When and why to choose a centrifugal chiller

Whether an HVAC project aims at providing cooling for air conditioning in large buildings, cooling for district energy plants or process plants, whether it is a new construction or a renovation project, centrifugal chillers are always among the options to consider when it comes to choosing the best option for a business bottom line.


Centrifugal chillers are typically used to provide chilled water for all those applications needing cooling capacity on high scale, and they are usually the most economical option to cool large buildings, because, even though centrifugal chillers can be a significant investment, they usually offer a customizable configuration and a guaranteed return on that investment throughout their life cycle.


It is a technology intended only for installation in an indoor or weather protected areas, and is widely used in North America, since the building stock in that region is made of large buildings for a good portion. Centrifugal chillers, though, are also relevant in the European and Middle East markets, where are largely used for hotels and commercial buildings, industrial plants, cruise ships, university campuses, airports and hospitals. Among the EMEA markets Middle East is probably the most important for district cooling applications, while the others deal more with the other applications previously mentioned.


Centrifugal chillers have been dominating the HVAC market for cooling capacities above 1000 kW. Larger centrifugal units, then, can even provide several thousand kW. While, below the 1000 kW cooling capacity, centrifugal chillers are not that used.


But why would you need a centrifugal chiller over a screw inverter chiller or any other chiller related technology? Of course, every project has its own specific requirements and needs in terms of space use and constraints, and also in terms of efficiency and cooling capacity needed. There are aspects, though, that might make consultants want to choose centrifugal chillers over other chillers types.


The most important aspect, without a doubt, is the one related to efficiency and footprint.

Whenever projects are required to provide cooling for large buildings, most often than not water-cooled centrifugal technology is the right solution. Centrifugal chillers are always an option to consider because they can provide the cooling capacity required in a relatively small footprint, also maintaining very high efficiency levels.


Centrifugal chillers, in fact, can provide high capacity while maintaining very good energy-efficiency performances (Daikin centrifugal chillers fitted with VFD can provide COP > 6 full load and IPLV > 10), especially at full load, resulting in low running costs for the end user.


Let’s take a mall as an example. In this case centrifugal chillers can help reaching the cooling capacity required to cool down the whole building with a smaller number of units than screw compressor chillers, for instance, which would take more space. So, the main advantage of using a centrifugal chiller in this kind of situation would be being able to get high cooling capacity in a relatively small footprint, plus high operational efficiency.


Just think about cruise ships requiring high cooling capacity to serve all the different environments on the ship. In this specific application chillers are often required to fit tight mechanical rooms, since – just like in every other business – business owners need to take as little as possible for HVAC systems and use space to shape a better experience for customers. That is another example of when and how centrifugal technology can be a perfect solution to satisfy the above-mentioned need: high cooling capacity, efficiency and small footprint.


The same happens in district cooling applications, where having the possibility to install high capacity centrifugal chillers in one place and in a single mechanical plant, allows to optimize the use of space, which can be used for the activities it is actually meant to be used for.


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