Refrigerant-based electric scroll compressors are known for their reliability, efficiency, and quiet operation. They are often used in heat pump systems due to their ability to efficiently handle varying levels of load conditions, both for heating and cooling modes of operation. As electric compressors are considered the heart of the heat pump system, being able to determine degradation of compressors prior to failure is of paramount importance for the health of this system. Typical failures for electric scroll compressors range from electrical faults, refrigerant leaks, to mechanical failures and overheating. Specifically, one of the primary failure modes for an electric scroll compressor is mechanical damage due to the high stress effects of refrigerant liquid slugging. These stresses are due to excessively high internal pressures exhibited on the compressor scrolls, which are generated by compressing liquid refrigerant at the suction side of the compressor. This paper provides a new testing methodology that introduces liquid slugging at various degrees of refrigerant quality to degrade a compressor to near the end of useful life. Furthermore, this test aims to determine specific operating conditions and signals that can indicate early compressor degradation. This fault injection configuration consists of a modified heat pump system with the addition of two low pressure heat exchangers added in parallel (with respective electronically controlled expansion valve for each heat exchanger) used to control the refrigerant quality during compressor operations. For a given refrigerant quality, the heat pump system was operated at a fixed compressor performance conditions to sustain liquid slugging for a fixed duration. Afterwards, refrigerant was controlled to be pure vapor at the compressor suction side and the compressor was controlled at several different performance conditions (i.e., fixed compressor suction superheat temperature and compressor pressure ratios, at various compressor speeds), so as to duplicate conditions known to us from the compressor component data sheet for an ideal electric scroll compressor. Through these tests, the results show that the severity of scroll failures depend heavily on the refrigerant quality and the amount of liquid slugging exposure time. Furthermore, symptoms of compressor degradation are detected using the following signals: i) temperature and pressure at the compressor suction side, ii) temperature and pressure at the compressor discharge side, and iii) electric compressor speed and power consumption. To further aid in determining the compressor degradation ground truth, complete compressor teardown was performed to identify sections within the compressor that exhibited significant amounts of wear as compared to a stock compressor.
How to Cite
Scroll compressor, Heat pump, Refrigerant, Liquid slugging, Accelerated degradation test
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