Concern for the environmental effects of HFC-refrigerants as well as the use of flammable refrigerants has resulted in a need of decreasing the refrigerant charge in refrigeration and heat pump systems. This paper discusses the possibility of such reductions, both at the systems- and the component level. It is shown that a move towards indirect systems, using secondary refrigerants, on both the cold and the hot side of the system may result in considerable reduction of charge. However, this reduction may come at the cost of slightly reduced system performance, which in itself is detrimental from an environmental point of view. At the component level, it may be shown that the main contents of refrigerant is usually contained in the heat exchangers. By selecting compact designs the charge may be reduced to extremely low levels. Specifically, mini-channel heat exchangers can be used for reaching low charge. With proper selection of heat exchangers, the system performance should not be influenced by the reduction of charge. For indirect systems, the amount of refrigerant solved in the compressor oil may be comparable to the amount in the (compact) heat exchangers. A possible solution to reduce this amount is to use compressors with less oil. With components selected for minimum charge, the system design may be different than what is usual. Instead of a high pressure receiver and a thermostatic expansion valve, a capillary tube may be used in combination with a minimal low pressure receiver, similar to the system design used in household refrigerators. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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