Understanding the Differences Between Air Cooled and Water Cooled Air Conditioning System

12 May 2020

The use of an air conditioning system is important in making our lives comfortable. It enables the removal of heat and moisture from our room or occupied space. This system can also cool and dehumidify rooms filled with heat-producing electronic devices. 

To date, two of the most popular types of air conditioning systems in both residential and commercial areas are air cooled and water cooled. To better understand them, below are some factors that you may want to consider in choosing between air cooled and water cooled air conditioning systems.

Parts and Components

Both air cooled and water cooled air conditioning system contains an evaporator, condenser, compressor, and expansion valve. The evaporator tube bundle allows liquid refrigerant to flow through it and evaporate, absorbing heat from the bundle’s chilled water. The compressor then pulls in the refrigerant vapor out of the evaporator and pump it to the condenser, which allows it to increase in pressure and temperature. When the refrigerant condenses on or in the condenser tubes, the heat from the refrigerant is transferred to the cooling water or air.

The high-pressure liquid refrigerant then goes through the condenser by the expansion device, which helps it reduce pressure and temperature once it enters the evaporator. Subsequently, the refrigerant flows over the chilled coils to absorb more heat and complete the cycle. The difference between the two system starts at the condensing stage. 

Condensing Process

Air cooled air conditioning systems have condensers that use ambient air to cool the hot refrigerant. The refrigerant flows through a series of tubes that are mechanically assembled with a group of closely spaced fins. A fan blows the ambient air through the fins and over the outside of the tubes, allowing the refrigerant to be cooled. Any excess heat is ultimately released to the air.

Alternatively, water cooled air conditioning systems use water to cool the refrigerant in the condenser. Their condensers are usually tube tube-in-tube, tube-in-shell, or plate-type heat exchangers that allow water from a cooling tower or other water sources to cool the refrigerant. There is no direct contact between the refrigerant and cooling water. Instead, they flow in separate passageways within the heat exchangers. Afterward, the water flows over the refrigerant tubes and absorbs the excess heat, lowering the refrigerant according to the preferred temperature for system use.

Indoor and Outdoor Use

From their overall composition, one element that you must evaluate in choosing them is their usage. Both air cooled and water cooled air conditioning systems can be installed indoors. However, air-cooled ones need outdoor ventilation, allowing them to obtain sufficient fresh make-up air to maintain a suitable temperature within your space. The water-cooled air conditioning system, on the other hand, does not need ventilation or fresh make-up air. All they need is water to conduct the heat out of the room. Their reliance on water also enables them to work in a high-temperature environment.

As for outdoor use, air cooled air conditioning systems have the edge here since they gain more access to fresh air. The heat rejected on their condenser can easily dissipate into the ambient air. All you need to do with this type of installations is to properly configure electrical control panels.

All these differences between air cooled and water cooled air conditioning systems can help you choose which one do you need for your space. If you want some help in choosing between the two systems, then feel free to contact us at Protector Air Care. We take serious consideration in addressing all our client’s needs from our HVAC, customer service, and management team. Through the past years, our company has grown to become a reputable and respected figure within the HVAC industry.

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