An apparatus and method for measuring the total thermal resistance to heat flow from the air to the evaporative cooler fins of a refrigeration system. The apparatus is a frost sensor that measures the reduction in heat flow due to the added thermal resistance of ice (reduced conduction) as well as the reduction in heat flow due to the blockage of airflow (reduced convection) from excessive ice formation. The sensor triggers a defrost cycle when needed, instead of on a timed interval. The invention is also a method for control of frost in a system that transfers heat from air to a refrigerant along a thermal path. The method involves measuring the thermal conductivity of the thermal path from the air to the refrigerant, recognizing a reduction in thermal conductivity due to the thermal insulation effect of the frost and due to the loss of airflow from excessive ice formation; and controlling the defrosting of the system.
STATEMENT REGARDING FEDERALLY SPONSORED RESEARCH OR DEVELOPMENT
The U.S. Government has a paid-up license in this invention and the right in limited circumstances to require the patent owner to license others on reasonable terms as provided for by the terms of Contract No. DE-FG03-97ER82309 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy.