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This thesis presents a system approach with the aim to develop improved concepts for small capacity, high temperature lift air-water heat pumps. These are intended to replace fuel fired heating systems in the residential sector, which leads to a major reduction of the local greenhouse gas emissions. Unfavorable temperature conditions set by the existing heat distribution systems and by the use of atmospheric air, as the only accessible heat source, have to be overcome. The proposed concepts are intended to cover the total application range and to provide the full heat demand without any additional (electric) heat supply. A systematic approach, using a multi objective optimization tool, has been applied to evaluate possible alternate refrigerants, which perform best, regarding to the system COP and the specific heat output. All the optimal refrigerant blends are composed by flammable refrigerants and a potential increase of the COP of 8% (compared to the commercial blend R-407C) has been determined. These potential improvements highly depend on the acceptance to use flammable refrigerants, as can be shown by this evaluation. The standard concepts of small capacity heat pumps suffer from a restricted application range and show highly decreasing performances (COP and provided heat) at extreme operating conditions. From the examination of the thermodynamic cycle, different improved concepts are proposed and are assembled in a generalized super-configuration. The most promising concepts have been built as prototype units and have been tested in laboratory. These concepts are: a) the two-stage compression cycles with economizer heat exchanger or b) with economizer flash tank at the intermediate pressure level, c) the booster-compressor setup, d) the one-stage compression cycle including a new developed hermetic compressor, which enables intermediate injection of saturated vapor flow and e) a small capacity auxiliary cycle for liquid subcooling. In all these concepts the application range could be extended, by achieving reduced discharge temperatures and the heat rate provided at extreme operating conditions could be substantially increased (20%-35%, +100% for the booster setup), using the same compressor and evaporator size. System COP has been improved (~5%) over a large application range, and specifically in high temperature lift operating conditions. The experimental evaluation reveals the major problem of unbalanced oil migration in two-stage compression cycles (except for the booster concept). An extensive evaluation has been applied, to analyze the oil migration in two-stage compression heat pumps. A new developed measurement technique, using a Fourier Transform Infrared Spectrometry combined with a high pressure supporting ATR cell, has been calibrated (with a lower detection limit at 0.2% - 0.4%, and a sensitivity of 0.1%) with the used refrigerant-oil mixtures (R-134a/POE oil and R-407C/POE oil). It has been applied to perform on-line oil concentration measurements during two-stage and one-stage steady stage and during transitory operating modes. A generalized steady state simulation model has been developed including namely the new developed compressor model with an intermediate injection port, considering the geometrical flow path of the tested prototype compressors. A flow map based extensive heat transfer model is integrated into a finned tube evaporator model and taking into account oil effects on the heat transfer. General models of plate heat exchangers and for capillary tube expansion devices complete this modular simulation model, on which the concepts of the super-configuration can be calculated and some parametric analysis has been performed. An in house developed fluid interface module includes the fluid properties calculation program Refprop and allows to define new mixtures or to use the large number of predefined refrigerants.