Title:
Microclimate creator system and method for cooling units
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A system and method for use with a cooling unit including a condenser. In one embodiment, the system comprises a fog creator and a residue collection component. The fog creator includes water-emitting components and a control device. The water-emitting components are configured to be positioned proximate to the cooling unit and to emit water that produces a fog zone external to the cooling unit. The control device is configured to control a supply of water to the water-emitting components. The residue collection component is configured to be positioned proximate to coils of the condenser, to protect the condenser coils from residue buildup, and to allow outside air cooled by the fog zone to flow to the condenser coils.



Inventors:
Liu, Mingsheng (Omaha, NE, US)
Application Number:
11/490538
Publication Date:
02/01/2007
Filing Date:
07/20/2006
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
62/121
International Classes:
F28D5/00; F28C1/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
ABDUR RAHIM, AZIM
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MICHAEL BEST & FRIEDRICH LLP (Mke) (100 E WISCONSIN AVENUE Suite 3300, MILWAUKEE, WI, 53202, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A system for use with a cooling unit including a condenser, the system comprising: a fog creator including a plurality of water-emitting components configured to be positioned proximate to the cooling unit and to emit water, the emitted water producing a fog zone external to the cooling unit, and a control device configured to control a supply of water to the water-emitting components; and a residue collection component configured to be positioned proximate to coils of the condenser, to protect the condenser coils from residue buildup, and to allow outside air cooled by the fog zone to flow to the condenser coils.

2. The system of claim 1, wherein the cooling unit comprises an air conditioner.

3. The system of claim 1, wherein the water-emitting components comprise nozzles.

4. The system of claim 1, wherein the control device comprises a valve having an operational state that is dependent on an operational state of a compressor of the cooling unit.

5. The system of claim 1, wherein the residue collection component comprises a plurality of louvers.

6. The system of claim 5, further comprising a plurality of guide rings configured to receive the louvers.

7. The system of claim 1, wherein residue includes at least one of mineral residue, water mist, and dust.

8. The system of claim 1, further comprising the cooling unit.

9. The system of claim 1, further comprising a pump configured to increase pressure of water from the water supply.

10. The system of claim 1, wherein the fog creator further comprises at least one conduit configured to link the water-emitting components with the control device.

11. A method for use with a cooling unit including a condenser, the method comprising: supplying water to water-emitting components positioned proximate to the cooling unit; producing, by the water-emitting components, a fog zone external to the cooling unit; preventing, by a residue collection component, residue from collecting on coils of the condenser; and receiving, by the condenser coils, outside air cooled by the fog zone.

12. The method of claim 11, wherein water is selectively supplied to the water-emitting components.

13. The method of claim 12, wherein water is supplied to the water-emitting components when a compressor of the cooling unit is enabled.

14. The method of claim 12, wherein water is supplied to the water-emitting components based at least in part on sensed relative humidity of outside air.

15. The method of claim 11, wherein the cooling unit comprises a commercial rooftop unit.

16. An installation method for a cooling unit including a condenser, the method comprising: positioning a plurality of water-emitting components proximate to the cooling unit, the water-emitting components configured to emit water, the emitted water producing a fog zone external to the cooling unit; coupling the water-emitting components to a control device, the control device configured to control a supply of water to the water-emitting components; coupling the control device to the water supply; and positioning a residue collection component proximate to coils of the condenser, the residue collection component configured to protect the condenser coils from residue buildup, and to allow outside air cooled by the fog zone to flow to the condenser coils.

17. The method of claim 16, wherein the residue collection component comprises a plurality of louvers, the method further comprising threading the louvers onto a plurality of guide rings.

18. The method of claim 16, wherein the cooling unit is an existing cooling unit being retrofitted by the installation method.

Description:

RELATED APPLICATION

This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/701,684, filed Jul. 22, 2005, the entire contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD

Embodiments of the invention relate generally to cooling units. More specifically, embodiments of the invention relate to systems and methods to improve performance of air-cooled condensing systems.

BACKGROUND

Various cooling units, such as residential air conditioning (A/C) units, commercial rooftop A/C units, and air-cooled chillers, employ fans that blow air over condenser coils in order to dissipate heat (to the outside air) and cold (to the area(s) being cooled).

SUMMARY

The following summary sets forth certain exemplary embodiments of the invention. It does not set forth all such embodiments and is not limiting of embodiments of the invention.

