Understanding the P-H Diagram

The pressure-enthalpy diagram or P-H diagram is a tool that all HVAC and Refrigeration engineers should be able to use proficiently. This diagram describes the relationship of pressure and enthalpy of a select refrigerant. In order to properly understand this diagram, it is best to go through the vapor compression cycle on a P-H diagram.

On the P-H diagram, pressure is indicated on the y-axis and enthalpy is indicated on the x-axis. Typically enthalpy is in units of Btu/lb and pressure is in units of pounds per square inch (psi). The upside down U figure shown on the diagram designates the points at which the refrigerant changes phase. The left vertical curve indicates the saturated liquid curve and the right vertical curve indicates the saturated vapor curve. The region in between the two curves describe refrigerant states that contain a mixture of both liquid and vapor. The locations to the left of the saturated liquid curve indicate that the refrigerant is in liquid form and locations to the right of the saturated vapor curve indicate that the refrigerant is in vapor form. The point at which the two curves meet is called the critical point. The importance of this point is that at any point above, no additional pressure will change the vapor into a liquid. A simplified pressure-enthalpy diagram is shown below, describing this information.

The curves break up the diagram into three regions (1) Liquid, (2) Vapor and (3) Mix.

(1) Liquid Region: The liquid region is also known as the sub-cooled region. In this region there are vertical temperature lines, which increase as enthalpy is increased. Figure 8 is a simplified P-H diagram illustrating the constant temperature lines.

(2) Vapor Region: The vapor region is also known as the super heated region. In this region there are vertical temperature lines, which increase as enthalpy is increased. Refer to Figure 8. There are also lines of constant entropy, which are also important. Entropy is the measure of the amount of disorder in the system.

(3) Liquid-Vapor Mix Region: In this region, the P-H diagram shows horizontal temperature lines, which indicate constant temperature. The mix region is the phase change region, where any addition of enthalpy will cause additional liquid to vaporize instead of raising the temperature. Figure 8 illustrates the horizontal temperature lines in the mix region. There are also upward sloping curves which indicate quality. Quality is a measure of the ratio of vapor mass to total mass. For example quality of 0.1 or 10%, which is located near the saturated liquid line, describes points that have 10% vapor by mass. The 0.9 or 90% line, which is located near the saturated vapor line, describes points that have 90% vapor by mass. The previous figure, Figure 7, indicates the quality lines.

The x-y axes of the P-H diagram are the pressure lines running from left to right. The enthalpy lines are the vertical lines. The skeletal graph shown below shows the pressure-enthalpy lines.