This paper compares the performance characteristics of refrigeration systems employing three types of condensers, namely the air-cooled, the water-cooled and the evaporative condensers. Experimental studies were conducted in the same vapour-compression refrigeration unit operating with a different condenser in each test. It was found that the system with water-cooled condenser had a higher refrigeration capacity by 2.9-14.4%. and a higher COP by 1.5-10.2% than the one with evaporative condenser. However, the refrigeration capacity and COP of the unit with evaporative condenser were higher than those of the one with air-cooled condenser by 31.0 and 14.3%, respectively. Copyright (C) 2004 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.