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Measurement of refrigerant mass distribution
within a R290 split air conditioner

Tingxun Li a,*, Jian Lu a, Lei Chen a, Dongcai He a, Xiaozhou Qiu a,
Hongyao Li a, Zhen Liu b
College of Engineering, Sun Yat-Sen University, Guangzhou 510006, China
Midea Group, Foshan 510725, China

article info abstract

Article history: R-290 (propane) has been chosen as one of the most potential next generation working
Received 5 March 2015 fluids of RACs because of its favourable environmental and thermo-physical properties.
Received in revised form However, its use is hindered by its flammability and resulting concerns on safety. In
2 May 2015 addition, the charge mass is limited strictly by the standards which would impact RAC's
Accepted 23 May 2015 heating performance. In this paper, refrigerant mass distributions within a R290 split type
Available online 3 June 2015 air conditioner were experimentally investigated at both static and dynamic state, in which
the liquid nitrogen method (LNM) was used to determine the refrigerant mass inside the
Keywords: components of the circuit. The distribution of refrigerant that changes with temperatures
R290 and compressor speed were also measured and discussed. The results can assist with
Air conditioner improving the design of the products (performance improvement, safety measures, etc.)
Refrigerant and providing data for further theoretical study and simulation analyses.
Distribution © 2015 Elsevier Ltd and IIR. All rights reserved.

 ne dans un
Mesure de la distribution de masse de frigorige
conditionneur d'air split au R290
Mots cles : R290 ; Conditionneur d'air ; Frigorige
ne ; Distribution

improvements in system COP in split type and window air
1. Introduction conditioners with R290, values range from around 5%e15%.
For example, Padalkar et al. (2010) indicated up to 14% higher
Hydrocarbon systems are commercially available in a number efficiency of R290 than R22. Wu et al. (2012) tested a R290
of low charge air conditioning applications, such as small window type RAC and found 10%~15% higher efficiency. The
split, window and portable air conditioners. When used to main difficulty for R290 is its high flammability, which creates
replace traditional RAC working fluid R22, R290 has perfor- safety concerns in application, installation and field service.
mance characteristics that tend to yield higher energy effi- Standards limit the charge of R290; for example, IEC-60335-2-
ciency and lower cooling and heating capacity. In terms of

* Corresponding author.
E-mail address: (T. Li).
0140-7007/© 2015 Elsevier Ltd and IIR. All rights reserved.

