Initially conceived in the 1840s by a Florida physician who wanted to help residents of the Sunshine State fight “the evils of high temperatures,” artificial cooling has played an important role in both residential and commercial applications. But when most conceptualize artificial cooling, they think about HVAC units, which stands for “Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning.” This broad category stands distinct from chillers, which simply cool and are used in a wide variety of industrial applications.
Because they are so widely used, chiller buyers need to carefully consider how their end-use scenario fits with the available models, what to look for when buying chillers, and what accessories they should consider purchasing.
Popular Types of Chillers
Though chillers come in numerous configurations, they use one of two basic mediums to function: air cooling or water cooling. To add more complexity, chillers may function according to several different operating principles. Some chillers work by absorbing heat from a source and dissipating it into the external environment. Others employ vapor compression, which involves moving a pipe-enclosed fluid through a hot environment, allowing the fluid to absorb the heat, and then circulating the fluid through a refrigeration apparatus.
- Air-cooled chillers are an economical solution that employs fan-driven air to capture heat. The warm air is then moved through the system and out into another environment. Such systems must account for where the hot air will ultimately go (e.g., a separate building, the air outside the facility) and the noise generated by the chiller’s fans, which can prove substantial.
- Water-cooled chillers usually function by circulating water through a condenser and then moving it to a cooling tower, which cools the water. The cooling medium is then cycled through the hot environment again. Water-cooled chillers require equipment such as multiple pumps, as well as easy access to a source of water.
- Evaporative-condenser chillers are essentially a hybrid of air-cooled and water-cooled chillers. While these systems circulate refrigerant through a closed system, they also direct it toward an external area where water is sprayed on the tubing carrying the now-hot refrigerant. The process of evaporation helps manage the temperature of the coolant while it remains in the system’s pipes.
Chillers can also be classified according to their use case or physical configuration. For example, central chillers are located in such a way that they can service multiple areas or functions. Despite their name, portable chillers can’t actually be moved from place to place. Instead, they contain all of their required equipment within the chiller’s physical footprint. Stationary chillers are the opposite and need to connect to external items such as a source of water.
Chiller Types and Subcategories
In addition to the chiller basics mentioned in the previous section, chillers can also be classified according to the way in which they interact with the compressor, which moves the cooling medium throughout the system. In industrial process cooling, the main subcategories are mechanical chillers and non-mechanical chillers.
- Mechanical chillers may employ any number of power sources, including electricity, steam, or natural gas. Their classifications depend on the method by which the cooling medium is moved through the chiller. Reciprocating chillers employ pistons and a shaft to create positive displacement in order to propel the medium. Screw-driven chillers use a rotary-type device that looks something like its namesake, which allows them to more steadily pump the medium. Rotary power is the prime action of centrifugal chillers, and the medium spins through an impeller that also provides a steady flow.
- Non-mechanical chillers are also called absorption chillers, and these chillers have no moving parts. Instead, they rely on having large amounts of waste heat encounter cool water, which flashes into steam. The steam rises through a very large cooling tower where lithium bromide is sprayed onto an array called the absorber. The lithium bromide and the water flow back down into the system and are recycled.
Air-Cooled vs Water Chillers
The two most common kinds of chillers feature different requirements and excel at the cooling process in different use cases. When compared to other options, air chillers are less efficient and less effective overall. Still, they’re significantly less expensive, require less space to install, and are much less costly than water chillers.
Water chillers occupy something of an opposite space from air chillers. They require a lot of committed infrastructure in order to function properly, need extra equipment, and require a good deal of expertise to install. However, they can chill spaces far more dramatically than air-based options.
What to Look for When Buying Chillers
Because chillers come in various kinds of configurations, any chillers buyers guide must take into consideration multiple factors, such as the following:
- Size: Chillers aren’t the same size as standard residential HVAC units. They can range from fitting on the back of a tractor trailer to needing an entire engineering team to assemble. Some even require the installation of separate reservoirs, and others need extensive renovations to existing structures in order to function properly. Accounting for size is an essential step when buying a chiller.
- Application: Your choice of chiller will depend largely on your end-use application. How cold do you need a space to be? How large is that space? Is sound a concern? Do you have easy access to water? Is your space currently under construction or will you need to manage existing facilities?
- Type: Though air-cooled chillers and liquid-cooled chillers are the two main types of chillers, numerous subcategories offer additional options and functionality for unique tasks and contexts.
- Manufacturer: Some of the most recognizable names in HVAC production (e.g., Trane, York, Carrier) also produce chillers, and their reputation for quality is reflected in their industrial products.
- Turnaround Time: Due to their size and the technical nature of installing them, chillers can often have substantial turnaround time.
- Warranty: Whether buying new or used, consider the warranty offered. Is it from the manufacturer or the seller? What is covered? What isn’t?
- Shipment: Is shipment included with your purchase? Is it part of the purchase price or extra? Does it include installation?
- Location: Some chillers are so large that only local listings are feasible.
- Electrical and Mechanical Installation: Does the chiller have unique requirements for the installation of its electrical and/or mechanical systems?
- Maintenance: Given that operating and repair expenses can quickly rival the purchases prices of major pieces of industrial equipment, you should investigate the maintenance requirements of a particular type and model.
Applications & Uses
Chillers have wide-ranging applications across diverse industries such as health care, food processing, metal finishing, and industries that require explosion-proof facilities. Some uses for chillers include:
- MRI & CT Devices
- Commercial Baking
- Wine Production and Storage
- Dairy Processing
- Paint and Powder Coating
- Die Casting
- Furnace Cooling
- Chemical Processing
- Coal Mining and Processing
- Oil and Gas Refining
Accessories for Chillers
Accessories for chillers primarily fall into the category of repair and maintenance, although some of them include quality of life upgrades. Common accessories are as follows:
- Protective coatings
- Spare parts kits
- Phase monitors
- EZ clean condenser filters
- Pump upgrades
- Automatic city switchovers
- Remote controls
Tips for Finding and Buying an Industrial Chiller
When you’re making as major of a purchase as a chiller, you want to turn to a trustworthy source. Surplus Record has a long-running history of connecting buyers with quality used equipment from sellers with excellent reputations. Once you’ve determined the exact kind of chiller you need, you can easily search our site to see what’s for sale. Sort by manufacturer, model, location, and various keywords.
Top manufacturers for chillers include: Carrier, Dimplex, Trane, Wittman, and York.
We also work with several dealers who specialize in chillers of various types. You can also find dealers in your area or by name who specialize in chillers.
Trust the Best Chiller Dealer Around
Surplus Record has always been committed to helping businesses sell surplus and unwanted equipment. For almost a century, Surplus Record has championed machinery dealers throughout North America, assisting thousands of dealers and individual sellers in connecting with end-user consumers to sell surplus machinery and equipment.
Surplus Record’s comprehensive database of surplus, new, and used equipment is a great place to start if you’re currently in the market for new tools or machinery.