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Energy Conversion and Management 42 (200l) 2083–2095

www.elsevier.com/locate/enconman

Rationally based model for evaluating the optimal refrigerant mass


charge in refrigerating machines
Naer Vjacheslav a, Andrey Rozhentsev b, Chi-Chuan Wang b,◆
a
0derra ktate Academy of Refvigevation, 0derra, Ukvaine
b
Enevgy and Rerouvcer Labovatovier, Indurtvial Technology Rereavch Inrtitute, D5DD ERL/ITRI, Building 64, l95-6
kection 4, Chung Hring Road, Chutung, Hrinchu 3lD, Taiwan, R0C
Received l9 July 2000; accepted 6 December 2000

Abstract
A rationally based algorithm was proposed to evaluate the optimal mass charge into refrigerating ma- chines. The
calculated results indicate that the system performance is strongly related to the refrigerant mass charge. In the early
stage of the refrigerant charge process, a sharp rise of COP is observed. The COP reaches an optimal value for a specified
refrigerant charge and shows a slight drop for a further increase of refrigerant charge. Calculated results reveal similar trends
to those of experimental data. The analysis of the
study can well interpret the cycle transformation subject to refrigerant mass charge. © 200l Elsevier
Science Ltd. All rights reserved.

Keywovdr: Refrigerating machine; Mass charge; R-4l0A

1. Introduction

The appropriate refrigerant mass charge into the system is an important subject in the design of refrigerating
machines, since it is directly linked to its system performance, stability, and dura- bility. Usually, the system
performance is increased with the refrigerant charge and peaks at a specific refrigerant charge. Further
refrigerant charge after this optimal point may decrease the system performance thereafter (see the test results
from Refs. [l–5]). Though the phenomenon has been well known for a long time, the technique of evaluating the
optimal refrigerant charge into the system is, unfortunately, relied heavily on trial and error which is not only time
consuming but also expensive.


Corresponding author. Tel.: +886-3-59l-6294; fax: +886-3-582-0250.
E-mail addverr: ccwang@itri.org.tw (C.-C. Wang).

0l96-8904/0l/$ - see front matter © 200l Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved. PII: S 0
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2084 N. Vjacherlau et al. / Enevgy Conuevrion and Management 42 (2DDl) 2D83–2D95

Nomenclature

M mass, kg
p pressure, bar
V volume, m3
F area, m2
T temperature, °C
R gas constant, J/kg k
ṁ mass rate, kg/s
u specific volume, m3/kg
q density, kg/m3
ß coe@cient of compressor capacity k
coe@cient of heat transfer, W/m2 k W
power, W
4 isentropic e@ciency
h enthalpy, J/kg
µ coe@cient of dynamic viscosity, Pa s
i quality
kubrcviptr
eq equilibrium
min minimal
c compressor
evp evaporator
cond condenser
is isentropic
d discharge
s suction
cpl capillary
cr crisis
f liquid phase
g vapor phase
fg liquid–vapor
in inlet
sc sub cooling
amb ambient
a air
^ı object

Fig. l shows the progress of refrigerant charge into the system and the related system per- formance in
typical refrigeration cycles. Initially a very small amount of refrigerant charge Ml , as seen in Fig. la, will result in
a ‘‘triangular cycle’’. In this circumstance, the compressor cannot
N. Vjacherlau et al. / Enevgy Conuevrion and Management 42 (2DDl) 2D83–2D95 2085

Fig. l. Variation of refrigerating cycle as a function of refrigerant mass charge.

