Oil Retention, Unitary Split System, Gas Lines
Most air conditioning and refrigeration systems that employ the vapor compression cycle rely on oil circulating with refrigerant to lubricate the bearings and other contact surfaces in the compressor. The lubricant acts as a sealant to reduce leakage losses during the compression process and it also helps to absorb some of the excess heat that is generated in the compression chamber. However, this oil circulation results in oil retention in various other components outside the compressor depending on the physical interaction between lubricant and refrigerant and their transport properties. Other factors, such as geometry and orientation of connecting lines and system operating conditions (e.g., refrigerant flow rate and oil circulation ratio), also impact the oil retention. As a result of oil retention, the oil level in the compressor reduces, which may ultimately affect its efficiency and life span. In addition, the pressure drop across the system increases and the efficiency of heat exchangers (evaporators and condensers) decreases with oil retention. The current line sizing rules reported in the ASHRAE Handbook Refrigeration have only limited consideration of the effects of oil in the system. With the increasing development of variable speed systems as well as future use of newer refrigerants, there is a need in the industry for upgrading the line sizing recommendations to consider the effects of oil retention, especially the connecting gas lines of unitary split systems. To address this issue, a physics based model has been developed to predict oil retention in horizontal lines. The model is validated using experimental data collected for R410A-POE32. The developed model will be a backbone of a design tool, which will provide more information on oil retention in refrigerant gas lines of the commonly used refrigerant-lubricant combinations in the HVAC&R industry.