Depending on operator preference, there are different approaches to industrial cooling. While some process temperatures can be optimally maintained using conventional industrial chillers, others require the use of alternative equipment like dry coolers.

Both thermoregulatory tools achieve a similar effect, but their mechanisms operate differently. This article will highlight the differences between a dry cooler vs. chiller and help you decide which is best for your cooling needs.

What Is a Dry Cooler?

dry cooler vs. chiller

A dry cooler is a cooling device that uses air to achieve process temperature regulation. The cooling done by a dry cooler is based on the principles of sensible heat rejection. A typical unit requires a cooling medium channeled from an associated process that enters a dry cooler and exchanges accumulated heat with the air circulating within.

Dry coolers are equipped with fans that pull air from the cooler’s exterior to sustain the heat exchange process. To ensure efficient process cooling, a suitable difference in temperatures between the cooling medium and the air within the dry cooler must be maintained. A minimum difference of 5°C is usually enough.

Fluid Cooler vs. Dry Cooler

A dry cooler is essentially a fluid cooler that uses air, a relatively dry, non-liquid fluid to accomplish process cooling. Fluid coolers more accurately refer to cooling equipment that uses fluids (liquid or gas) to regulate process temperatures.

Dry Cooler vs. Chiller

Both a dry cooler and chiller can be used in similar process applications to attain optimal temperatures. However, like the differences in a chiller vs heat exchanger, there are significant differences in how dry coolers and chillers function. Each of these devices offer advantages when used under the appropriate conditions.

For a dry cooler, thermal exchange is performed by pulling in external air and circulating it over tubes containing a cooling fluid (typically water or water-glycol mixture). The cooled fluid is then circulated through a heat exchanger attached to an associated process. The excess heat transferred to the cooling fluid is then returned to the dry cooler and the cycle is restarted. It is important to note that a dry cooler does not have a standard refrigeration unit which chills a circulating refrigerant. Rather, it uses fans to pull in ambient air to cool its heated fluid medium.

On the other hand, industrial chillers incorporate refrigeration units (often in conjunction with heat exchangers) in their cooling setup. Chillers use coolant/chiller fluid which may be cooled by air or water in their associated condenser. This is the basis for the differentiation into water-cooled and air-cooled chiller variants.

Dry Cooler System Design

A typical dry cooling system is designed as a dual unit system comprised of outdoor and indoor aspects linked by a fluid pump.

dry cooler vs. fluid cooler

The outdoor component is the dry cooler whereas the indoor unit is made up of the following parts enclosed together:

  • A heat exchanger
  • Pipes circulating cooling fluid
  • An evaporator
  • A compressor   

Advantages of Using Dry Coolers

The benefits of opting for a dry air cooler are listed below:

  • Easy installation and start-up
  • Convenient separation of components allows operators to save vital floor space for other equipment
  • Overall low operating costs after initial installation
  • Dry coolers do not require a constant water supply, therefore supply and disposal concerns are non-existent
  • The generated heat can be channeled directly into other processes, reducing energy waste and improving overall efficiency
  • Dry coolers can be programmed to operate year-round, even in environments with low temperatures

Disadvantages of Using a Dry Cooler

  • Additional costs of add-on components increase the total setup expenditure
  • Regular monitoring (or an automated chiller monitoring system) is required to ensure cooling fluid levels do not drop below required levels

Chiller System Design

A standard chiller unit is designed to work on one of two principles: vapor-compression or heat absorption with similar components.

  • A compressor
  • Tubing and a condenser
  • An evaporator
  • A heat exchanger

Advantages of Using a Chiller Unit

The benefits of installing an air-cooled chiller or water-cooled chiller in a process setup are listed below:

  • Chiller units are typically sturdy and have a long life span
  • Operating costs are typically low after installation
  • Process chillers have a high safety rating if proper routine maintenance is performed
  • Process chillers are energy efficient
  • More precise temperature control
  • Lower leaving temperature capabilities

Disadvantages of Using a Chiller Unit

  • The initial setup costs for an industrial process chiller is usually high
  • Maintenance including replacement of faulty components are costly  

Trust Cold Shot Chillers for Dependable Industrial Chillers

For over thirty years, Cold Shot Chillers has been producing the very best industrial chillers. With our innovative and client-centered approach to business, we remain committed to providing you with the best chiller options for your unique process needs. 

Request a quote from our team today to learn how we can help with your process cooling needs.