pump the refrigerant to the desired pressure. Therefore, at the outlet of the condenser, the re- frigerant is in a
vapor state, having a temperature close to the ambient temperature (Tamb). Thethrottling process for the pure
vapor virtually brings the state to a much higher temperature than the standard design point before entering the
evaporator. By assuming the ideal gas condition, the equilibrium pressure peq can be evaluated as peqV MlRTamb
for this given refrigerant mass charge for a known volume = V of the whole system.
A slight increase of the refrigerant charge to the value of M2 Ml AM=causes ‡ the vapor temperature
leaving the condenser to just reach the condensation temperature (Fig. lb). In this condition, a slight
temperature decrease of the refrigerant during the process of throttling is observed and the pressure in the
evaporator is slightly higher than in the previous case (Fig. la), but the cooling capacity at this temperature level
is very poor. Again, the equilibrium pressure peq can be roughly estimated from the ideal gas law.
A further increase of the mass charge to M3 M2 =AM brings ‡ the outlet state the of condenser into the two
phase region, but the exit state of the condenser is not fully condensed (Fig. lc). The throttling of the two phase
mixture causes a larger decrease of the temperature and pressure in the evaporator which is below the designed
value. Though there is some cooling eRect, the mass flow rate in the system appears to be insu@cient. Hence,
a considerable part of the evaporator is occupied by the vapor. A further increase of refrigerant charge results
in a fully condensed state at the condenser exit (Fig. ld). Usually, subsequent throttling at this operational
condition may bring the temperature and pressure to the desired values in the evaporator. The installation is able
to function properly, but it tends to be unstable. This is because slight variations of the ambient temperatures
in both the condenser or the evaporator may switch the inlet state of the throttle device back and forth
(between single phase and two phase flow condition). As a consequence, unstable cooling capacity prevails.
Therefore, it is necessary to charge further refrigerant into the system to avoid this unstable phenomenon. The
amount of the refrigerant corresponding to this operational mode can be regarded as the minimal required
mass charge Mmin.
A further increase of refrigerant charge will increase the liquid contents in the condenser (Fig. le).
Usually in a nominal operation mode, l0% of a condenser should be filled with fully
2086 N. Vjacherlau et al. / Enevgy Conuevrion and Management 42 (2DDl) 2D83–2D95

condensed liquid. In this region, a further increase of the refrigerant charge may promote opera- tional stability
of the installation but at a cost of higher pressure. Continuing refrigerant charge into the system results in
overflowing of the condenser. The pressures of evaporation and con- densation will increase and will cause
a significant increase of compressor work and detectable drop of cooling capacity.
As aforementioned previously, the refrigerant charge into the system has a tremendous impact on the system
performance. However, a rationally based model for evaluating the optimal re- frigerant charge in a
refrigerating machine (such as domestic refrigerators, residential air-condi- tioners, commercial refrigerating
equipment etc.) is simply not available. Therefore, attempts are made in this study to examine the optimal mass
charge into a system. The overall objective of this study is to propose a rationally based model to determine the
optimal mass charge of a refrige- rating machine.

2. Physical model of optimal mass refrigerant charge

Apparently the mass charge M (kg) is related to the mass flow rate (ṁ) in the refrigeration cycle,
i.e. ṁ = ƒ (M). The typical refrigeration cycle under investigation is shown in Fig. 2. The refrig-
eration system consists of a compressor, a condenser, a capillary tube and an evaporator. The total amount
of mass within the refrigeration system can be approximated by
M = Mevp ‡ Mcond (l)
where Mevp and Mcond denote the mass within the evaporator and condenser, respectively. Theamount of mass
within the condenser is the summation of the mass occupied in the superheated, saturated, and subcooled
region, i.e.
Mcond = Mcond,v ‡ Mcond,s ‡ Mcond,l (2)
Similarly, the amount of mass in the evaporator is
Mevp = Mevp,v ‡ Mevp,s (3)

Fig. 2. Schematic of the refrigeration cycle for the present simulated air conditioner system.
N. Vjacherlau et al. / Enevgy Conuevrion and Management 42 (2DDl) 2D83–2D95 2087

To calculate the mass flow rate within the refrigeration system, it is necessary to consider the detailed
modeling for each component of the refrigeration system. Related details of each com- ponent is described
as follows:

