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Age-related efficiency loss of household refrigeration appliances: Development of an approach to measure the degradation of insulation properties

Hueppe, Christian; Geppert, Jasmin; Stamminger, Rainer; Wagner, Hendrik; Hoelscher, Heike; Vrabec, Jadran; Paul, Andreas; Elsner, Andreas; Becker, Wolfgang; Gries, Ulrich; Freiberger, Alfred

Despite the omnipresence of household refrigeration appliances, there is still a lack of knowledge about their age-related efficiency loss over time. Past studies provide basic evidence for increasing electricity consumption of cooling appliances with ageing but fail to investigate the associated technical wear. Concentrating on the degradation of the thermal insulation, we first determined the ageing process of sealed samples of polyurethane rigid foam by investigating changes in cell gas composition and thermal conductivity over time. Simultaneously, the main challenge was to develop an approach that investigates the age-related efficiency loss of the insulation without its destruction. This testing procedure is referred to as the Bonn method. The non-destructive Bonn method was applied to varying refrigerator models in a series of successive experiments to evaluate the insulation degradation over time. Subsequently, the physical relationship between the test value of the Bonn method and the heat transfer through the multi-layered compartment walls of domestic refrigeration appliances was established, ultimately characterising the degrading insulation in terms of increasing heat transfer. Our results give substantiated evidence that the efficiency loss of cooling appliances is greatly influenced by insulation degradation over time. The ageing of sealed samples of polyurethane rigid foam indicates a large initial increase of thermal conductivity by 15% within the first year, corresponding to a change in cell gas composition. These results are in line with those of the Bonn method, emphasising an increasing heat flow through the multi-layered compartment walls of domestic refrigerators with ageing. Therewith, the present study is of significance to a wide range of stakeholders and forms the basis for future research.
Published in: Applied Thermal Engineering, 10.1016/j.applthermaleng.2020.115113, Elsevier