not quite as capital intensive.

They often require:

  • Outside Water Source is Not Required
  • Easily Set-up
  • Lower Maintenance Costs
  • Shorter lifespan
  • Adequate ventilation is required
  • Higher costs per volume of cooling due to cooling properties of air.

So, Which Chiller Is Best for Your Company?

It really depends on your situation.  Water-cooled chillers typically have a longer life and are more energy efficient. However, air-cooled chillers with ease of set-up may be the best option for your situation.

For assistance choosing and sizing the right cooling system call 209-522-3701 to speak with a team member or  contact BV Thermal Systems.

Fill out my online form.