atmospheric pressure. way valve. the A balance with 4. tion. In partic- IDUH indoor unit heat exchanger ular. and exhaust the refrigerant slowly. Mulroy and Didion (1985) measured sampling port. It is convenient and not as time consuming. Six sampling cylinders were used to collect the which reduces the refrigerant non-circled or useless for heat refrigerant of the components. DB dry-bulb temperature An R290 inverter air-conditioning system is chosen to do this WB wet-bulb temperature experiment. the compressor and accumulator. the heat exchanger is weighed connecting pipe and then close the valve. respectively. the condenser. the accumulator and the 4- capacity range. exchanger. The ODUH was outdoor unit heat among all circuit components is useful for system optimisa. cooling and powered off). understanding precisely how refrigerant is distributed condenser for heating. . The Ɛ the deviation of the total refrigerant charge inner diameter of the valves was same as that of the pipes in order to minimise the pressure drop of the valves. local W1 the mass of sampling cylinder before collecting temperature conditions and duration after start-up. The operation between the weight of the sampling cylinder with refrigerant steps of LNM were: (1) Vacuum the sampling cylinder and and that without refrigerant. With LNM. the investigation considers distribution under different ODUH outdoor unit heat exchanger operating modes (heating.2 kW. (3) Start the air directly. there are no published literatures about the char- Nomenclature acteristics of refrigerant distribution inside an R290 inverter air-conditioning system. the air component of the system (g) conditioner was reconstructed as follows. charge reduction techniques can be applied.. LNM has a high accuracy. but the conditioner and keep running until reaching the test condi- accuracy is lower. The purpose of this paper is to use ODP ozone depletion potential liquid nitrogen method (LNM) to measure refrigerant distri- GWP global warming potential bution inside an R290 inverter air condition system. in which the temperature and humidity can be cylinder (g) well controlled. Experimental method collecting and Vacuuming (g) The experiment was carried out in an enthalpy-difference W the mass of the refrigerant in the sampling laboratory. With OMM.1 kg range and ±0. (1) Solenoid valves WC the mass of refrigerant charge (g) and stop valves were installed at the two sides of the evapo- Greek symbols rator. some refrigerant is dissolved in the pipe. The physical pressure caused by the low temperature of liquid nitrogen at parameters of the system components are listed in Table 1. refrigerant migration in a split-unit air conditioner. Ji and Liu and weigh it as W2. obtained cylinder (normally taking about 60 min). allowing 1988) proposed a method of using the leverage to quickly the refrigerant to flow into the sampling cylinder from the measure the change of refrigerant mass in the refrigeration section. (2) Check valves were installed in each pipe in order to prevent the 40 includes a formula to determine the maximum allowable reflux of refrigerant. the compressor. (5) When nearly all refrigerant flow into the sampling system during the start-up and shut-down process. (1982) studied on the dynamic characteristics and all solenoid valves. then simultaneously shut off both the air conditioner Tanaka et al. whiles the gas lines were the pipes from the IDUH Liquid nitrogen method (LNM) and on-line measurement to the accumulator and the ones from compressor to the method (OMM) are used to determine refrigerant mass inside condenser. and IDUH. then vacuum the inverter air conditioner under steady conditions. the components of the refrigeration system. defrost the surface of the sampling cylinder. but is weigh it as W1. The liquid lines were the pipes between of ODUH tion and industrialisation of R290 products. From this point of exchanger that worked as evaporator for cooling and view.164 i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f r e f r i g e r a t i o n 5 7 ( 2 0 1 5 ) 1 6 3 e1 7 2 However.6 kW and 4. ensuring the accuracy of the test conditions. (2) Connect the sampling cylinder to the time-consuming and will consume substantial amounts sampling port. The IDUH in the Fig. (g) W2 the mass of sampling cylinder after collecting (g) W3 the mass of the sampling cylinder after 2. Ding et al. the refrigerant mass is the difference The schematic of LNM was shown as Fig. (6) Disconnect the sampling cylinder from the a heat pump system. For instance. sampling cylinder and weigh it as W3. 1. open the adjust valve 2 and evacuate the liquid nitrogen. As shown in Fig. (1986. In order to extend the heat exchangers. 2014). (4) Place the sampling cylinder into the of a heat pump system through experiment. respectively. the experimental method is first described OMM on-line measurement method and then the results are presented and discussed. close the valve 1 and the transient refrigerant mass flow rate in each component of the valve 3. The collected mass of (2009) presented a quasi-on-line measurement method for refrigerant W is: measuring refrigerant mass inside heat exchangers of an W ¼ W2  W3 : (1) R410A inverter air conditioner under steady conditions.1 g precision was used refrigerant is drawn into a sampling cylinder with the low to measure the weight of the sampling cylinder. liquid nitrogen tank and open the valve 1 and valve 3. LNM liquid nitrogen method In this paper. the liquid pipe and the vapour transferring. Thermocouples were arranged along the charge in a specific application (Li. The rated cooling capacity and heating capacity WT the total mass of the refrigerant in each is 2. Belth et al. 1 was indoor unit heat oil and some is held in the accumulator. 2. (7) Open the valve 1 on the sampling cyl- (2002) tested the distribution of refrigerant in the system of inder.

i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f r e f r i g e r a t i o n 5 7 ( 2 0 1 5 ) 1 6 3 e1 7 2 165 Fig.2 5. Table 1 e Specifications of the test apparatus parameters.59 Tube Spacing (mm) 21 21 Number of tube row 2 2 Numbers of tubes 24 30 Accumulator Volume (cm3) 440 Pipes Liquid pipe Compressor to condenser Evaporator to accumulator Length (m) 5. 2 e Scheme and photo of refrigerant sampling rig.8 Diameter (mm) 5 9 9 Volume (cm3) 107.59 6. Compressor Type Rotary DC inverter compressor Displacement 17.3 368. 1 e Schematic diagram of the experimental apparatus.5 1.9 76. Fig.9 cc/rev Free volume (cm3) 993.8 Remark: the volumes of the components were determined by calculation. .6 Oil quantity (cm3) 200 Heat exchangers Condenser Evaporator Type Finned-tube Finned-tube Volume (cm3) 740 650 Tube material Copper Copper Tube length (mm) 875 605 Tube outer diameter (mm) 7 7 Tube inner diameter (mm) 6.

