Conference Year



EEV, Variable Speed Compressor, Mass flow rate, Virtual Sensor


Refrigerant mass flow rate is an important measurement for monitoring equipment performance and enabling fault detection and diagnostics. However, a traditional mass flow meter is expensive to purchase and install. A virtual refrigerant mass flow sensor (VRMF) uses a mathematical model to estimate flow rate using low-cost measurements and can potentially be implemented at low cost. This study evaluates three VRMFs for estimating refrigerant mass flow rate. The first model uses a compressor map that relates refrigerant flow rate to measurements of inlet and outlet pressure, and inlet temperature measurements. The second model uses an energy-balance method on the compressor that uses a compressor map for power consumption, which is relatively independent of compressor faults that influence mass flow rate. The third model is developed using an empirical correlation for an electronic expansion valve (EEV) based on an orifice equation. The three VRMFs are shown to work well in estimating refrigerant mass flow rate for various systems under fault-free conditions with less than 5% RMS error. Each of the three mass flow rate estimates can be utilized to diagnose and track the following faults: 1) loss of compressor performance, 2) fouled condenser or evaporator filter, 3) faulty expansion device, respectively. For example, a compressor refrigerant flow map model only provides an accurate estimation when the compressor operates normally. When a compressor suction or discharge valve is leaking and the compressor is not delivering the expected flow, the energy-balance or EEV model can provide accurate flow estimates. In this case, the flow differences provide an indication of loss of compressor performance and can be used for fault detection and diagnostics, as will be demonstrated in this paper.