Embodiments of the invention relate to systems and methods to improve performance of air-cooled condensing systems.

In one embodiment, a system for use with a cooling unit that includes a condenser comprises a fog creator and a residue collection component. The fog creator includes water-emitting components and a control device. The water-emitting components are configured to be positioned proximate to the cooling unit and to emit water that produces a fog zone external to the cooling unit. The control device is configured to control a supply of water to the water-emitting components. The residue collection component is configured to be positioned proximate to coils of the condenser, to protect the condenser coils from residue buildup, and to allow outside air cooled by the fog zone to flow to the condenser coils.

In another embodiment, a method for use with a cooling unit that includes a condenser comprises supplying water to water-emitting components positioned proximate to the cooling unit; producing, by the water-emitting components, a fog zone external to the cooling unit; preventing, by a residue collection component, residue from collecting on coils of the condenser; and receiving, by the condenser coils, outside air cooled by the fog zone.

In another embodiment, an installation method for a cooling unit that includes a condenser comprises positioning water-emitting components proximate to the cooling unit. The water-emitting components are configured to emit water to produce a fog zone external to the cooling unit. The installation method further comprises coupling the water-emitting components to a control device that is configured to control a supply of water to the water-emitting components; coupling the control device to the water supply; and positioning a residue collection component proximate to coils of the condenser. The residue collection component is configured to protect the condenser coils from residue buildup, and to allow outside air cooled by the fog zone to flow to the condenser coils.

Various embodiments herein can enable an air-cooled condensing system to perform at a level consistent with the performance level of water-cooled systems, while avoiding the need for a costly cooling tower and eliminating associated maintenance costs. Moreover, various embodiments herein can be incorporated in existing or new systems. Because of reduced energy costs that can be realized by various embodiments herein, incremental implementation costs can be recouped over time.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows a system according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 2 shows a perspective view of a microclimate creator according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 3 shows a cross-sectional view of the microclimate creator of FIG. 2.

FIGS. 4A, 4B, and 4C show various views of an exemplary louver strip according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 5 shows a method according to an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 6 shows a method according to an embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Before any embodiments of the invention are explained in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and the arrangement of components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the following drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced or of being carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology used herein is for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting. The use of “including,” “comprising,” or “having” and variations thereof herein is meant to encompass the items listed thereafter and equivalents thereof as well as additional items. Unless specified or limited otherwise, the terms “mounted,” “connected,” “supported,” and “coupled” and variations thereof are used broadly and encompass both direct and indirect mountings, connections, supports, and couplings. Further, “connected” and “coupled” are not restricted to physical or mechanical connections or couplings.

Embodiments of the invention relate to systems and methods to improve performance of air-cooled condensing systems. In various embodiments, a fog zone is artificially created outside a cooling unit. When outside air being drawn into the condenser of the cooling unit flows through the fog zone, its temperature is reduced, which increases the cooling capacity and energy efficiency of the cooling unit. Further, the incoming air stream is cleaned by the fog zone, and peak electricity demand is reduced. In various embodiments, structures are optionally employed to prevent minerals and other substances from depositing on condenser coils of a cooling unit.

Embodiments herein are applicable to a host of cooling unit types, such as, for example, residential air conditioning (A/C) units, commercial rooftop A/C units, and air-cooled chillers. Moreover, embodiments can be applied to retrofit existing cooling units or can be incorporated as original equipment in new cooling units.

FIG. 1 shows a system 100 according to an embodiment of the invention. The system 100 includes a fog creator 110, a residue collection component 120, and a cooling unit 130. In some embodiments, all or a portion of the fog creator 110 and/or the residue collection component 120 are part of the cooling unit 130. In other embodiments, the fog creator 110 and the residue collection component 120 are separate structures and/or devices employed in conjunction with the cooling unit 130 (e.g., to retrofit a cooling unit).

The fog creator 110 includes water-emitting components 140 and a control device 150. The water-emitting components 140 may be separate devices interconnected by conduits (e.g., discrete nozzles linked together by conduits) or unitary devices (e.g., a device that has multiple nozzles or heads therein). The water-emitting components 140 are typically positioned near the cooling unit 130 so that the water emitted thereby produces a fog zone external to the cooling unit 130, thereby cooling the air stream entering the condenser (not shown) of the cooling unit 130 and cleaning the air stream.