temperature and running mode. Since the collected mass is sum of the five components. distribution of the refrigerant affected by the compressor frequency. which indicated that the liquid nitrogen method was tests No.1. Results and discussion sults in the local state of the refrigerant being saturated and thus forming a liquid reservoir where refrigerant would The test results under steady conditions were summarized in condense at lower temperature. 3. flowed into the cylinder or the cylinder was not totally blow- The tests No. the biggest uncertainty both mode.41 per cent. static and dynamic states under cooling mode and heating namely ±0. Ɛ. 20  C and 7  C.1 and No.14 and 15 were 3. The deviation of the total refrigerant charge. Mode Indoor temperature Outdoor temperature Refrigerant charge (g) Compressor frequency(Hz) DB ( C)/WB ( C) DB ( C)/WB ( C) 1 Cooling 27/19 35/24 300 45 2 Cooling 27/19 27/24 300 45 3 Cooling 27/19 43/26 300 45 4 Cooling 27/19 35/24 245 45 5 Cooling 27/19 35/24 360 45 6 Cooling 27/19 35/24 300 23 7 Cooling 27/19 35/24 300 75 8 Heating 20/15 7/6 350 94 9 Heating 20/15 2/1 350 94 10 Heating 20/15 7/8 350 94 11 Heating 20/15 7/6 270 94 12 Heating 20/15 7/6 350 33 13 Heating 20/15 7/6 350 62 14 Power off 27/19 35/24 300 / 15 Power off 20/15 7/6 350 / . which re- 3. 7. 4. the refrigerant mass in the indoor heat estimated by Eq. The un- flow rate of the refrigerant. Tests negative deviation. 2. For these tests the air conditioner was kept When the system was powered off. the quantity of the oil each component of the system. Therefore. It should be noted that the tests No.166 i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f r e f r i g e r a t i o n 5 7 ( 2 0 1 5 ) 1 6 3 e1 7 2 It should be noted that the reason why the refrigerant mass W was calculated as Eq. can be For heating mode. The must therefore be subtracted. No. With 2. the refrigerant distribu- running to a stable operating condition and then stopped tion was largely influenced by the external temperature con- while the solenoid valves were kept open to let the refrigerant ditions. Influence of the ambient temperature performed when the system was powered off under cooling or heating mode. the refrigerant 0. (2). WC is refrigerant charge.1.8.204 per cent.1. 8. 8 and 11 were intended to investigate the influence refrigerant left in the components. The distribution is affected by many factors such as of the charged and collected mass is 0. charge mass and the working condition temperatures were used to configure the test conditions as in Table 2. The tests D DðWT  WC Þ DWC ¼ þ (3) No. most of the refrigerant (about 66%) was flow freely in the circuit. to isolate the sections after the circuit had been allowed to When the indoor and outdoor temperature were changed to stagnate for 90 min.31%. 9 and 10 were used to study the effect of condition WT  WC WC temperatures on the refrigerant distribution where the The maximal deviation of the total refrigerant charge is opening of the electronic expansion valve was fixed. 5. 6. 12 and 13 were used to research the dried and some water was left on the cylinder surface. certainty of the deviation is calculated as Eq. The accuracy of the balance is distribution inside the R290 inverter air conditioner at both ±0. The solenoid valves were closed and outdoor temperature were 27  C and 35  C respectively. (3) and it is about The speed (frequency) of the compressor. The reason for it was that there were still No. respectively. exchanger (the evaporator that acts as a condenser for heating Table 2 e Tests at steady conditions. and very small amount of oil might flow into the Where WT is the total measured weight of the refrigerant in sampling cylinder with the refrigerant. For test No 11. whilst the indoor and outdoor tem- located in the indoor unit heat exchanger when the indoor peratures were kept constant.5 g. It could be found that most of the tests had was adjusted to achieve the best performance (COP). This variation is evidently dictated by the location of the lowest temperature. (1) was that a small amount of oil in WT -WC ε¼  100% (2) the compressor might be distributed among the refrigeration WC system. Table 3. For example.5 g in total.1 g.1. 8. the electronic expansion valve setting accurate enough. the devia- of charged refrigerant mass where the electronic expansion tion was positive for which the reason might be some oil valve had been adjusted to optimise the system performance. the outdoor unit heat exchanger held most (82%) refrigerant. refrigerant was charged by a charge machine (GALILEO Frigus This paper experimentally investigated the refrigerant K12) that the accuracy is ±0.

