How do ammonia refrigeration systems work?

To start off, refrigeration systems essentially move heat out of one area to another leaving an area cooler than it was before. This process is the basic transfer of energy by moving it from one place to the next with the use of vapor compression. Think of this process as similar to sweating, it keeps humans cool because the water evaporating off our bodies takes body heat with it.There are four essential components to a refrigeration system: a compressor, condenser, expansion device, and an evaporator. Traditionally, refrigerators have one compressor, but newer models are coming out with two to be able to push the refrigerant around more efficiently.

If any one of these components is broken the refrigerator will immediately stop working since all of them are necessary for it to function properly.

The basic explanation of how one of these refrigerators functions is as follows:

  1. Ammonia gas is compressed which causes it to heat up due to the rise in pressure.
  2. Condensation coils on the back of the refrigerator let the hot compressed ammonia gas release its heat.
  3. Still under high pressure, liquid ammonia condensation is formed.
  4. The high-pressure ammonia liquid makes its way to the expansion valve. This is a small hole where on one side the high-pressure ammonia liquid resides and on the other there is a low-pressure area.
  5. Once the ammonia goes through the expansion valve, entering a location with a low-pressure and evaporation coils, it will then begin to boil and vaporize. This lowers the temperature to -27°
  6. The cold ammonia gas is then sucked up by the compressor to begin the process again.

The temperature range and cooling ability of the refrigeration system depends on the kind of refrigerant it uses which then directly impacts the machine’s efficiency. With liquid ammonia being one of the best option for refrigerants, the temperature is able to be kept colder in comparison to other chlorofluorocarbons, hydro chlorofluorocarbons, hydro fluorocarbons, and natural refrigerants. The former three listed are known to be harmful to the environment by destroying the ozone layer in Earth’s atmosphere. Natural refrigerants like ammonia are not only cost effective and draw less power than normal refrigeration systems, but they are also safe to use when concerning the environment.


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