The control device 150 controls a supply of water to the water-emitting components 140. As such, the water-emitting components 140 can selectively emit water, such as when a compressor (not shown) of the cooling unit 130 is enabled. The control device 150 and the water-emitting components 140 can be implemented discretely or as a unitary device.

The residue collection component 120 is typically positioned near the condenser coils in order to protect the condenser coils from buildup of residue, such as mineral residue, water mist, and dust. Additionally, the residue collection component 120 allows outside air cooled by the fog zone to flow to the condenser coils.

FIG. 2 shows a perspective view of a microclimate creator 200 according to an embodiment of the invention. The microclimate creator 200 is one exemplary implementation of the fog creator 110 and residue collection component 120 of FIG. 1. The microclimate creator 200 includes nozzles 210, one or more conduits (e.g., pipes) 220, a control valve 230, and louvers 240. The microclimate creator 200 is positioned outside a cooling unit 205. In particular, the louvers 240 substantially surround the condenser coils of the cooling unit 205, and the nozzles 210 are positioned outside the louvers 240. The generally cube-like shape of the cooling unit 205 and surrounding louvers 240 in FIG. 2 is merely exemplary. Other configurations are within the scope of embodiments of the invention. The configuration of the illustrated louvers 240 is more clearly shown in FIG. 3 (discussed below). Suitable supporting structures (not shown) can be provided for the nozzles 210, conduits 220, control valve 230, and louvers 240. For instance, one or more frames can be provided that surround a cooling unit and support portions of a microclimate creator. Alternatively or additionally, the cooling unit can directly or indirectly (e.g., via retrofitted structures attached to the cooling unit) support portions of a microclimate creator.

The nozzles 210 are linked to the control valve 230 by one or more conduits 220. In some embodiments, multiple spaced nozzles and conduits are integrated into a single structure. The control valve 230 is in turn linked to a water source 250, such as a city water supply, by one or more conduits 220. As shown, the nozzles 210 are arranged in a single nozzle ring 215. In some implementations, multiple nozzle rings 215 are employed depending on the height of the condenser of the cooling unit 205. For example, nozzle rings 215 can be positioned at various positions along the vertical axis of the cooling unit 205 so as to ensure that outside air around the cooling unit 205 flows through a fog zone. In various embodiments, the nozzles 210 are slightly tilted away from the condenser to achieve effective cooling.

In some embodiments, the water pressure of the water source 250 is approximately 15 psig (pounds per square inch gauge) or greater. A pump (not shown) optionally may be coupled to the water source 250 to increase the water pressure to 15 psig or another desired pressure.

The control valve 230 can be any suitable fluid control device, such as a solenoid valve or a motorized ball valve. In an exemplary implementation, the control valve 230 is a solenoid valve having open and closed states. In the open state, the control valve 230 allows the flow of water from the water source 250 through the conduits 220 to the nozzles 210, thereby causing the nozzles 210 to emit water so as to produce a fog or mist zone around the cooling unit 205. In the closed state, the control valve 230 impedes the flow of water from the water source 250 through the conduits 220 to the nozzles 210; as such, the nozzles 210 do not emit water, and no fog or mist zone is produced around the cooling unit 205.

In some embodiments, the control valve 230 is opened or closed based on operation of one or more components of the cooling unit 205 and/or based on environmental and/or other conditions. For instance, in an exemplary implementation, the control valve 230 is electrically connected to a relay of the compressor (not shown) of the cooling unit 205. When the compressor turns on, the control valve 230 opens after a predetermined time period, such as 30 seconds. When the compressor turns off, the control valve 230 is closed after a predetermined time period, such as substantially instantaneously. In another exemplary implementation, the control valve 230 is electrically connected to a sensor, such as a sensor that measures the relative humidity of outside air. If the measured relative humidity is higher than 75% (indicating that outside air is moist and that fog will not decrease the air temperature significantly), the control valve 230 closes, thereby impeding the flow of water to the nozzles 210 and preventing a fog zone from being produced. In other embodiments, a control valve and a nozzle are integrated together, and/or a microcontroller and/or other suitable circuitry are interfaced with a control valve and/or a nozzle.

The louvers 240 prevent residue, such as mineral residue, water mist, dust, and other substances, from reaching the coils of the condenser. In an exemplary implementation, the louvers 240 encircle the condenser coils and are arranged upwardly, thereby blocking residue and allowing outside air cooled by the fog zone to flow to the condenser coils.