22 12 81.8 78.5 116 114.2 300 296.64 6 112.6 64.6 161.8 36.4 47 99.7 1.5 350 346.1 64.4 1.5 0.1 350 341.4 105.3 1.6 73.4 16 15.17 4 122.9 0.6 17 300 299.5 6.13 8 47.8 36.2 10.3 13.1 2.9 2. Refrigerant mass distribution (g) Deviation (%) ODU IDU C/A Liquid lines Gas lines Charged Collected 1 138.2 7.8 1.2 33.4 66.6 300 296.1 1.6 2. i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f r e f r i g e r a t i o n 5 7 ( 2 0 1 5 ) 1 6 3 e1 7 2 167 Table 3 e Refrigerant distribution results under steady conditions.6 40 8.6 45.4 25.3 respectively).8 and No. 4 e Refrigerant distribution of cooling mode at different outer door temperature (The tests for 27  C and 43  C were No.5 10.5 350 344.2 142.9 9.69 14 21. Fig.7 60.1 0.77 11 59.5 80. No.3 64.5 140.4 43.7 79.4 350 348.8 300 299.6 7.2 360 362.10 respectively).5 7.1 24.20 7 140.3 34.2 350 348.1 270 270.23 15 285 10.54 9 73.14 13 58.6 0.0 1.4 115.2 244 242.2 and No.8 5. .7 350 343.6 300 293.30 2 134.9 300 296.0 0.3 68.5 197.6 0.6 27.10 3 137.5 73.60 5 189.7 4.7 9.9 79 57.4 103.7 51.3 0.1 26 63.5 6.31 Fig.8 40. 3 e Refrigerant distribution of heating mode at different outer door temperature (The tests for 7  C and ¡7  C were No.9 6.7 45.1 24.6 31.57 10 66.

