In HVACR equipment, internally enhanced round tube (microfin) designs such as axial, cross-grooved, helical, and herringbone are commonly used to enhance the boiling and condensing performance of evaporators, condensers, and heat pumps. Typically, such tubes are mechanically expanded by a mandrel into a fin pack to create an interference fit between the tube outside surface and the fin collar to minimize the thermal contact resistance between tube and fin. However, during this expansion process, the internal enhancements undergo varying amounts of deformation, which degrades the in-tube thermal performance.

Extensive data on condensing heat transfer coefficients in microfin tubes have been reported in the open literature. However, researchers have seldom used expanded tubes to acquire and report such data. Hence, it is always questionable to use such pristine tube data for designing heat exchangers and HVACR systems. Furthermore, the HVACR industry has been experiencing steeply rising copper costs, and this trend is expected to continue in coming years. So, many equipment manufacturers and suppliers are actively converting tubes from copper to aluminum. However, because of appreciable differences between the material properties of aluminum and copper, as well as other manufacturing variables, such as mandrel dimensions, lubricant used, etc., tube expansion typically deforms aluminum fins more than copper fins.

Based on an analysis of the surface area changes arising from tube expansion, and an assessment of the best extant in-tube condensation heat transfer correlations, this work proposes a method of estimating the impact of tube expansion on in-tube condensation heat transfer. The analysis leads to certain interesting and useful findings correlating fin geometry and in-tube condensation thermal resistance. This method can then be applied to more realistically design HVACR heat exchangers and systems.

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