Clockwise cycles on PV diagrams always represent heat engines. It is therefore tempting to assume that counterclockwise cycles always represent refrigerators. This common assumption is incorrect: most counterclockwise cycles cannot be refrigerators. This surprising result is explored here for quasi-static ideal gas cycles, and the necessary conditions for refrigeration cycles are clarified. Three logically self-consistent criteria can be used to determine if a counterclockwise cycle is a refrigerator. The most fundamental test compares the counterclockwise cycle with a correctly determined corresponding Carnot cycle. Other criteria we employ include a widely accepted description of the functional behavior of refrigerators, and a corollary to the second law that limits a refrigerator's coefficient of performance.

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