A Primer on Compressor Design

As technology has evolved, so has the refrigeration industry. What were once holes in the ground filled with ice and snow have transformed into the modern high-efficiency compression machinery we have become so familiar with today. However, as common as these devices have become, the design process remains a challenge. This is where a combination of scientific knowledge, experience and creative initiative comes into play. While there are, of course, several variations in terms of the application of each design step, the guidelines presented here could be applied not only to refrigeration compressors, but also to compressors used in many other processes and industries.

There are a number of steps to consider throughout the compressor design process, and each step has to relate back to the original design concept. Experience has shown that having a starting concept and an end goal in mind is imperative. Namely, before you can begin the process, you need to know where you are starting and where you want to end up. With this in mind, before we can even get started with preliminary design, blade profiling and analysis of computational fluid dynamics (CFD), it is important to take out a piece of paper and start brainstorming. Consideration of the different refrigeration technologies (cycles), is always a great place to start, so we can ensure we will design the best compressor for the application. The cycle will directly impact the rest of the compressor design decisions, so this is not a step that can be bypassed. This article’s discussion begins with cyclic compression.

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Can 1D Tools be Used to Design an HVAC System?

The heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) system is arguably the most complex system that is installed in a house and it is responsible for a substantial amount of the total house energy used. A right-sized HVAC system will provide the desired comfort and will run efficiently. Right-sizing of a HVAC system is the selection of equipment and the designing of the air distribution system to meet the accurate predicted heating and cooling loads of the house. Rightsizing the HVAC system begins with an accurate understanding of the heating and cooling loads on a space, however, a full HVAC design involves more than just the load estimate calculation as this is only the first step of the iterative HVAC design procedure. Heating and cooling loads are dependent on the building location, sighting, and the construction of the house, whereas the equipment selection and the air distribution design are dependent upon the loads and each other.

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Variable Speed Compressor for HVAC and Refrigeration.

Even though energy consumption for HVAC and refrigeration system is considerably smaller than most technology applications, energy savings is still desired for many reasons: cleaner technology, saving cost, fuel economy and many more. Improvements in insulation, compressor efficiency and optimization of the cycle can be implemented to achieve better performance. Installation of variable speed drives is one way to optimize the potential of HVAC system.


Although has been implemented to various HVAC components, variable-speed drive is considerably still one of the “newer” advancements in the compressor industry. These devices are able to precisely control the motor speed and trim/balance systems. Variable speed control compressor gives end-users the comfort of matching the speed to what is needed at the time; giving precise temperature control with less cycling and longer run times. With longer run times, the technology also helps to remove moisture and relative humidity during the summer; or on the other hand during the winter by increasing the speed of compressor, system are able to deliver hotter air.

Compared to fixed compressor, where there are only two options for end-users to set: maximum capacity or completely off; variable speed drives gives the end-user an ability to adjust power output to compressor. The technology also comes with the benefit of less energy wasted from off and on cycle, precise load matching and low amp gradual compressor motor startup; therefore, improving the efficiency on certain conditions.


Coupling variable speed drives to centrifugal compressor alter the behavior of the component. Although, not always requiring smaller energy (i.e at or near full load) compared to fixed speed compressor, installation of VSD could really benefit the users in terms of power consumption (i.e at part lift), to optimize even further implementation of both compressor types would benefit both conditions.

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Heat pump and refrigeration cycle