heat pump, refrigerant charge amount, control
A heat pump system requires proper refrigerant charge amount. Once refrigerant is charged into a heat pump system, its charge amount is fixed. For this reason, prediction of optimal refrigerant charge amount is very important in order to yield best performance. Too low charge amount degrades capacity of heat pump. On the other hand, excessive charge amount decreases coefficient of performance (COP). The optimal value of refrigerant charge amount highly depends on secondary fluid temperature conditions. Consequently, fixed charge amount of refrigerant in heat pump shows the best performance only at certain temperature condition. Several ideas have revealed to change charge amount of the heat pump system. One is to have an additional reservoir to store or release refrigerant which is attached to a heat pump system. This method may seem simple but to measure exact amount of refrigerant in reservoir, additional pressure transducer, temperature measurement device, level sensor and other apparatus are required that increase the cost of heat pump. Another idea is to have reservoir between condenser outlet and expansion device. Rajapaksha and Suen (2004) showed that existence of reservoir at this point helps improve capacity while reducing the system COP. In this study, a new method for refrigerant charge amount control technique is presented. It has very simple control logic and requires only a few additional cost factors; several valves and additional tubes are only required. This method is based on different refrigerant phase distribution at each point of inlet and outlet of components in heat pump system. In a simple cycle heat pump system, refrigerant at condenser outlet (before expansion device) is in a subcooled liquid state at high pressure, while refrigerant is in a superheated vapor state at evaporator outlet (before compressor inlet) at low pressure. This technique regulates refrigerant charge by holding some volume of refrigerant in the connecting tube of considerable volume installed between the condenser outlet and the evaporator outlet. Using several solenoid valves (on/off) desired amount of refrigerant can be stored into a volume provided by a connecting tube. This connected volume is referred as ‘stagnation volume’ (Vstag). When one of this installed valve is closed and the rest of the valves are open, certain amount of refrigerant is stored in the stagnation volume (Vstag) while operating heat pump system. If closed valve is adjacent to condenser outlet, charge amount to the heat pump system increases while the charge is reduced when the valve adjacent to evaporator outlet is closed. This method is numerically verified and there are very little variation of COP. Therefore, heat pump can be operated at optimized circulating amount of refrigerant in spite of the secondary fluid temperature variation during heating or cooling operation.