The Sino - US CFC-Free Super-Efficient Refrigerator Project Progress Report: Prototype Design and Testing

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This report describes the Sino-US project to promote the transformation of the Chinese domestic refrigerator industry to the production of chlorofluorocarbon (CFC)-free, super-efficient models. Technologies examined in this effort include non-CFC refrigerants and foam-blowing agents, alternate refrigeration cycles, more efficient compressors, optimization of condenser and evaporator designs, increased insulation thickness, and improvements to door gaskets and controls.

Work completed through December 1995 at the China Household Electric Appliance Research Institute (CHEARI), the Haier Group, and the University of Maryland (U. Of Md.) includes the building and testing of Chinese refrigerators that contain a wide variety of energy efficiency improvements and no CFCs. Chinese consumer opinion research on the marketing of ozone-friendly, energy-efficient refrigerators has also been undertaken. Field testing was undertaken for one year in three Chinese cities to test the performance of units under actual operating conditions.

The key findings of these activities are:

  • Laboratory tests on a 220-liter, manual-defrost, bottom-freezer refrigerator popular in the Chinese market (the BCD-220 produced by the Haier Group, one of China's leading manufacturers) have demonstrated that conversion from (CFCs) to alternative refrigerants and foam-blowing agents can be achieved along with substantial energy savings. Table 1 shows the effect of technology improvements on energy savings. The savings indicated in Table 1 are indicative of the highest achieved in laboratory testing of all combinations of efficiency measures. The final prototype model, however, did not include the Lorenz cycle modification.
  • Laboratory test results for an improved CFC-free prototype, employing many of the tested efficiency measures, demonstrated about 40 percent energy savings.
  • Chinese consumer opinion research has shown:
    • Quality is the most important factor when a household refrigerator purchase is considered; and
    • Chinese consumers say they are willing to pay 20 percent more for a high quality product which consumes 40 percent less energy than currently available models.
  • Field testing has demonstrated that:
    • The new models showed significant energy savings in the field, though savings were lower than in laboratory tests;
    • Storage capacity and performance in maintaining food at the desired temperature are key factors in household acceptance of the new model; and
    • Noise level was found to be a concern with the new model.

Next steps for work to be completed under the project include modification of the prototype in response to consumer opinion research and field test results, and certification in accordance with internationally accepted standards. This work will be followed by application of energy efficient CFC-free design techniques to other Haier products, such as Haier's new BCD-268 model.

For other refrigerator manufacturers, the Sino-US Refrigerator Project demonstrates that it is technologically feasible to redesign household refrigerators commonly in use in China and other countries so as to simultaneously replace CFCs and significantly improve the refrigerator's energy efficiency. This substantial increase in energy efficiency can be obtained by adopting technically proven measures used individually by manufacturers in the past, but not heretofore combined in a single non ozone-depleting energy-efficient product design. The prototype developed through this project demonstrates that combination of these measures can result insignificant energy savings. These savings provide substantial economic and environmental benefits, as well as cost savings to consumers and a potential competitive benefit to manufacturers that adopt energy-efficient CFC-free technology.

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