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Title: Performance of Variable Capacity Heat Pumps in a Mixed Humid Climate

Variable capacity heat pumps represent the next wave of technology for heat pumps. In this report, the performance of two variable capacity heat pumps (HPs) is compared to that of a single or two stage baseline system. The units were installed in two existing research houses located in Knoxville, TN. These houses were instrumented to collect energy use and temperature data while both the baseline systems and variable capacity systems were installed. The homes had computer controlled simulated occupancy, which provided consistent schedules for hot water use and lighting. The temperature control and energy use of the systems were compared during both the heating and cooling seasons. Multiple linear regression models were used along with TMY3 data for Knoxville, TN in order to normalize the effect that the outdoor air temperature has on energy use. This enables a prediction of each system's energy use over a year with the same weather. The first system was a multi-split system consisting of 8 indoor units and a single outdoor unit. This system replaced a 16 SEER single stage HP with a zoning system, which served as the baseline. Data was collected on the baseline system from August 2009 to December 2010 andmore » on the multi-split system from January 2011 to January 2012. Soon after the installation of the multi-split system, some of the smaller rooms began over-conditioning. This was determined to be caused by a small amount of continuous refrigerant flow to all of the indoor units when the outdoor unit was running regardless of whether they were calling for heat. This, coupled with the fact that the indoor fans run continuously, was providing enough heat in some rooms to exceed the set point. In order to address this, the indoor fans were disabled when not actively heating per the manufacturer's recommendation. Based on the measured data, the multi-split system was predicted to use 40% more energy in the heating season and 16% more energy in the cooling season than the baseline system, for the typical meteorological year weather data. The AHRI ratings indicated that the baseline system would perform slightly better than the multi-split system, but not by as large of a margin as seen in this study. The multi-split system was able to maintain more consistent temperature throughout the house than the baseline system, but it did allow relative humidity levels to increase above 60% in the summer. The second system was a split system with an inverter driven compressor and a single ducted air handler. This unit replaced a 16 SEER two stage HP with a zoning system. Data was collected on the baseline system from July 2009 to November 2010 and on the ducted inverter system from December 2010 to January 2012. The ducted inverter system did not offer a zone controller, so it functioned as a single zone system. Due to this fact, the registers had to be manually adjusted in order to better maintain consistent temperatures between the two levels of the house. The predicted heating season energy use for the ducted inverter system, based on the measured energy use, was 30% less than that of the baseline system for the typical meteorological year. However, the baseline system was unable to operate in its high stage due to a wiring issue with the zone controller. This resulted in additional resistance heat use during the winter and therefore higher energy use than would be expected in a properly performing unit. The AHRI ratings would indicate that the baseline system would use less energy than the ducted inverter system, which is opposite to the results of this study. During the cooling season, the ducted inverter system was predicted to use 23% more energy than the baseline system during the typical meteorological year. This is also opposite of the results expected by comparing the AHRI ratings. After a detailed comparison of the ducted inverter system's power use compared to that of a recently installed identical system at a retro-fit study house, there is concern that the unit is not operating as intended. The power use and cycles indicate that the unit is performing more like a single stage unit than a variable capacity unit. Analysis of the data indicates that a change in operating behavior occurred during a service call shortly after the installation of the unit. The logbook only indicates that refrigerant charge was added, but does not indicate any other change. This is being investigated further. While the energy comparison results of these two variable capacity heat pumps is generally underwhelming, it is difficult to draw any hard conclusions about the maximum attainable efficiency of these units when optimally installed. Both units appear to have undesirable conditions associated with the installation or operation, which could have had an adverse effect on their energy use.« less
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  1. ORNL
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
BT0101000; RABT002; TRN: US201209%%519
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL); Building Technologies Research and Integration Center
Sponsoring Org:
EE USDOE - Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EE)
Country of Publication:
United States