Water Cooled Air Conditioning – Installation & Advice

An alternative to an air cooled AC system is a water cooled air conditioning unit. The key benefits of using water as the coolant are:

  • Smaller AC units, discreet and virtually silent.
  • An external condenser isn’t required, so it is a suitable air con installation for listed school buildings or any premises with planning restrictions.
  • It is more energy efficient than air cooled AC, as water is better at heat dissipation.

However, water cooled AC has some drawbacks. The unit and installation will be more expensive than a traditional split wall mounted AC unit.

water cooled air conditioning

Maintenance is likely to be more costly, too, and drainage plumbing into the existing water supply has to be considered.

Water Cooled Air Con - Find Out More

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What Is Water Cooled Air Conditioning?

Water cooled air conditioning is a refrigerant-based system that, as the name implies, uses water rather than air to keep your space cool. We also call them water cooled condensers for their ability to reject heat absorbed in the evaporator.

Unlike their air reliant counterparts, water cooled AC systems don’t require vents or internal ductwork for the air to pass through, as a central AC system does. Instead, they keep your home or building cool by distributing cold water through a network of cooling coils or terminals.

They’re more energy efficient and can operate in compact or space-constrained conditions. Due to their size, most water based AC models will provide more portability (if required) and placement flexibility.

water cooled ac system

How Does a Water Cooled Air Conditioner Work?

Water cooled AC units need a water source to operate. They also require a power source and a drain or outlet to dispose of used water.

The cooling process starts at the system’s chiller plant, which uses a compressor to remove heat inside the building.

The heat will then move to the condenser, passing through the condenser water for cooling down or expelled outside to minimise heat accumulation.

When the heated air passes through the water cooled condenser system, it passes through the chiller and evaporative cooler. At this point, the heat evaporates, leaving cool water behind.

On the other hand, the heat expelled outside cools as it moves through another dedicated condenser coil. When it cools, the water flows back to the system chiller and repeats the cycle.

Some heated water has to be expelled through a wastewater outlet such as a drain or sink.

Because of this continuous warming-cooling cycle, water cooled air conditioning needs a constant stream of water. Regular water replenishment is usually required to maintain optimal water levels, so they must be plumbed into the existing water supply.

water to air ac unit

Types of Water Cooled AC Units

A water cooled AC unit is generally more efficient than a traditional air conditioner because of its capacity to function at lower condensing temperatures.

However, they are also much more expensive, which is why they are more widely used in residential and listed buildings. Where space is not limited, and aesthetics are less important, ducted AC systems or ceiling cassette AC are much more suitable installations.

Here are three of the most common types of water cooled AC condensers:

Tube Within a Tube

This is the most popular design of water cooled ACs due to its simplicity. In this model, smaller tubes are inserted into larger tubes to form the coil and conserve space.

Water flows into the inner tubes to cool the refrigerant, which passes through the outside rings. In most cases, inner groves in the tubes help facilitate heat transfer.

The water and refrigerant will flow opposite each other to maintain the temperatures throughout the exchange. This feature is known as a counter flow arrangement. This process allows the water to absorb more heat than in parallel flows.

Shell and Coil

This water cooled AC uses a steel shell encasing a copper coil to cool itself. Water moves through the copper coil as the AC compressor releases the hot refrigerant vapour to achieve the cooling effect.

Hot air typically enters from the top of the steel shell, flows down, and passes through the cool copper coil. This gas is further cooled as it reaches the bottom of the encasement.

Shell and Tube

This water cooled AC model combines shell and tube-within-a-tube designs. It involves a steel casing housing multiple copper tubes inside.

The shell also functions as the receiver of the refrigerant. The hot refrigerant flows from top to bottom inside the casing as water circulates through the copper tubes.

The AC’s condenser extracts the cooled refrigerant and uses it for the next step of the cooling cycle.

water cooled air conditioner unit

Installing a Water Cooled AC System

The cost of installing a water cooled air conditioning system will depend on the size and power you need. The brand, installation, and associated labour expenses will also differ.

Perform regular AC maintenance to get the best lifespan for your water cooled system. It includes chiller inspections, cleaning condenser coils, maintaining water levels, and removing debris.

For further information about installations and free advice, please get in touch.

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