From Engineering on February 24, 2009 in Electrical
Could you live unplugged?
Do we really need a refrigerator, or is it up there with television sets, ipods, and stereos?
How did our ancestors survive through centuries without that contraption called the fridge? They canned, dried, and pickled. They stored items in the root cellar or in the basement where it’s cooler.
There is a green movement against refrigerators. According to this movement, refrigerators are an unacceptable drain on energy. Supporters are giving up their ice boxes and the lifestyle that goes with them. Most say that once the withdrawal symptoms vanish, they adapt easily to their new fridge-free lifestyle. And they sure don’t miss the constant humming their fridge used to make.
The fridge-free idea has generated interest in Western Europe to the point where scientists at Oxford University in England rejuvenated the “Einstein refrigerator,” a pressurized gas refrigerator that runs without using electricity.
Misconceptions to Going Fridge-Free
- A common myth is that refrigerators use up more energy than any other appliance in the home, other than those used for heating and cooling. People are surprised to find that this isn’t the case. Marty O’Gorman, vice president of Frigidaire, said an 18-cubic foot Energy Star-rated Frigidaire refrigerator uses about 380 kilowatt-hours a year, which is less than a standard clothes dryer, and costs a homeowner $40, or about 11 cents per day. He goes on to say that downsizing to a dorm sized fridge – Frigidaire’s smallest minifridge, from a standard model, would result in only about $6 in energy savings over a year.
- The founder of Energy Efficiency Experts, Pascale Maslin, said people may focus undue attention on the refrigerator’s energy consumption simply because they often hear, incorrectly, that it uses more energy than any other appliance. This Washington-based company conducts energy audits on homes and other buildings.
Ready to Unplug? Taking the myths into consideration, are fridge-less advocates focusing unnecessary attention on its energy consumption because of false beliefs?
Is it practical to unplug the fridge when it results in more trips to the grocery store, thereby burning more gas?
The tone of the buzz out there suggests that once people unplug and adjust to the new lifestyle, they don’t turn back, even after finding out that the appliance wasn’t consuming all that much energy.
If you want to save energy, but you’re not quite ready to give up the fridge, there are actions you can take that should lower your energy bill:
- Get rid of the side-by-side and buy a fridge with a freezer on top.
- Buy an Energy Star-rated refrigerator – up to 20% more efficient.
- Limit the amount of times you open the door and the duration it remains open.
- Do an annual maintenance & cleaning – unplug the fridge and clean the door gaskets and compress coils. If you have indoor pets, it’s recommended to clean the coils every three months.
- To keep the fridge from having to work harder to stay cool, place the unit in an area that doesn’t receive direct sunlight and keep it away from the oven.
Many people have tried tossing their refrigerators but soon found that the inconvenience was too much and wasn’t worth the savings or the green aspects. Still others, those who use recycled toilet paper and use fluorescent bulbs, see unplugging their refrigerators as too extreme and would never consider it. Are you ready to unplug or is that as likely as winning the lotto?