Conference Year



Frost, Fin-and-tube, outdoor coil, heat pump system


In modern heat pump systems, the heat exchangers use enhanced heat transfer surfaces for both air and refrigerant sides. In air conditioning applications, conventional 9.5 mm (3/8 inch) tube diameter fin-and-tube coils are slowly being replaced by microchannel heat exchangers. However, during heating mode the energy performance of heat pump systems with microchannel outdoor coils are generally lower than those of fin-and-tube direct-expansion evaporators due to a higher frequency of defrost cycles. A different approach might be to utilize fin-and-tube technology, which has proven records of excellent water drainage characteristics and good performance in frosting operating conditions, and enhance the air side heat transfer rates by introducing a larger number of small diameter copper tubes. In this paper, six fin-and-tube coils with copper tube diameter ranging from 5 mm (1/5 inch) to 7mm (8/29 inch) were experimentally investigated in frosting operating conditions. The laboratory experiments were conducted in an air flow wind tunnel at Oklahoma State University. Experimental data on heat transfer rate and air-side pressure drop across the coils were measured and the fin density and the tube diameter were varied in a parametric fashion during the experimental campaign. The performance of the fin-and-tube coils were also compared to those of a conventional 9.5 mm copper tube diameter fin-and-tube heat exchanger and of a microchannel heat exchanger that had similar air-side frontal area and at similar operating conditions of outdoor direct-expansion evaporators in heat pump systems for residential applications. The trends of the data during frosting operation suggested that reducing the tube diameter was beneficial for frosting performance at low fin density while was harmful at high fin density. The data showed that increasing the fin density increased the capacity but significantly reduced the time for heating service for the evaporator. Small copper tube diameter resulted in about 11% higher initial capacity at dry start conditions and about 4% higher average integrated capacity when considering the entire frost period. The data discussed in this paper serve as basis for future research on direct-expansion evaporators for air-source heat pump applications, in which the frosting of the outdoor heat exchangers is still one of the major concerns.