168 i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f r e f r i g e r a t i o n 5 7 ( 2 0 1 5 ) 1 6 3 e1 7 2 mode) was decreased as the outdoor temperature lowers use capillary tube but not expansion valve. 4). The sion valve opening was too large for 23 Hz and the throttling refrigerant in the ODUH and the IDUH were 50. If the system is over charged. 3.3% at heating mode respectively (Fig. which was optimized for the test No. the opening In order to investigate the refrigerant transition during start- might be adjusted with the discharging temperature.Theoretically. subcooled but two phases for lowest frequency and there would be vapour in the liquid lines. exchangers (ODUH and IDUH together) changed little.1 that the com. Refrigerant transition during start-up Different company have different control logic to adjust the opening of the expansion valve. heating mode is as test No. 5). The outlet of the IDUH might be not solubility was almost same. more refrigerant on the distribution of the refrigerant (Fig. By increasing fixed. The test results are In fact. (2) the refrigerant density in the condenser more refrigerant whilst gas pipe held less mass for faster decreased slightly (the density is 488 kg m3 for 45  C and compressor speed. more refrigerant was solved in quency (94 Hz) in this work. the expan. In addition. 45 Hz and 75 Hz were No.3% and 42. up cooling mode conditions is as test No. Due to under cooling mode the outdoor temperature had little effect the same reasons as with the cooling mode.0 ± 4.3. a larger expan. Both the up.8% and effect was poor. 18. It resulted in lower vapour ratio at the outlet 12. However.2. . 5 e Refrigerant distribution with different compressor speeds in cooling mode (The tests for 23 Hz. the refrigerant charge. Influence of the compressor speed 3. while more refrigerant accrued in the outdoor com. The in the heat exchangers accounts for about 55%e60% of the total reason was that the opening of electronic expansion valve was charge when in steady cooling or heating mode. for example. 8). there- determine the refrigerant mass flow of the circuit and then after the refrigerant mass was measured within each affect the refrigerant distribution.2 and No. condenser and liquid pipe). it can be concluded that the refrigerant in the evaporator. The tests conditions were listed in Table 4 (start- compressor speed's influence to refrigerant distribution indi. the refrigerant mass in the heat ex- pressor's frequency was 45 Hz. The most prob. different compressor speeds have same expansion valve ponents (compressor. (3) since inlet of the compressor was compressor speed would result lower condensing pressure almost same. 7(a)) and of the evaporator in that it was flooded with excess liquid. 3). This opening.0 ± 2.0 ± 2. 3. the refrigerant mass under cooling mode increased in the condenser and decreased From the data in Table 3. there are lots of variable speed type RACs in the market listed in Table 5. In order to investigate the component.4.15 in Table 2). the oil temperature changed slightly and the oil and less mass flow rate. the expansion valve's opening was fixed in this tests. The effect was the opposite for 75 Hz.0 ± 4. 6 in fact was outdoor heat exchanger and almost same when the out temperature was changed from worked as evaporator for heating mode). whereby the operation compressor speed and the expansion valve's opening will was terminated at different durations after start-up. This meant that the throttling was the compressor oil as its temperature decreases. which means that (Fig. No. Fig. several tests were carried out. The liquid pipe held 27  C to 35  C. compressor and accumulator (Fig. insufficient for other lower frequency (33 Hz and 62 Hz). Therefore. Conversely. the ratio of the refrigerant in the heat achieve the best system performance. 14 and start-up vidually. The reason for this is that lower 438 kg m3 for 55  C). Influence of the charge mass By increasing the compressor speed. whilst more liquid flowed into the accumulator. would accrue in the accumulator and condenser (the able reason is (1) the state of the inlet of the compressor was condenser in Fig. 7(b)). the condenser sion valve opening is needed for higher compressor speed in (ODUH for cooling and IDUH for heating) will held more refrig- order to maintain the inlet superheat of the compressor and erant (Fig.6.7 respectively). For heating mode. changers increased.9% of the whole charge at cooling mode (Fig. the opening of the electronic observation is expected since refrigerant density is higher at expansion valve was optimized and fixed for maximum fre- lower temperature.

5. 300 g and 245 g were No.1 and No.12. i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f r e f r i g e r a t i o n 5 7 ( 2 0 1 5 ) 1 6 3 e1 7 2 169 Fig. Fig. 7 e Refrigerant distribution with different charge mass at cooling mode (The tests for 360 g.13 and No. . 62 Hz and 94 Hz were No. No.4 respectively). No. 6 e Refrigerant distribution with different compressor speeds in heating mode (The tests for 33 Hz.8 respectively).

