A case study on the application of air- and water-cooled oil-free chillers to hospitals in Hong Kong

Francis W.H. Yik, Hung Kit Lai, Nai Kong Fong, Hang Mei Polly Leung, P. L. Yuen

Research output: Journal article publicationReview articleAcademic researchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


A comparison study on using air-cooled and water-cooled conventional and oil-free chillers in hospitals in Hong Kong is reported. The study commenced with a comprehensive literature review to reaffirm the effectiveness of recommended precaution measures for containing the risk of Legionnaires' disease (LD) associated with using cooling towers. Numerical performance models for oil-free chillers established for use in the study are presented. Based on recorded cooling demands of two existing hospitals, the life-cycle energy consumption and cost of system options involving different combinations of heat rejection method and chiller type were evaluated, compared and discussed. The results show that water-cooled air-conditioning systems with conventional chillers and cooling towers are still more energy efficient than air-cooled systems with oil-free chillers. Water-cooled oil-free chillers may become an economically viable choice when their price is lowered in future. Pilot installation is recommendable, as it would allow the reliability and maintainability of the new oil-free chillers to be ascertained.Practical applications: Findings of the literature review reaffirmed the effectiveness of measures recommended in contemporary guidelines for LD prevention, which would ease the mind of owners, designers and operation and maintenance personnel in regard of using cooling towers in hospitals. The numerical models for oil-free chillers presented in the paper are useful for evaluation of the energy consumption of this new type of chiller and for comparison with other types of chillers. The study approach described in the paper, including the energy consumption prediction and life-cycle cost evaluation methods, provides a useful framework for similar studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)263-279
Number of pages17
JournalBuilding Services Engineering Research and Technology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Building and Construction


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