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Comparison of DX and Chilled Water HVAC Systems

DX (direct expansion) systems: The treated Chilled water systems: Water is pumped through the
airstream passes through the outside (fin side) of evaporator coil - the expansion of refrigerant passing
the evaporator coil such that it is directly cooled by through the coil cools the water. The (same) chilled
the expansion of refrigerant passing through the water is pumped through a separate water coil that
tubes of the coil. cools the air stream.

In a direct-expansion (DX) system, the evaporator is in

direct contact with the air stream, so the cooling coil of A chilled-water applied system uses chilled water to
the airside loop is also the evaporator of the refrigeration transport heat energy between the airside, chillers
loop. The term direct refers to the position of the and the outdoors. These systems are more
evaporator with respect to the airside loop. commonly found in large HVAC installations, given
their efficiency advantages.
The term "expansion" refers to the method used to
introduce the refrigerant into the cooling coil. The liquid
refrigerant passes through an expansion device (usually The components of the chiller (evaporator,
a valve) just before entering the cooling coil (the compressor, a water-cooled condenser, and
evaporator). This expansion device reduces the pressure expansion device) are often manufactured,
and temperature of the refrigerant to the point where it is assembled, and tested as a complete package
colder than the air passing through the coil. within the factory. These packaged systems can
reduce field labor, speed installation and improve
The components of the DX unitary system refrigeration
loop are the evaporator, compressor, condenser, and
expansion device

Advantages Disadvantages Advantages Disadvantages

Higher operating costs Lower operating costs
At $.10 per KWH or higher At $.10 per KWH or higher
you are better off with a you are better off with a
chilled water system chilled water system
WA estimated our cost @ WA estimated our cost @
$.11 per KWH $.11 per KWH
Usually lower initial Usually more
installed costs expensive to install
Simpler installation in More complex
most cases installation
Units completely Most of the system
assembled and tested at assembled on site
the factory less basic chiller unit from
problems at install factory
Higher maintenance Better Control with chilled
costs. water mains circulating
water to the cooling coils.
Any number of branches
can be connected to
these mains to supply
cooling elements with
water controlled by
automatic valves
Shorter life expectancy Diversity: The central
chilled water system can
be sized for the
instantaneous peak load.
Rooftop units must be
sized for the peak load of
the areas they serve.

Structural work may be Redundancy: Central

required to support the systems provide
units redundancy by installing
multiple chillers and
Possible damage to the pumps
Weather proof duct work Flexibility: Adding new
may be required chilled water circuits to
the existing system is a
relatively simple
operation. An additional
chiller and pump can be
added to the existing
system to produce extra
cooling load.