FIG. 3 shows a cross-sectional view of the microclimate creator 200 of FIG. 2. Structures of the cooling unit 205 are also shown, including condenser coils 310, a condenser fan 260, and a compressor 320. Outside air 330 flows through the fog zone 340, into the louver zone 350, to the condenser coils 310, and into the cooling unit 205.

During operation of the cooling unit 205, the condenser fan 260 is typically turned on before or at the same time as the compressor 320 is turned on. The condenser fan 260 draws outside air 330 through the fog zone 340, the louver zone 350, and the condenser coils 310, and rejects air to the outside of the cooling unit 205. When the outside air 330 flows through the fog zone 340, heat and mass transfer occurs between the dry, hot outside air 330 and the water mist. Heat and mass transfer continues in the louver zone 350. The dry, hot outside air 330 is cooled down by the latent heat of the water mist. Ideally, the outside air 330 can be cooled down to the wet bulb temperature of the outside air 330. Since the wet bulb temperature is often 15° F. to 30° F. lower than the dry bulb temperature, the condenser can receive air at a temperature as low as 60° F. to 80° F., which significantly increases the cooling capacity of the cooling unit 205. Additionally, due to moderate condensing temperature, the cooling unit 205 has measurably higher energy performance.

In some embodiments, a fog creator is designed in part based on considerations of water flow. In particular, the total water flow rate, GPH, needed to produce a fog zone may be determined using the following formula: GPH=0.5CFM(Wwet−Wo,a)

GPH is the total water flow rate of the fog zone expressed in gallons per hour. CFM is the airflow rate of the cooling unit expressed in cubic feet per minute. Wwet is the saturated humidity ratio at the wet bulb temperature. Wo,a is the humidity ratio of outside air. The Wwet and Wo,a values correspond to temperature and relative humidity values that would be typical of the outside air surrounding a cooling unit during times of operation.

The number of nozzles, N, needed to produce the fog zone is determined based on the total water flow rate, GPH, and the water flow rate per nozzle, gph. The formula is as follows: N=GPH/gph

FIGS. 4A, 4B, and 4C show front, top, and side views, respectively, of an exemplary louver strip 400 according to an embodiment of the invention. In the embodiment shown, the louver strip 400 is made of plastic, metal, or other suitable materials that have elastic properties. It is to be appreciated that other types of structures may be utilized to perform the residue collection function of louvers, such as filters or panels of varying shapes and dimensions. Similarly, the actual shapes and dimensions of louvers can be tailored depending on the configuration of a cooling unit. Accordingly, the louvers specifically described herein are merely exemplary and not limiting of embodiments of the invention.

The strip width of the illustrated louver strip 400 is between approximately 3 and 5 inches. During manufacturing, a louver strip 420 may be folded in an accordion-like manner, as shown in FIGS. 4A and 4B. Holes may be pre-made on both ends of each louver blade 420, as shown in FIG. 4C.

In a factory or at the location of a cooling unit, guide rings (not shown) may be tailored to the size and shape of the condenser coils. Folded louver strips 400 can then be threaded onto the guide rings. The folded strips 400 can be stretched out to minimize the use of louver materials and to enable the louvers to conform to curves and/or corners without the need for cutting off portions of louver strips.

FIG. 5 shows a method 500 according to an embodiment of the invention. The method 500 can be applied to improve performance of an existing or new cooling unit. In task T510, water is supplied to water-emitting components positioned near a cooling unit. In task T520, the water-emitting components produce a fog zone external to the cooling unit. In task T530, a residue collection component prevents residue from collecting on coils of a condenser of the cooling unit. In task T540, the condenser coils receive outside air cooled by the fog zone.

FIG. 6 shows a method 600 according to an embodiment of the invention. The method 600 can be applied to retrofit an existing cooling unit in accordance with embodiments of the invention, or to incorporate embodiments in a new cooling unit. For instance, certain tasks below may be performed at a factory during manufacture of a new cooling unit. In task T610, water-emitting components are positioned near a cooling unit. In task T620, the water-emitting components are coupled to a control device that controls a supply of water to the water-emitting components such that the water-emitting components can produce a fog zone. In task T630, the control device is coupled to the water supply. In task T640, a residue collection component is positioned near the coils of a condenser of the cooling unit in order to protect the condenser coils from residue buildup, and to allow outside air cooled by the fog zone to flow to the condenser coils.

Various features and advantages of the invention are set forth in the following claims.