2.l. Compverrov

A reciprocating compressor is used as the basic model. Its corresponding mass flow rate ṁ c , is evaluated
as follows:
ṁc = V̇c ßqs , (4)
where V̇c , ß and qs are the compressor displacement, the coe@cient of compressor capacity, and the vapor
density in the suction line, respectively
The coe@cient of compressor capacity is evaluated Σ from the following Eq. [6]:
Σ l/†
—l , ß = Tevp ,
ß=ßß , ß = l — c . cond Σ p (5)
2

l 2 l
pevp Tcond

where ßl and ß2 are the coe@cients reflecting influence of the clearance volume in the compressor and heating of
the vapor in the cylinder of the compressor; c is a relative value of the clearance volume in the compressor that
depends on the specification of the compressor; † is the polytropic exponent.
The required work of the compressor is evaluated from the ratio of the enthalpy diRerence between the
discharge and suction to its isentropic coe@cient of performance 4is:
(hd — hs)
W = ṁ c . (6)
4is

2.2. Thvottle – capillavy tube

Calculations of the mass flow rate within the capillary tube depend upon the flow condition. When the
critical mass flow rate is reached ṁcr , Bittle et al.’s
( correlation
) [7] is used for estimation of the mass flow rate
across the capillary tube: Σ
Σ . Σ .
. 2 Σl.369 . Σ . u µ — µ 0.265
ṁ cr dc p in L c —0.484 d 2 C c AT pf sc Σ
0.0l9
. c2 fg —0.824 g 0.773 f g
= l.893 d 2h2 ,
dµ u µ2 d u 2 µ2 uµ u µ

c f ff c ff f f f g

(7)
2 0.4l7
. Σ—0.740 —0.646

ṁcr dc pin . Σ
. 836.9
Σ Lc ug . (8)
dc µf u µ2 (l — x)0.98l
= f f
dc uf
Note that Eq. (7) is valid for a subcooled inlet condition and Eq. (8) is appropriate for an inlet situation
having the quality, x. All the thermophysical and thermodynamic properties used in Eqs. (7) and (8) are
based on the temperature and pressure of the flow of the refrigerant at the inlet of the capillary tube. Related
thermophysical and thermodynamic properties of refriger- ants are obtained from REFPROP [8]. It should
pointed out that N.
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Bittle et al. [7] is only applicable for the critical flow condition. If the condition for throttling did not reach the
critical flow condition, the mass flow rate across the capillary tube can be ap- proximated by the
homogeneous flow . assumption:
.
dcpl
nd 2cpl

ṁcpl = Σ
4 4Lcpl ƒ 2. pcond — pevp q̄, (9)

where Lcpl and dcpl are the length and the inner diameter of the capillary tube, respectively q̄ is the average density
of the refrigerant inside the tube, and f is the corresponding Fanning friction factor for the two-phase
homogeneous flow.

2.3. Condenrev and euapovatov

The inlet state of the condenser is assumed to be equal to the state of the discharge outlet of the compressor
pcond pd, T2 Td(. The capacity
= of
=the)condenser, Qcond, can be calculated from the energy equation and the
corresponding rating equation:
Σ
Qcond = ṁc Ahi = ṁc[(h2 — h3 ) ‡ (h3 — h4 ) ‡ (h4 — h5 )] = ṁc (h2 — h5 ), (l0)
Σ
Qcond = UiÆi ATi
. Σ . Σ . Σ
= U sup Æ sup T̄2–3 — T̄a 2–3 ‡ UcondÆcond Tcond — T̄a cond ‡ Usub Æsub T̄4–5 — T̄a 4–5 .

(ll)
The calculated results of Eqs. (l0) and (ll) allow to determine the refrigerant states 3–5 (Fig. 2) for
subsequent evaluation.
Similarly, calculations of the cooling capacity in the evaporator Qevp are:
Qevp = ṁevp (hl — h6 )¡ (l2)
. Σ . Σ
Qevp = Uevp,s Æevp,s T̄a,evp — Tevp ‡ Uevp,s Æevp, sup T̄a,evp — T̄eva, sup . (l3)