most of the refrig- compressor within the first half-minute.5 170. units as the ambient temperature decreases. Mode Refrigerant Time after deviation (%) charge (g) start-up (min) ODU IDU C/A Pip A Pip B Total 1 Cooling 300 0 1 21. whether in almost all of refrigerant was drawn out of the evaporator and cooling or heating mode.9 9. When the system was powered off.7 71. but the distribution ratio of the refrigerant in the heat ex- changers changes little.6 0.6 7. the refrig- piping. With the increase of the refrigerant charge.5 8 74.5 164. most of the refrigerant was initially (4).2 6.8 and No. As shown in Fig.6 20. During start-up.8 26.e. The trend in the charge distribution within the circuit dur.9 188.1 104.1 0. 10. respectively.4 293.4 347.7 79.09 9 Heating 350 1 9 26.9 296.2 36.4 6.7 33.23 2 Cooling 300 0..2 1.3 86.2 18.8 0. Similar to cooling mode. from 0.4 12.83 10 Heating 350 2 10 20.9 292.6 64. Table 4 e Tests of start-up. After one minute.73 6 Cooling 300 40 6 138. No. The refrigerant in the heat exchangers was about 60% of represented stable operation condition.5 197.11).93%.40 3 Cooling 300 1 3 134. 9 and Fig.1 1.2 288. 8 e Refrigerant distribution with different charge mass at heating mode (The tests for 350 g and 270 g were No. refrigerant refrigerant mass in the condenser increases and that in rapidly flowed out of the condenser and into the accumulator/ the evaporator and the compressor/accumulator de- compressor and evaporator.40 12 Heating 350 40 12 58. the refrigerant flowed out from the heat exchanger that initially had lower temperature (1).6 2. Conclusions (6).31 8 Heating 350 0.2 3.9 79 57.5 10 119. LNM is an accurate method for refrigerant mass mea- into the compressor/accumulator and the heat surement and the deviation of this experiment ranges Table 5 e Refrigerant distribution results under start-up.5 10.74 11 Heating 350 5 11 45. LNM was suitable for the refrig- ing start-up for cooling mode and heating mode is shown in erant mass distribution measurements within the cir- Fig. the located in the condenser. The point that time was zero cuit components. rapidly transferred into the condenser and the accumulator/ (3).5 2 124. (t ¼ 0 min) was for shutdown mode and the point (t ¼ 40 min) (2).9 2.4 113.6 2.4 43.7 115. full of saturated liquid). The refrigerant in the liquid pipe increased gradually erant would move from the indoor unit into outdoor until the state became stable (i. For heating mode.93 5 Cooling 300 5 5 155.3 1.1 2.5 6. the mass in the condenser and evaporator increased and reduced refrigerant mass in the evaporator decreases for heating in the compressor/accumulator gradually towards a stable mode with the compressor speed.69 . the whole charge at steady conditions.6 128. 9.5 297. evaporator and bution of the refrigerant. Increasing the compressor speed (frequency).3 6. For heating mode.170 i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f r e f r i g e r a t i o n 5 7 ( 2 0 1 5 ) 1 6 3 e1 7 2 Fig.9 59.9 15 348.4 16 15. decreased. Refrigerant mass distribution (g) Total No.13% to 3. On the contrary. state (Fig.8 139.1 341.4 0.8 2. the refrig- erant mass in the heat exchangers increases.7 4.5 6.6 293.30 7 Heating 350 0 7 285 10. 4.5 28.5 344. the refrigerant creases under cooling mode.8 14.8 347.4 8. as the refrigerant separated from the compressor the working temperature had little effect on the distri- oil and further migrated into the condenser. 10).9 33.2 8. (5).1 20. For cooling mode.6 61.13 4 Cooling 300 2 4 132.2 142.4 346.3 34. erant would accumulate in the heat exchanger that the refrigerant mass in the compressor and accumulator experienced the lower temperature. After two minutes.

Int. Int.R. 10 e Refrigerant transition during start-up at heating mode. J.. Ma.. Fig. Shinichi. 9 e Refrigerant transition during start-up at cooling mode.. 327e334.I. FOSHAN Major Biding Research Program for refrigerant in the system of inverter air conditioner [in Chinese] Fluid Mach. 843e853. X. plane in room air conditioning sector technical assistance Ji. 49e51. M. G.Z. 2002..L. ASHRAE Trans. Domestic and Abroad (2013AH100023) and Midea Group.. S. the refrig- erant in the heat exchangers increased gradually to stable condition while the refrigerant in the compressor Belth. D. Han. C. Y. P... K. Ding. This project was supported the HCFC phase out management J. 30. i n t e r n a t i o n a l j o u r n a l o f r e f r i g e r a t i o n 5 7 ( 2 0 1 5 ) 1 6 3 e1 7 2 171 Fig. T. 1988. Experiment study of the distribution of fund (China).E.. Tree. M.. Practical methods for measuring refrigerant mass distribution inside refrigeration system. Transient mass flow rate of a residential air-to-air heat pump. W. 2009. D. After two minutes. Zhang. . measuring transient mass rate of flow in unitary heat pumps.F.. Refrigeration 11.I. Acknowledgement Takahiro. 1986. Design and preliminary analysis for and accumulator reduced. Refrigeration 32.B. 92 (1B). 298e304.K. exchanger that initially had higher temperature rapidly references within first half minute. Grzymala..R. Liu.. Tree. Belth..

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