Get In Touch
4132 W. Venus Way
Chandler, AZ 85226
Ph: 888.360.2739
Career Inquiries
Ph: 888.360.2739
Apply Today
Vendor Inquiries
Ph: 888.360.2739

How Do Water-Cooled Air Conditioners Work?

Water-cooled air conditioners could be just what you need. Typically, when end-users think of a portable air conditioner, they think of the traditional “spot cooler.” However, specific environments require equipment that isn’t quite so common. For example, a water-cooled portable air conditioning unit can often be confused with an evaporative cooler, but they are two completely different machines. 

Learn about the difference between traditional air-cooled units and water-cooled air conditioning and how water-cooled units could be the solution you’ve been looking for.

The Difference Between Water-Cooled Air Conditioners & Air-Cooled Air Conditioners

First, let’s look at some similarities between water-cooled and air-cooled air conditioners. The basic system of both units is similar. Both water-cooled and air-cooled air conditioners use components like a condenser, an evaporator, a compressor, and an expansion valve. They’re also both refrigerant-based units.

The main difference between these air conditioning units happens at the condensing stage. A traditional air-cooled unit takes hot air into a ducted area outside the space, usually into a drop ceiling. A water-cooled air conditioner uses a consistent water flow over the condenser coil to transfer heat. The heated water gets dumped outside or into a drain, sink, or another wastewater outlet.

To cool the condenser, water-cooled units use water, while air-cooled units use a fan. As a result, water-cooled air conditioning units must attach to a water supply, like a faucet, by hose. However, the faucet doesn’t have to be nearby, necessarily. In some cases, it can be as far as more than 100 feet away for the water-based air conditioner to work. That makes portable water-cooled air conditioners a flexible option for various spaces.

When Should You Use Water-Cooled Air Conditioners?

When considering whether or not to use a water-cooled air conditioner, consider the following factors.


Water-cooled air conditioners are great options when you don’t have a drop ceiling or a way to exhaust hot air out of an enclosed space. For example, some retail spaces don’t have drop ceilings. Water-cooled units are ideal in spaces like those and in other enclosed areas where exhaust ducting is not available.

Cooling Advantage

Another benefit to using water-cooled air conditioning units is that they have a cooling efficiency advantage over air-cooled air conditioners. A water-cooled air conditioner produces colder air more consistently and efficiently into a room. That’s because it constantly circulates hot air that’s in a room and doesn’t discharge any hot air into a space as an air-cooled air conditioner does.

That means water-cooled air conditioners also use less energy than air-cooled air conditioners because they don’t need to run as often to keep inside air cool. That makes them ideal solutions for large buildings, facilities, and rooms with high ambient temperatures, like server or computer rooms. Water-cooled air conditioners can also be used in extreme heat and in hot areas than what air-cooled air conditioners can be used in. The recommended operating range for water-cooled units is between 65 and 105 degrees.

Size of Space

Water-cooled units also tend to be smaller than air-cooled air conditioners. So while water-cooled units are popular options for large spaces, they also work in places with limited space for air-cooled air conditioning.


The main drawback to a water-cooled air condition unit is the water used. These air conditioners require constant water flow to the unit when used. For example, a 1-ton unit can require up to 3 gallons per minute of water flow. Therefore, an air-cooled air conditioner makes more sense for spaces that don’t have access to a water supply.

If your property has a space that requires critical cooling, and you don’t have a way to exhaust or duct in or out air, water-cooled air conditioning units could be the answer. Be prepared, though, with a water source, a power source, and a drain.

Need a Water-Cooled Air Conditioner?

Axis Portable Air offers water-cooled air conditioning units ranging from 1 to 5 tons. In addition, we carry the Oceanaire brand, the industry-leading provider of water-cooled portable air conditioners. 

Depending on the complexity of your facility, structure of the building, and availability of water sources and power, water-cooled portable air conditioning units can be a great tool but are just one of many types of units in our cooling fleet. We have a wide range of air conditioning units ranging from 1-12 tons and even carry an entire fleet of evaporative coolers. So, if water-cooled air conditioning isn’t the answer, or if you are still unsure,  Contact us to learn more.


Its not just part
of what we do.
It's all we do.

Author avatar