Experimental Investigation of Refrigerant Charge Minimisation of a Small Capacity Heat Pump

University dissertation from Stockholm : KTH

Abstract: Enormous quantities of heat are available in air, soil, water, exhaust air from buildings, and in waste water of any kind. However these heat sources are use-less for heating purposes since their temperatures are lower than the tempera-ture required for heating. Heat pumps can be used to extract heat from these sources with a small expenditure of additional energy and up-grade and deliver the energy as useful heat for room heating.The heat pump cycle employs the well-known vapour compression cycle. The amount of heat delivered by a heat pump is equal to the amount of energy extracted from the heat source plus the heat equivalent to the compression work of the heat pump. Heat pumps, of course, are being generally accepted as outstanding energy saving units due their coefficient of performance (COP). Heat pumps for house heating have been used extensively in many countries and are especially common in Sweden. The annual growth rate of heat pump usage in Sweden is the same as in rest of Europe. According to the Swedish heat pump association, between 1986 to August 2003, the number of installed heat pump units in Sweden was 332,309. The demand for heat pumps started to increase from the year 1995 and in the year 2002, approximately 40,000 heat pump units were installed. Among the many types available, single-family heat pumps providing heating capacity of about 5 kW are widely popular.The main drawbacks of heat pumps are the complexity of the systems, high cost, need of technical knowledge, safety hazards and environmental effects of certain refrigerants, etc. An efficient heat pump with small refrigerant charge would have less of some of these drawbacks and could be a competitive alterna-tive to other heating processes.In this study, methods of refrigerant charge minimisation without reducing the performance of a small capacity (5 kW) heat pump have been investigated. Work has been focused on finding refrigerant charge distribution in different components of the heat pump, on finding out the solubility of refrigerant (pro-pane) with different compressor lubrications oils, on testing different types of compact heat exchangers, on constructing new minichannel heat exchangers and on finding correlations for calculating the heat transfer of minichannel heat exchangers. The results included in this thesis have been presented in four con-ference papers and five journal papers of which two were published and three were submitted for publication.