How to get rid of the ‘waste’ in your refrigerator
A fridge can become a major source of waste as a result of its low energy consumption.
But a new study has shown that you can reduce the waste of an average fridge by switching it from a non-electric fridge to an electric one.
That’s because the electricity that powers the refrigerator is generated by your home’s electricity grid, rather than from your electric meter.
In other words, your fridge uses a small amount of electricity for a lot of power.
In the study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers used a refrigerator with a nonlinear heating and cooling system to measure how much energy each unit of energy consumed, compared to the total amount of energy available from the household’s grid.
By switching the fridge from a refrigerator that used electricity for all its energy consumption to an one that used only a few percent of the household electricity, the researchers found that each unit was saved by about 6 percent of its energy usage.
The energy savings in this case is similar to what it takes to get the equivalent of a 10-hour day’s worth of energy back from a solar-powered fridge, says the study’s lead author, Matthew Smith, an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan.
“In a typical household, a refrigerator consumes about 30 percent of household electricity and the majority of that electricity is generated at night,” he says.
“We wanted to see how we could make this energy more available during the day.”
So the researchers used an energy-saving device called a solar photovoltaic (PV) refrigerator, which converts sunlight to electricity.
The solar panels use electricity generated from the sun to generate electricity.
In addition to producing electricity, these solar panels also absorb some of the waste heat from your refrigerator, so the energy used by your refrigerator is only used to heat water in your sink.
This heat-absorbing capability means that, for a given amount of refrigerant that’s used, the energy savings from the refrigerator are the same or smaller than those from the solar panels.
But Smith says that if you’re looking for more energy efficiency, switching your refrigerator from a PV to an AC model could help.
The researchers used three different solar panels and two different brands of refrigerator, with each manufacturer providing its own measurement of energy consumption from the power grid.
“The first model was the most energy efficient,” Smith says.
The second model used a small PV module and an AC unit.
The third model used an AC-only model.
“At the end of the day, you’re paying for what you use, and the energy efficiency is about half the cost of buying a new refrigerator,” Smith adds.
The research team also tested how much electricity a refrigerator would use when it was powered by an electric pump instead of solar panels, using a typical fridge.
They found that a solar refrigerator could produce about 20 percent less energy per unit of refrigeration.
In a similar study published in 2012, Smith and his colleagues compared an electric refrigerator with one that relied on solar panels to a solar pump.
The results were similar, they found, but the researchers did not compare solar-only refrigerators to an all-electric refrigerator.
“I’m not sure that you would ever be able to replace a solar fridge with an all solar refrigerator,” says Smith.
“But you can definitely replace the power efficiency of an electric fridge with a solar one.”
This article is reproduced with permission from the magazine Wired.
The article was first published on February 9, 2018.