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Which Do I Need — An Air-Cooled or Water-Cooled Chiller?

Category: Equipment and Solutions

Industrial water chillers serve the vital role of cooling products, machinery and equipment in industries and applications such as food and beverage, tool and die cutting, injection molding and machine tool operations. Chillers accomplish this task by moving heat from the equipment or product to the air outside the facility. There are two types of chillers: air-cooled and water-cooled. In this post, we’ll provide information regarding each type to help you select the one that will work best for your business.

Difference Between Air- and Water-Cooled Chillers

A water-cooled chiller system includes a cooling tower, which is a tall, open-ended cylindrical concrete structure that removes heat from water via evaporation. Other key system components include TES reservoirs, chillers and condenser, and make-up water pumps. The cooled water reduces the temperature of the refrigerant used in the cooling process. These chillers deliver maximum efficiency because of their ability to condense — the lower a chiller condenses, the more efficiently it will cool. An air-cooled chiller system does not require a cooling tower. It includes a condenser that relies on the air in the environment to provide the cooling.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Between Air- and Water-Cooled Chillers

Making the right choice between a water- and air-cooled chiller requires careful consideration of the following factors:

  • Installation space: Air-cooled chillers generally require less space than a water-cooled chiller. You can normally install the physical unit on a rooftop, in a parking lot or anywhere else you have open space available. A water-cooled unit often requires additional space for the cooling tower and a mechanical room within your facility.
  • Operating cost: Because it provides maximum cooling efficiency, it typically costs less to operate a water-cooled chiller than its air-cooled counterpart. However, air-cooled systems generally require almost no upkeep, which can at least partially offset the higher operating costs in the form of lower maintenance expenses.
  • Noise: If you operate a business where noise control is essential, such as a professional office, laboratory, call center or studio, then a water-cooled chiller is the better option. You won’t have to put up with noisy HVAC units that can disrupt an otherwise quiet work environment.
  • Air recirculation: If your building is surrounded by obstructions that inhibit air flow, an air-cooled chiller may not function at full capacity. A water-cooled chiller’s operation, on the other hand, is not negatively impacted by insufficient air circulation.
  • Environmental stability: Water-cooled chillers consume and waste more water than air-cooled chillers, resulting in less environmental stability. However, low-pressure water-cooled chillers deliver a substantial reduction in emissions over the system’s lifecycle.
  • Aesthetics: If you do not want an unsightly cooling tower looming over your property, you may prefer an air-cooled over a water-cooled chiller system.

NMC The Cat Rental Store features a wide assortment of peak-performing air- and water-cooled chillers you can rent for a day, week, month or longer. Our knowledgeable rental staff can help you choose the right equipment for your applications and budget. Contact us to learn more today.
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