Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Cool, man...

When you start delving into energy efficiency, you find some surprising things. My favorite things to find are the ideas that bubble up from underground. Technology is all well and good, but high tech energy solutions often come with high price tags. Otherwise we'd all be doing them already.

But there are a lot of clever people out there coming up with creative, elegant solutions to common problems, sometimes with amazing results.

For example, I just read a writeup by a guy in Australia who used store-bought equipment to create a super-efficient refrigerator. And it's so easy you won't believe it.

I still have the EnergyGuide tag from our fridge. I don't know why, and I don't know how I found it so easily, but here it is, right here in front of me. It tells me that our fridge uses 576 KWH per year. The least efficient fridge, according to the tag, uses 789 KWH per year, and the most efficient uses 524 KWH per year. So ours is not too bad, right?

The Aussie guy's fridge uses... wait for it... 36.5 KWH per year. Note the decimal point. That puts it about fifteen times better than the best fridge on my EnergyGuide tag. His fridge uses the same amount of energy in an hour as a 100-watt lightbulb.

All this guy did was take a chest freezer and wire a new thermostat into it, turning it from a freezer into a refrigerator. And the way he did it was the hard way. It turns out he could have bought one of these for $60 and he'd have been done with the whole thing in five minutes.

How is this possible? Well, first, cold air is heavy. When you open your standard refrigerator or freezer, much of the cold air spills out on the floor. Go over to it in bare feet and open it, and you'll see what I mean. But on a chest freezer, all that cool air stays inside, like a pool of water. Chest freezers generally have better insulation than upright refrigerators too. They're already more efficent by half.

So when you don't need it to maintain freezing temperatures, it runs less. A lot less, apparently. Like, hardly at all. Two minutes per hour, he says.

As for the convenience factor, the original designer says that he just keeps related items together in the little baskets, so when he wants a sandwich, he grabs the basket with lunch meat and condiments or whatever.

So now all we have to do is get around the fact that all our kitchens are all designed for upright refrigerators...



At 12/06/2006 9:57 AM, Blogger network weasel said...

As always, you are my hero. Now I just need to find a way to make this work in our house. Definitely something for us to consider for a remodel of the mud room/laundry/pantry. Not that it will happen in the near future.

At 12/06/2006 1:39 PM, Blogger BurdockBoy said...

Wow that is really cool. I had heard something about this in the past, but had never checked it out. Our refrigerator is our downfall when it comes to efficiency.

It's amazing how simple laws of physics can create efficiency. I am also reminded of the cool beams in buildings that bounce the warm air from the ceiling on new energy efficient buildings.

At 12/07/2006 6:10 AM, Blogger Beo said...

.1kwh?!?!? That is unreal! Thanks!


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