A numerical simulator that can handle a finned-tube heat exchanger with a complex refrigerant circuitry is presented. The model is based on a tube-by-tube approach in which each tube is considered as the control volume in the analysis of the mass, energy, and momentum conservation. A mathematical representation of the refrigerant circuitry is also developed using the concepts in graph theory. The tube–tube adjacency matrix provides a unique representation of the tube connectivity and can also be utilized for constraints handling. With the implementation of the constraints, nonphysical and infeasible circuitries are removed from the solution space, which is advantageous for an evolutionary search for an optimum solution. The numerical simulator is verified against two sets of experimental data, and the calculated heat duty and pressure drop are within ±6% and ±20%, respectively. Sample simulations of the performance of different refrigerants in three circuitry configurations, and circuitry optimization are conducted to investigate the reliability and effectiveness of the tube-tube adjacency matrix and simulation model in the search for an optimal solution.
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