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Water Cooled Chiller vs Air Cooled Chiller: What is the Difference?

Updated: Oct 11, 2022

TCW Company Building

TCW Group’s manufacturing plant where we build customised water cooled chillers and air cooled chillers amongst our range of OEM HVAC products

In commercial and industrial settings, air cooled chillers and water cooled chillers are the two most common types of chillers. Although both do the same thing—cool a room—they are very different from one another.


Where would you typically find a water cooled or air cooled chiller?

It is possible to install both water cooled and air cooled chiller models indoors. However, air cooled chillers require additional space concerns. This is due to the fact that air cooled chillers need access to enough ambient air to operate properly.

A poorly ventilated indoor environment will hinder an air cooled chiller's cooling capabilities and decrease efficiency.

But when a location lacks or has trouble acquiring water, an air cooled chiller is the best option. Air cooled chillers are almost always installed outside of a building or structure and release heat from into the ambient air.

In contrast, because their cooling towers can be located on the building's exterior, water chillers can be put in spaces with little ventilation. Water cooled chillers are typically found inside of buildings.

TCW Group’s Air Cooled Chiller

One of TCW Group’s Air Cooled Chillers in progress


What are the cost considerations for a water cooled or air cooled chiller?

Energy cost continues to be a crucial factor in any powered equipment. Everywhere, energy-saving techniques are being put into effect.

At first glance, air cooled chillers appear to be more expensive than water cooled ones due to the way they are designed and operated. Typically, water cooled chillers are more cost-effective and efficient but they also use a lot of water.

On the other hand, although while water cooled chillers are less expensive to build, they often have higher long-term operating expenses because the majority of these chiller types require the installation of cooling towers. Maintenance are costlier due to their complexity and numerous parts.

Air cooled chillers don't use water, making them the best choices in locations with a lack of water or in areas with affordable energy but high water costs.


Which one out of the two makes more sound?

There a difference in noise production between an air cooled chiller and water cooled chiller. Through the use of chiller condenser fans, outside air cooled chillers are known to generate louder noise levels.

However, there are low noise models that have a soundproof construction and a slower fan rotation speed. As a result, the sound pressure levels are much reduced.

Process chilling carried out by water cooled industrial chillers is silent. A significant benefit of employing water chillers is this. They don't produce unwelcome noises in an industrial setting because they have minimal dynamic components.

This would enable its use in almost any environment while adhering to industrial noise level requirements.

Water Cooled Chiller assembled by TCW Group
Water Cooled Chiller assembled by TCW Group

Water Cooled Chiller assembled by TCW Group


Which method of cooling—air cooling or water cooling—is more effective?

Economically speaking, air cooled chillers are less effective than water cooled versions. The efficiency of an air cooled chiller depends on the temperature of the ambient air utilised in its cooling system.

An air cooled chiller will function less effectively the higher the temperature of the circulating cooling air. In order to repeatedly pump air through the chiller heat exchanger and reach the appropriate coolant temperatures, more energy will be used overall.

In contrast, water cooled chillers have a substantially better efficiency since they are less dependent on outside air temperatures to function.

Additionally, employing refrigeration or water cooling towers will guarantee consistent control of chiller fluid within a desirable range. As a result, the industrial processes that use these chilled water systems will receive the proper cooling.


All in all

When choosing between an air cooled chiller and water cooled chiller, there are numerous factors to take into account. When in doubt, speak with a professional which is where we can help you.

Have you already made your decision? For the most personalised consultation, contact us right away.

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