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With the ever-increasing cost of energy and a growing need to keep a business’s premises cool, many companies have looked to reducing the amount of electricity they use to maintain the temperature. If a business is looking to find the most efficient and cost-effective way to cool their building, they will likely be considering installing either a chilled water system or air conditioning HVAC system. Both air conditioning and chilled water systems are common ways to cool commercial buildings, but which option is the better choice? To help make this decision easier, this blog post looks at the pros and cons of each cooling system, and compares the two, examining their respective advantages and disadvantages for commercial businesses. By the end of this post, you will have a good idea of which system is best for your business’s needs.

Overview of Chilled Water Systems

When it comes to cooling a commercial building, one of the most common solutions used is a chilled water system. This system works by drawing in a steady stream of cold water and then circulating it throughout the building. The cooling effect comes from the heat transfer between the warmer air inside the building and the colder water that is being circulated. It’s a reliable and efficient way to cool down large spaces without taking up too much energy or resources.

Chilled water systems rely on a number of components, including chillers—which are machines that cool the water; cooling towers—which are used to dissipate excess heat; and pumps—which are used to circulate the cold water throughout the building. Additionally, a chilled water system requires a well-insulated piping system to ensure that the cold water is not lost in transit. All of these components come together to form a chilled water system that can effectively cool large commercial buildings.

Overview of Air Conditioning

Air conditioning is the process of cooling and dehumidifying the air in a particular space to create a more comfortable living or working environment. This is most commonly accomplished through the use of an air conditioning unit, which is typically powered by electricity or natural gas. In addition to cooling the air, modern air conditioning systems can also help regulate humidity levels, improve air quality, and reduce allergens. Air conditioning systems are widely used in both residential and commercial spaces to achieve efficient climate control.

Comparing Chilled Water System vs Air Conditioning

When considering the appropriate climate control system for your commercial business, it’s important to understand the difference between air conditioning and a chilled water system. While both systems provide effective air cooling, they have different components and key benefits.

An air conditioning system operates by circulating a refrigerant such as Freon through a set of coils, while a chilled water system utilizes a network of pumps and pipes, and a chiller to cool the air. Both systems can be used to maintain the temperature and moisture content of the air in the space, but there are some distinct differences that must be taken into consideration depending on the size and type of facility being cooled.

Air conditioning systems are typically cheaper to install and maintain, making them especially attractive for smaller businesses that don’t need extreme cooling. They also tend to be more energy efficient than chilled water systems, which require energy to run pumps and chillers. On the other hand, chilled water systems may be more cost effective for larger businesses that need to keep their spaces cool for longer periods of time.

Chilled water systems are also capable of meeting extreme cooling demands more effectively, due to their larger cooling capacity. Ultimately, the decision of whether to choose an air conditioning system or a chilled water system for your commercial business should be based on several factors such as size, energy efficiency, and cooling capacity.

Pros and Cons of Chilled Water Systems

Chilled water systems offer many advantages to commercial businesses, but they also come with their own drawbacks. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of chilled water systems to consider when deciding whether this type of system is right for you.


  • Efficiency: Chilled water systems also tend to be much more efficient than air conditioners, meaning they don’t require as much energy to operate.
  • Maintenance: Chilled water systems generally require less maintenance than their air conditioning counterparts, meaning you’ll have to spend less time and money on upkeep.


  • Ambient temperature: Since chilled water systems rely on ambient air to cool the water, they won’t be effective if the ambient temperature rises to uncomfortable levels.
  • Dependence on external sources: Chilled water systems depend on external sources such as rivers or lakes for water, making them difficult to use if these sources are not available.
  • Variability: The cooling effect of a chilled water system can also vary based on the water temperature, meaning it may not provide consistent cooling throughout the space.

Pros and Cons of Air Conditioning

Air conditioning is a popular option for commercial businesses in hot climates, providing an energy-efficient way to cool down the interior of a building. However, there are both pros and cons to air conditioning that should be taken into consideration when comparing it to other cooling solutions such as chilled water systems.

The major advantage of air conditioning is its convenience; it requires little maintenance and installation, can be easily adjusted to create the desired temperature in a room, and is comparatively quiet. Air conditioning systems can also be relatively inexpensive to buy and install, depending on the size and complexity of the system needed for the job.

One key disadvantage of air conditioning is that it relies on electricity to operate, making it somewhat costly in terms of energy consumption. Additionally, air conditioning is not as effective at cooling large areas or buildings with high ceilings as it is at cooling smaller rooms. It can also be difficult to control the humidity in a room using air conditioning, which can cause issues like mold growth and uncomfortable air.

Cost Comparison of Chilled Water System vs Air Conditioning

When considering the purchase of a chilled water system vs air conditioning for a commercial business, cost is an important factor to consider. For small to medium size businesses, air conditioning can often be more economical in the short term. An air conditioning system requires lower installation costs and less maintenance than a chilled water system. Additionally, purchasing a unit or two is much less expensive than a larger chilled water system. On the other hand, chiller water systems can offer long-term savings, especially considering multiple units over time. As such, when comparing the cost of a chilled water system vs air conditioning for commercial businesses, it is important to consider both short-term and long-term costs.

In terms of upfront costs, the purchase of a chilled water system will be much more expensive than air conditioning. The components can be costly, and furthermore, installation can be complex and costly. In comparison, air conditioning units are relatively inexpensive, and installation is generally easier and faster than a chilled water system. Furthermore, chillers can require higher running costs due to their large motors and fans, while air conditioning systems can offer lower running costs thanks to modern technology.

On the other hand, whilst initial costs are higher, chilled water systems can offer long-term savings due to the potential of using the system over multiple units. As the equipment is expensive, most businesses will purchase it with the intention of using it for several years. Over time, the cumulative price of multiple air conditioning units can often exceed that of a single chilled water system. Ultimately, when comparing the cost of a chilled water system vs air conditioning for commercial businesses, it is important to consider both short-term and long-term implications.

Conclusion – Deciding on Chilled Water System vs Air Conditioning

When it comes to cooling down commercial spaces, chilled water systems and air conditioning both have their advantages and disadvantages. Air conditioning is simpler and generally more affordable, but its higher energy costs can sometimes be a deterrent for businesses. On the other hand, chilled water systems are more energy-efficient, but require more components and complexities in their installation and maintenance.

Ultimately, the best system for cooling a commercial business will depend on the size, budget, and energy needs of the business. Those considering a chilled water system vs air conditioning should do plenty of research and talk to experts to determine which of these systems is the best choice for their commercial space.

For professional assistance with your HVAC system, choose Galgon HVAC & Mechanical Service. Our commercial HVAC system services are guaranteed to address all of your HVAC system needs, from installation to repair and preventive maintenance. Give us a call at (404) 352-1500 and let’s talk about what we can do for your HVAC system today!

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