In Eqs. (ll) and (l3), U, A, and AT are the overall heat transfer coe@cients, area of the heat exchanger
and eRective temperature diRerences for the condenser and evaporator (the indexes are referred to the states in
Fig. 2: the process 2–3 is cooling of the superheated vapor, 3–4 is saturated condensation and 4–5 is subcooling
of the liquid phase). Tcond, Tevp, To, Ta are the temperatures ofcondensation, evaporation and ambient
temperatures of the air flow in the condenser and evaporator, respectively.
As aforementioned, at refrigerant charge M > Mmin, any insignificant increment of mass chargewill overflow the
condenser and increase the temperature and pressure of condensation. For this range of the refrigerant mass
charge, we have derived an equation that gives the connection be- tween the increment of the refrigerant
charge and the change of condensing temperatures as follows.
The condenser operates in a stable regime under a heat load Q, thus,
Q = UÆ(Tcond — Ta), (l4)
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where the overall heat transfer coe@cient is based on the tube surface area nDL . At(= the first )approximation,
the small amount of refrigerant charge AM added to the system is assumed to stay in the condenser. Thus,
n D
AM = D2ALqr = AÆqr. (l5)
4 4
For the constant heat load Q assumption, at the equilibrium situation, the condenser tries to compensate
for the loss of heat exchanger surface Æ AÆ . This — lead
( will ) to an increase of the condensation
temperature, i.e.

Q = U(Æ — AÆ)(Tcrond— Tair). (l6)

Combining Eqs. (l4) and (l6) to yield


(Tcrond — Tair )/(Tcond — Tair ) = l/(l — AÆ/Æ). (l7)
By rearranging Eqs. (l5) and (l7), one can reach the following relation:
l T r — T̄a
= cond . (l8)

l — nd 2 4AM
qrL3—4
Tcond — T̄a

cond

Here, AM is the increment of the mass charge, L3–4 and dcond are the length and the inner dia- meter of the
tubes of the condenser, respectively where the condensation 3–4 takes place; T̄a is the average temperature of the
air; Tcond and Tcrond are the related condensation temperatures before and after mass charge AM; qr is the
saturated liquid density. Eq. (l8) was obtained under the condition of a constant heat load in the condenser.
Therefore, the temperature and pressure of
condensation, evaluated from Eq. (l8), should be elaborated between the dependence of the heat load of the
condenser and the mass charge of the refrigerant. Therefore, iterations are needed before the final state is
reached.
To evaluate correctly the refrigerant mass charge into the system, it is essential to keep track of the major
influential parameters, namely the mean densities within the condenser and evaporator and that at the outlet
states of the condenser and evaporator. Apparently, the outlet of the condenser determines the throttling
process. As discussed previously, iterations are needed to obtain the final state. For the present study, the ith
iteration of the associated refrigerant mixture densities is given as:

Mi ‡ AMi
q̄i = , (l9 )
Vcond
q ‡ qi3
q̄ = i2 , (20)
i2—3
2
l = ū (l ‡ xi4 )
i = (l — x̄i)ur ‡ x̄i urr ¡ x̄i = , (2l)
3—4
q̄i3—4 i i
2

qi4 ‡ qi5
q̄i4—5 = 2 , (22)
N. Vjacherlau et al. / Enevgy Conuevrion and Management 42 (2DDl) 2D83–2D95 2091
l l r rr

= = ui4 = (l — xi4)ui ‡ xi4ui , 0™ xi4™ l


qiexit qi4 (23)

qi exit= qi5, hi5(T5, pi cond) c hri(pi cond).


From Eqs. (l9)–(23), the average densities in the whole condenser can be evaluated. The subscript
indexes in Eqs. (l9)–(23) correspond to the states of the cycle shown in Fig. 2. From Eq. (l9), the inlet density qi
exit into the throttling device is also calculated by considering the state of the flow. The inlet properties were
input into the throttling Eqs. (8) and (9). The value of the average quality x̄i of the flow from Eq. (l4) is used
for evaluation of the average density of the refrigerant in the region of the two-phase flow in the
condenser.
Analogous equations for the evaporator like Eqs. (l9)–(23) were used for evaluation of the mass of the
refrigerant. For each refrigerant mass charge, it is assumed that the specific enthalpy at the inlet of the
evaporator is equal to that of the outlet ofthe condenser, i.e. h6 pevp h5 pcond . The proposed(equations
) = Eqs.
( (2)–)
(23) set the general basis for obtaining the refrigerant charge. In addition, there is still need for some auxiliary
information to evaluate the above-mentioned al- gorithm. For instance, the related heat transfer coe@cients
on the air side and tube side, the heat transfer zones within the condenser and evaporator will be determined
during the iteration process. These basic information can be found from Ref. [9].

