Development of Refrigerant Change Indicator and Dirty Air Filter Sensor

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The most common problems affecting residential and light commercial heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems are slow refrigerant leaks and dirty air filters. Equipment users are usually not aware of a problem until most of the refrigerant has escaped or the air filter is clogged with dirt. While a dirty air filter can be detected with a technology based on the air pressure differential across the filter, such as a ''whistling'' indicator, it is not easy to incorporate this technology into existing HVAC diagnostic equipment. Oak Ridge National Laboratory is developing a low-cost, nonintrusive refrigerant charge indicator and dirty air ... continued below

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Mei, V. June 24, 2003.

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Description

The most common problems affecting residential and light commercial heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems are slow refrigerant leaks and dirty air filters. Equipment users are usually not aware of a problem until most of the refrigerant has escaped or the air filter is clogged with dirt. While a dirty air filter can be detected with a technology based on the air pressure differential across the filter, such as a ''whistling'' indicator, it is not easy to incorporate this technology into existing HVAC diagnostic equipment. Oak Ridge National Laboratory is developing a low-cost, nonintrusive refrigerant charge indicator and dirty air filter detection sensor. The sensors, based on temperature measurements, will be inexpensive and easy to incorporate into existing heat pumps and air conditioners. The refrigerant charge indicator is based on the fact that when refrigerant starts to leak, the evaporator coil temperature starts to drop and the level of liquid subcooling drops. When the coil temperature or liquid subcooling drops below a preset reading, a signal, such as a yellow warning light, can be activated to warn the equipment user that the system is undercharged. A further drop of coil temperature or liquid subcooling below another preset reading would trigger a second warning signal, such as a red warning light, to warn the equipment user that the unit now detects a leak and immediate action should be taken. The warning light cannot be turned off until it is re-set by a refrigeration repairman. To detect clogged air filters, two additional temperature sensors can be applied, one each across the evaporator. When the air filter is accumulating buildup, the temperature differential across the evaporator will increase because of the reduced airflow. When the temperature differential reaches a pre-set reading, a signal will be sent to the equipment user that the air filter needs to be changed. A traditional refrigerant charge indicator requires intrusion into the system to measure the refrigerant high-side and low-side pressures. Once the pressures are known, based on the equipment's refrigerant charging chart? or in most cases, based on the technician's experience? the refrigerant charging status is determined. However, there is a catch: by the time a refrigeration technician is called, most of the refrigerant has already escaped into the atmosphere. The new technology provides a real-time warning so that when, say, 20% of the refrigerant has leaked, the equipment users will be warned, even though the equipment is still functioning properly at rated capacity. Temperature sensors are becoming very accurate and very low in cost, compared with pressure sensors. Using temperature sensors to detect refrigerant charge status is inherently nonintrusive, inexpensive, and accurate. With the addition of two temperature sensors for detecting dirty air filters, the capability of the diagnostic equipment is further enhanced with very little added cost. This report provides laboratory test data on the change of indoor coil refrigerant temperature and subcooling as a function of refrigerant charge for a 2-ton split heat pump system. The data can be used in designing the indicators for refrigerant loss and dirty air filter sensors.

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  • Report No.: ORNL/CON-489
  • Grant Number: DE-AC05-00OR22725
  • DOI: 10.2172/885564 | External Link
  • Office of Scientific & Technical Information Report Number: 885564
  • Archival Resource Key: ark:/67531/metadc891713

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Office of Scientific & Technical Information Technical Reports

Reports, articles and other documents harvested from the Office of Scientific and Technical Information.

Office of Scientific and Technical Information (OSTI) is the Department of Energy (DOE) office that collects, preserves, and disseminates DOE-sponsored research and development (R&D) results that are the outcomes of R&D projects or other funded activities at DOE labs and facilities nationwide and grantees at universities and other institutions.

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  • June 24, 2003

Added to The UNT Digital Library

  • Sept. 23, 2016, 2:42 p.m.

Description Last Updated

  • Nov. 23, 2016, 3:40 p.m.

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Mei, V. Development of Refrigerant Change Indicator and Dirty Air Filter Sensor, report, June 24, 2003; [Tennessee]. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc891713/: accessed November 24, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.