Evaporative cooling vs Air conditioning

There is a lot of debate in industrial HVAC circles as to whether evaporative cooling or air conditioning is cheaper. Some argue that the cost to install evaporative cooling is higher but that the running costs are lower and others argue that evaporative cooling is cheaper to install and run but the maintenance costs are higher. But who is right?

We’re here to give you the facts on the what the total cost of ownership is for evaporative cooling versus air conditioning, breaking it down into the initial installation expense, ongoing running costs and cost of maintenance.

Capital Expense

This is looking at the initial outlay for the kit as well as the cost to get it installed. Often these are the most scrutinised costs, as unlike running costs, which are spread out over time.

There is no shortage of options when it comes to choosing the type of cooling for your premises and it can be overwhelming if it’s not your area of expertise. The number of types of refrigeration based air conditioning units alone can be a lot to process and that’s before you even consider evaporative cooling as an alternative. It’s important that first of all, you narrow it down to the right system for the application and then look at the cost differences of the options.

When a well-known brand was faced with a choice between evaporative cooling and air conditioning, it sought help from EcoCooling’s installation network, a selection of companies experienced in fitting all types of cooling. Having always had air conditioning, the customer wanted to know the capital cost of this compared to evaporative cooling as its research had shown it to be a viable contender. The below is an impartial comparison provided by an installer to help give the client a good perspective on the difference in cost.

System Total supply and installation cost
7 x 15kW air conditioning cassettes £27,933
3 x EcoCooling evaporative coolers, extract fans and controls £23,889

The example shows that the EcoCooling system is 15% cheaper to supply and install. Here, the client would, and did, save £4,044 on the supply and install alone by choosing evaporative cooling.

Operational Cost

Over time, the running cost of a cooling solution can be more than the capital expenditure. If the cost of running the system isn’t considered carefully, any savings you might make at the install stage could become irrelevant. 

Evaporative cooling is widely considered to be cheaper to run than air conditioning thanks to the simplicity of its design and low electricity demand. For the same client discussed earlier, installers provided a running cost comparison for the two options. To ensure it was a fair comparison, the approved Carbon Trust running costs calculator was used.

Based on the units used in the capital expense comparison and a 12p per kW/hr charge for electricity the running cost for a year would be: 

System Running Costs
Refrigeration based air conditioning £31,536
EcoCooling evaporative cooling £365

This is a saving of £31,171 per annum, which is a remarkable 99% saving. What’s more, the running cost of the EcoCooling system is a fraction of its capital cost at just 1.5%, whereas the running cost of the Fujitsu system is 113% of its capital cost.

The comparative running cost is much lower because it requires much less energy than air conditioning, however evaporative cooling also comes with the added benefit of ‘free cooling’. Unlike air conditioning which is required to be switched on as soon as the temperatures begin to rise, evaporative cooling can operate in a ventilation only mode, which only requires the fan to be running. This significantly reduces the amount of time the EcoCoolers are required to be in cooling mode.

Maintenance Spend

Like operational costs, maintenance is another ongoing operational expense that must be considered.

For air conditioning units, depending on the amount of refrigerant in the system, checks need to be done at least once every three months. These regular checks must be carried out by a certified individual and up to date records must be kept in line with F-gas regulations. Having to adhere to the regulations can be costly as they required a qualified person to come to your premises to carry these out.

Unlike refrigerant systems, evaporative cooling does not have the same regulations to adhere to when it comes to servicing and maintenance. All that is required is simple seasonal maintenance, which is as simple as having the units cleaned every six months. The simplicity of the EcoCooling units means that an in-house team could be trained to do this maintenance, therefore, removing the cost of servicing completely.

Total Cost of Ownership

Looking at each element of expense, it’s clear to see that evaporative cooling is the most cost effective. With the operational cost providing significant savings of a minimum of 90% alone, evaporative cooling by far has the lowest total cost of ownership. The ROI on an industrial cooling system is typically between two and five years, however, for an IT or data centre installation, it can be as little as one year.

If you have been considering a move away from traditional air conditioning to evaporative cooling, now is the time to get in touch to see just how much you could save.

A Fresh Approach

Not only can evaporative cooling save you money, but it also comes with the added benefit of being a fresh air solution. You can read more about the benefits of fresh air cooling and the impact on air quality in our blog: Overcoming sick building syndrome with a fresh air solution

Whether you’re looking for a fresh air system for your gym, warehouse, data centre, factory or retail space, we can help. Based in the UK, EcoCooling’s network of installers are on hand to give you a quote for a new or replacement cooling system. Get in touch today.