18 May 2017
Oak Ridge National laboratory (ORNL) recently conducted extensive laboratory, drop-in investigations for lower Global Warming Potential (GWP) refrigerants to replace R-22 and R-410A. ORNL studied propane, DR-3, ARM-20B, N-20B and R-444B as lower GWP refrigerant replacement for R-22 in a mini-split room air conditioner (RAC) originally designed for R-22; and, R-32, DR-55, ARM-71A, and L41-2, in a mini-split RAC designed for R-410A. We obtained laboratory testing results with very good energy balance and nominal measurement uncertainty. Drop-in studies are not enough to judge the overall performance of the alternative refrigerants since their thermodynamic and transport properties might favor different heat exchanger configurations, e.g. cross-flow, counter flow, etc. This study compares optimized performances of individual refrigerants using a physics-based system model tools. The DOE/ORNL Heat Pump Design Model (HPDM) was used to model the mini-split RACs by inputting detailed heat exchangers geometries, compressor displacement and efficiencies as well as other relevant system components. The RAC models were calibrated against the lab data for each individual refrigerant. The calibrated models were then used to conduct a design optimization for the cooling performance by varying the compressor displacement to match the required capacity, and changing the number of circuits, refrigerant flow direction, tube diameters, air flow rates in the condenser and evaporator at 100% and 50% cooling capacities. This paper compares the optimized performance results for all alternative refrigerants and highlights best candidates for R-22 and R-410A replacement.