Sustainable development of refrigerator systems using replacement environmentally acceptable refrigerants
Environmental considerations have led to the phase out of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) refrigerants from the domestic refrigeration industry. One intriguing aspect is that the chlorine in CFCs is a good lubricating agent and any deterioration of system performance may adversely influence other environmental considerations. Based on the above, the aim of this research is to address the sustainable development of domestic refrigeration systems using the replacement refrigerant HFC-134a. The work focuses on the emissions that may arise if the electrical consumption of the product deteriorates or its durability is curtailed. Tribological characteristics on compressor components influence both of these product attributes and therefore a thorough system analysis was carried out. An in-house built experimental test rig, which monitored slight variations in the electrical power drawn by a reciprocating hermetic compressor, was used under different experimental conditions. Furthermore, a detailed life cycle assessment on a domestic refrigerator was performed to help quantify the ensuing environmental burdens. In this way, a relation between tribological characteristics, power consumption and environmental impact was studied. Results have shown that the CFC substitute will increase friction and wear characteristics on the aluminium alloy connecting rod and the steel gudgeon pin. These characteristics led to an increase in the electrical energy consumption of the compressor such that the indirect global warming implications are set to rise with HFC-134a. If the sustainable development of this product is to be ascertained then a change in refrigerants alone will not suffice. New design considerations, primarily aimed at servicing and extending the life of the hermetic compressor itself, are considered. This work helps stimulate new ideas to address environmental issues influenced by traditional engineering disciplines. For this reason additional future research work, which will help determine these implications further, is outlined.