Typically, residential air conditioners use air transfer to cool down an indoor space and eliminate moisture in the air, and water-cooling commercial units cool using water.
The primary function of air conditioners is to provide an indoor environment with cooler air when the outdoor weather is too hot and humid to endure. Air conditioners blow cooler air by extracting humidity from the space and expelling it outside.
There is water involved in the process to a certain extent, but not to run the AC. Water is collected by home cooling systems as a waste product, but do certain air conditioners actually use water to function and cool down spaces?
Water-run air conditioners
These types of air conditioners exist and use water in their cooling process. Residential air conditioners, on the other hand, which are used in homes, get rid of moisture in the air.
Water-cooling air conditioners have both water and air flowing through them via tubing to emit cooler air into the space. These units work together with the refrigerant in them to cool a space and lower the temperatures in it.
Residential home units only use air that is passed through refrigerant and coils in their cooling process.
Do air conditioners use water?
Your residential home cooling units do not use water to cool spaces down, but they extract excess humidity from a room that drains outside, which makes it easier for the unit to lower the temperature in that room.
But there are air conditioners that use water to function. Commercial air conditioners use water for the cooling process and work differently to residential units.
These types of units are regarded as superior to residential air conditioning units, since they operate at lower condensing temperatures, with water having specific heat compared to air, also making them more efficient.
Air conditioners that use water to cool are also more effective for cooling large buildings that can generate a lot of heat, which a standard air conditioner would struggle to get rid of.
These units are, therefore, great at cooling big spaces or elaborate layouts. There are a range of water-cooling air conditioners, and each of them work differently, but ultimately, they all use water in the cooling process.
The condensers of such air conditioners use water as opposed to your standard residential units that use hot and cold air to cool a space.
The three main types of water-cooling air conditioners are tube-within-a-tube units, shell and coil units, and shell and tube units.
Tube-within-a-tube water cooling air conditioners
This type of air conditioner contains an inner tube that is inserted into a bigger outer tube, with both pipes in the shape of a coil. Water flows through the inner tube and cools the refrigerant that flows through the outer tube.
The refrigerant is also cooled by the air in the room. The inner tube is designed to have grooving that increases the heat transfer between the refrigerant and the water.
The water and the refrigerant each flow in opposite directions, and this is known as counter-flow arrangement, which is intended to keep the difference in temperatures consistent during the heat exchange.
Shell and coil water cooling air conditioners
This air conditioner consists of a shell made of steel with a coil of tube that is made out of copper inside it. This type of unit cools by having water flow through the coil to cool hot gas refrigerant in the shell.
Hot air is usually fed from the top of the shell, and it condenses as it flows down and touches the coil. This gas then condensates further to cool down into a subcooling state at the bottom of the shell.
Shell and tube water cooling units
The design of the condenser of this water-cooling system also consists of a shell made with steel that contains many copper tubes inside it.
This unit is only used in high-capacity air conditioning systems and water is circulated in the copper tubes to cool the refrigerant that flows into the shell from the top.
The shell also acts as a receiver where the sub-cooled liquid refrigerant is channelled out of the condenser to be used in the next stage of the cooling process.