Investigation of vapor injection heat pump system with a flash tank utilizing R410A and low-GWP refrigerant R32

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Xu, Xing
Radermacher, Reinhard
Vapor injection technique has proven to be effective in improving heat pump system performance, especially for cooling application at high ambient and heating application at low ambient temperature conditions. Recent research on vapor injection technique has been mostly focused on the internal heat exchanger cycle and flash tank cycle. The flash tank cycle typically shows better performance than the internal heat exchanger cycle. However, the flash tank cycle control strategy is not yet clearly defined. Improper system control strategy would result in undesirable amount of liquid refrigerant injected to the compressor or poor system performance. In this research work, a novel cycle control strategy for a residential R-410A vapor injection flash tank heat pump system was developed and experimentally investigated. The proposed cycle control strategy utilizes an electronic expansion valve (EEV) coupled with a proportional-integral-derivative (PID) controller for the upper-stage expansion and a thermostatic expansion valve (TXV) for the lower-stage expansion, and applies a small electric heater in the vapor injection line to introduce superheat to the injected vapor thus providing a control signal to the upper-stage EEV. The proposed control strategy functions effectively for both transient and steady-state operating conditions. As global warming has raised more critical concerns in recent years, refrigerants with high global warming potentials (GWP) are facing the challenges of being phased out. R410A, with a GWP of 2,088, has been widely used in residential air-conditioners and heat pump systems. A potential substitute for R410A is R32, which has a GWP of 675. This research work also investigates the performance difference using R410A and R32 in a vapor-injected heat pump system. A drop-in test was performed using R32 in a heat pump system that is designed to utilize R410A, for both cooling and heating conditions. Through experimentation, it was found that there was improvement for capacity and coefficient of performance (COP) using R32, as compared to an identical cycle using R410A. The compressor, heat exchangers and two-stage vapor injection cycle have been modeled and validated against experimental data to facilitate an optimization study. Heat exchangers were optimized using 5 mm copper tubes and result in significant cost reduction while maintaining the same capacity. Compressor cooling was investigated to decrease the high compressor discharge temperature for R32.