Revealing and optimizing the design of cover installation for outdoor units of air conditioners through CFD simulations and thermodynamic modeling

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Journal Article

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When renewing building facades in most Chinese cities, covers are often designed and installed to conceal the outdoor units of residential split air conditioners for congruousness of building facades. However, how those covers impact airflow and energy efficiency should be thoroughly examined. This study investigates two popular designs of cover (louver and circular-hole) and
selects Nanjing, renowned for its hot summers, as the case city. This study employs Computational Fluid Dynamics models to simulate airflow obstruction caused by the covers surrounding the outdoor units. Grey Model, trained from the CFD results, quantifies interactions between design of cover and inlet air temperature. Additionally, a thermodynamic model assesses the
covers’ impact on the coefficient of performance of air conditioners. The findings reveal that the primary cause of outdoor unit overheating is warm air backflow from the outlet to the inlet. A mere 1 ◦C increase in inlet air temperature can reduce COP by 4.1%–8.7%. The maximum temperature differences caused by different designs of cover are 4.5 ◦C for the louver type and
4.4 ◦C for the circular-hole type. To mitigate these negative impacts, optimal design recommendations are provided: a minimum distance between the cover and outdoor unit of 0.29 m for louver type and 0.1 m for circular-hole type, both feasible in most installations. These findings can help designers, manufacturers, installers and policymakers, to facilitate the design and installation of optimal covers for outdoor air-conditioning units, thus minimizing energy efficiency losses.


Journal of Building Engineering



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