3. Algorithm of solution

Basically, the solution algorithm consists of two iteration loops. The inner iteration loop is as follows:

(l) Given an evaporation pressure.


(2) Guess the suction temperature and a condensation pressure (using Eq. (l8)) as the first
approximation).
(3) Use the compressor model shown in Eqs. (4)–(6), calculate ṁ, Tdisch and the specific work of compressor.
(4) Calculate the condenser outlet state from the condenser model using the results from step (3).
(5) Calculate the evaporator outlet state using the results from step (3), then compare the outlet temperature to
the guessed value of step (2). If the outlet state is not the same, repeat steps (2)–(5).

After the convergence of the inner iteration loop, the outer iteration loop is started for finding the
condensation temperature:

(l) Based on the calculated results of the inner loop, evaluate the critical mass flow rate ṁcr . If the mass flow
rate obtained from the inner loop is greater than the critical mass flow rate, then the condensation pressure must
be adjusted to a lower value and the inner iteration loop must be repeated again.
(2) If the mass flow rate obtained from the inner loop is lower than the critical mass flow rate, use Eq. (9) to
obtain the evaporation pressure. If the evaporation pressure is not equal to the
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initial guess, then the condensation pressure must be adjusted, and the inner iteration loop must be started
again.

After the convergence of the inner and outer iteration loops, one can use Eqs. (2) and (3) to obtain the
mass charge.

4. Results of calculation

An example of the calculations, demonstrating the influence of the refrigerant mass charge on the COP of
an air conditioner using refrigerant R-4l0A, is presented below. The rated condition of the air conditioner is
given in the following.

Cooling capacity Qevp = 3 kW


Evaporation temperature and pressure Tevp = 7°C, pevp = l0 bar
Ambient temperature Tamb = 35°C
Condensation temperature and pressure Tcond = 45°C, pcond = 27.5 bar
Designed COP COP = 3.5 (subject to 4is = 0.8)
Compressor – reciprocating type V̇c = 59.34 × l0—5 m3/s

Throttling device – capillary tube Lcpl = l m, dcpl = l.5 × l0—3 m


Tube designation in condenser Lcond = 28.27 m, dcond = 8.9 × 0—3 m
Tube designation in Evaporator Levp = l2.5 m, devp = 8.9 × l0—3 m

Figs. 3–6 show the results of the calculations. In Fig. 3, the calculated results of COP(M) as a function to
refrigerant charge is illustrated. As seen in the figure, the calculated results show an optimal value of COP(M)
near a refrigerant mass charge of 0.4 kg. The optimal condition cor- responds, approximately to a state
having the condenser fully condensed. However, as noted out earlier, this design point may not be stable due
to slight variations of ambient conditions. In practice, one would design the condenser outlet with a certain
amount of subcooling. At the left of the optimal value, one can observe a sharp rise of COP vs. refrigerant
charge. As shown in the case of Fig. l(c), the sharp rise is associated with the eRective cooling capacity
caused by the eRective latent heat transport in the two phase region of refrigerant flow. At the right of
the optimal COP, a mild decrease of COP vs. mass charge is seen. This is because of flooding in the
condenser that may result in higher system pressure. As a consequence, a significant increase of the required
work from the compressor is expected. Fig. 4 is the schematic of the related state of the calculated results
subjected to refrigerant charge variation that gives a clear picture of the extreme COP phenomenon vs.
mass refrigerant charge.
Comparison of the calculated results to the experimental measurements from Ref. [5] are shown depicted in
Fig. 3. One can see that the calculated results show a maximum COP that is analogous to the phenomenon of the
measured results. The calculated COP is about l5–20% higher than that of the measurements. This is because
we did not take into account the mechanical losses of the compressor and the connections piping in the
present simulation. The phenomenon of a sharp rise and mild decrease of the COP before and after the
optimal value is quite similar between
2092 N. Vjacherlau et al. / Enevgy Conuevrion and Management 42 (2DDl) 2D83–2D95

