Abstract Studies on expanders in small-scale refrigeration systems using HFCs as working fluids are rarely found. In this paper, a new sliding vane expander prototype is developed to replace throttling valve for energy recovery in a domestic HFC410A refrigeration system. The experimental results showed that the volumetric ratio of this new prototype can reach 7.48 in the expansion process under the test conditions. Compared with that of the original prototype, the volumetric efficiency and the isentropic efficiency of the new prototype were improved by 57.8% and 61.1% respectively at the rotational speed of 1200 r/min. The maximum COP (coefficient of performance) of the HFC410A refrigeration system with the new prototype was 3.41, improved by 8.97% compared with that of the conventional refrigeration system using a throttling valve. It was expected that the COP of a large-scale HFC410A refrigeration system might be improved greatly by using a similar prototype developed in this paper.