The Basic Refrigeration Cycle
Mechanical refrigeration is accomplished by continuously circulating, evaporating, and condensing a fixed supply of refrigerant in a closed system. Evaporation occurs at a low temperature and low pressure while condensation occurs at a high temperature and high pressure. Thus, it is possible to transfer heat from an area of low temperature (i.e., refrigerator cabinet) to an area of high temperature (i.e., kitchen).

Beginning the cycle at the evaporator inlet 1 the low pressure liquid expands, absorbs heat, and evaporates, changing to a low pressure gas at the evaporator outlet 2. The compressor 4 pumps this gas from the evaporator through the accumulator 3, increases its pressure, and discharges the high pressure gas to the condenser 5. The accumulator is designed to protect the compressor by preventing slugs of liquid refrigerant from passing directly into the compressor. An accumulator should be included on all systems subjected to varying load conditions or frequent compressor cycling. In the condenser, heat is removed from the gas, which then condenses and becomes a high pressure liquid. In some systems, this high pressure liquid drains from the condenser into a liquid storage or receiver tank 6. On other systems, both the receiver and the liquid line valve 7 are omitted

A heat exchanger 8 between the liquid line and the suction line is also an optional item, which may or may not be included in a given system design.

Between the condenser and the evaporator an expansion device 10 is located. Immediately before the expansion device there is a filter drier 9, which prevents plugging of the valve or tube by retaining scale, dirt, and moisture. The flow of refrigerant into the evaporator is controlled by the pressure differential across the expansion device of, in the case of a thermal expansion valve, by the degree of superheat of the suction gas. Thus, the thermal expansion valve show requires a sensor bulb located at the evaporator outlet. In any case, the flow of refrigerant into the evaporator normally increases as the evaporator load increases.

As the high pressure liquid refrigerant enters the evaporator, it is subjected to a much lower pressure due to the suction of the compressor and the pressure drop across the expansion device. Thus, the refrigerant tends to expand and evaporate. In order to evaporate, the liquid must absorb heat from the air passing over the evaporator.

Eventually, the desired air temperature is reached and the thermostat or cold control 11 will break the electrical circuit to the compressor motor and stop the compressor.

As the temperature of the air through the evaporator rises, the thermostat of cold control remakes the electrical circuit. The compressor starts, and the cycle continues.

In addition to the accumulator, a compressor crankcase heater 12 is included on many systems. This heater prevents accumulation of refrigerant in the compressor crankcase during the non-operating periods and prevents liquid slugging or oil pump out on startup.

Additional protection to the compressor and system is afforded by a high and low pressure cutout 13. This control is set to stop the compressor in the event that the system pressures rise above of fall below the design operating range.