Fig. 3. Comparison of the calculated results of COP vs. refrigerant charge and the ex-perimental data by Ref. [5].

the calculated results and the measured data. However, the optimal mass charge during the experiments
is close to 0.65 kg as compared to the calculated results of 0.4 kg. The discrepancy between the calculated
results and the experimental data are twofold. Firstly, the present model does not include the component of a
receiver–accumulator. As is known, an accumulator is often implemented to prevent liquid compression.
Notice that the internal volume of the accumulator used in the experiments is about l l0—3 m3. If 25% of the
volume is occupied by the liquid refrigerant,
× summation of the calculated results with the refrigerant in the
accumulator will ex- actly coincide with the experimental results. Secondly, as reported by Wei et al. [l0], in the
prac- tical implementation of an air conditioning system, instead of a straight tube, a coiling capillary is often
used. Depending on the coiling diameter, the reduction of mass flow rate across the capillary tube can be reduced
as much as l2% in comparison with the straight tube. Eqs. (7)–(9) are only applicable for straight tubes.
Hence, one can expect that the calculated results show a lower optimal mass charge.
Fig. 5 shows the cooling capacity qevp(M) and the specific work of the compressor lc(M) vs.refrigerant
charge. The value of the specific work of the compressor lc was calculated based on 4is 0.8. It is seen that the
specific
= work of the compressor reveals a minimum value near the maximal value of the COP. It is also
noted that the specific work increased gradually after the optimal mass charge. Part of the results is attributed
to the increase of condensing pressure and evaporation temperature. An increase of evaporation temperature
will reduce the eRective cooling capacity. The pressure and the temperature in the condenser vs. mass
charge are depicted in
N. Vjacherlau et al. / Enevgy Conuevrion and Management 42 (2DDl) 2D83–2D95 2093

Fig. 4. Schematic of the relation of COP to mass refrigerant charge for the present simulation.

Fig. 5. Variation of cooling capacity qevp and specific work of compressor to refrigerant mass charge.
2094 N. Vjacherlau et al. / Enevgy Conuevrion and Management 42 (2DDl) 2D83–2D95

Fig. 6. Variation of pressures and temperatures in evaporator and in condenser to refrigerant mass charge.

Fig. 6. As shown in Fig. 6, for mass charges M > 0.75 kg, the temperature may increase to an
unacceptable value. This is because the evaporation temperature is above l0°C which will sig- nificantly
reduce the eRective temperature diRerence and eventually decrease the cooling capacity by more than l5%. In
addition, the increase of suction temperature will deteriorate the com- pressor e@ciency. As a the summary,
refrigerant overcharge may decrease the eRective cooling
capacity and overheat the suction temperature which will cause a pronounced performance drop.

5. Conclusions

In this study, a rationally based algorithm was proposed to evaluate the optimal mass charge into
refrigerating machines. The model can take into account the major components of the re- frigerating system,
namely the condenser, evaporator, expansion device and compressor. The calculated results indicate that the
system performance is strongly related to the refrigerant mass charge. In the early stage of refrigerant charge,
it is found that a sharp rise of COP is observed. The COP reaches an optimal value for a specified refrigerant
charge, and shows a slight drop for a further increase of refrigerant charge. The calculated results give an
identical trend to those of experimental data. In addition, the calculated optimal COP shows a lower value of
refrigerant mass charge. The deviation is due to the presence of an accumulator in actual system design and
the cooling eRect of the capillary tube. The analysis of the study can well interpret the cycle transformation
subject to refrigerant mass charge.
N. Vjacherlau et al. / Enevgy Conuevrion and Management 42 (2DDl) 2D83–2D95 2095

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to express gratitude for the Energy R&D foundation funding from the Energy
Commission of the Ministry of Economic ARairs, which provides financial supports of the current study.

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