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Now here’s a cool idea: a metal box that helps your food last longer! Have you ever stopped to think how a refrigerator keeps cool, calm, and collected even in the blistering heat of summer? Food goes bad because bacteria breed inside it. But bacteria grow less quickly at lower temperatures, so the cooler you can keep food, the longer it will last. A food meat refrigerator is a machine that keeps food cool with some very clever science. All the time your refrigerator is humming away, liquids are turning into gases, water is turning into ice, and your food is staying deliciously fresh. Let’s take a closer look at how a refrigerator works!
What’s your favorite late night snack – that go-to treat that melts away the troubles of the day as you curl up in front of the TV? Perhaps it’s a creamy bowl of Rocky Road or maybe some delicious, spicy Szechuan chicken left over from a recent take-out feast. Refrigerator-finds like these may make you feel bad about indulging in guilty pleasures, but at least you don’t have to feel bad about how high your energy bill will be to cure your cravings. That’s because of innovative technology and meaningful energy conservation standards put into place by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Building Technologies Program.
In recent decades, the Energy Department has led technological innovation that vastly improved the energy efficiency of our refrigerators and freezers (and thousands of other household appliances). As a result, it’s a lot easier on your pocket and on the environment to keep that ice cream at peak frosty perfection. In fact, today’s refrigerators use only about 25 percent of the energy that was required to power models built in 1975. Even while continually improving efficiency to meet standards, refrigerators have increased in size by almost 20 percent, have added energy-using features such as through-the-door ice, and provide more benefits than ever before. Refrigerators today can be customized to fit consumer needs with touch-screen displays, glass doors, or even a beer tap.
The dramatic rise in efficiency began in response to the oil and energy crises of the 1970s when refrigerators typically cost about $1,300 when adjusted for inflation, a hefty price to pay for an energy waster. Refrigeration labels and standards have improved efficiency by two percent per year since 1975. Due to research, useful tools, partnerships with utilities and other organizations, and market initiatives that helped enable top open air curtain refrigerator and other appliance standards, the Energy Department has helped avoid the construction of up to 31 1-GW power plants with the energy saved since the first Federal standards in 1987. That’s the same amount of electricity consumed by Spain annually.
The Department will soon have strengthened the standards for household refrigerators three times. Each time, manufacturers have responded with new innovations that enabled their products to meet the new requirements and often to exceed them. Refrigerators that performed above and beyond the minimum standards qualified for the ENERGY STAR label, motivated consumers to care about energy usage, and primed the market for continued efficiency improvements.
Decades worth of progressive energy-efficiency standards for refrigerators have translated into big savings for consumers. Compared to refrigerators of the 1970s, today’s refrigerators save the nation about $20 billion per year in energy costs, or $150 per year for the average American family.
The next proposed increase in refrigerator and freezer efficiency — scheduled to take effect in 2014 — will save the nation almost four and a half quadrillion BTUs over 30 years. That’s three times more than the total energy currently used by all refrigeration products in U.S. homes annually. It’s also the equivalent amount of energy savings that could be used to power a third of Africa for an entire year
The Energy Department is continuing to invest even more in future innovations for energy efficient products. So go ahead and indulge with those late night snacks and frozen treats. Your fridge has you covered.
To learn more about Appliance Standards and how they save consumers money go to the Building Technologies Program website.
In this position, Roland Risser was responsible for leading all of EERE’s applied research, development and demonstration for renewable energy, including geothermal, solar, and wind and water power.In this position, Roland Risser was responsible for leading all of EERE’s applied research, development and demonstration for renewable energy, including geothermal, solar, and wind and water power.
GREENSBORO, N.C. — The beige-and-brown General Electric top open glass door refrigerator, circa 1982, whirs in a dark corner of Doris and Anthony Vincent’s basement.
Mrs. Vincent, a 70-year-old churchgoer and longtime community volunteer, can date its purchase with precision. In her home here, appliances mark milestones. And that nearly 40-year-old model — one of three refrigerators she owns — tells a story of her re-entry into the work force after having a daughter.
She spent much of her first paychecks from her job as a counselor at Bennett College on the refrigerator-freezer combo, with the external ice dispenser and other bells and whistles of its era. “I’d been a stay-at-home mother, you know,” she said.
When the couple built their 5,000-square-foot home in 1992, the G.E. went to the basement, to make room for a stainless steel upgrade that holds last night’s dinner and the morning’s juice.
But the second refrigerator is no afterthought appliance. It occupies pride of place in many American homes — often because, Mr. Vincent said, yesteryear’s fridges were built to last. That didn’t stop the couple, however, from buying a third model for the basement apartment they keep for guests.
Around 35 million U.S. households have two refrigerators, and the Vincents are among the six million households that report owning more than two refrigerators, whether full- or dorm-size units, according to the Energy Information Administration, a federal agency that tracks appliance ownership. That number has climbed from 14 percent of all homes in 1978, when the agency first started surveying Americans, to 30 percent in 2015. About 27 percent of today’s urban homes and almost 40 percent of rural ones have at least two refrigerators.
Those numbers will likely change again as the pandemic continues and with the average 10-year life span of newer refrigerators. When stand-alone freezers sold out in stores nationwide in the spring of 2020, months of back orders set off a buying spree on refrigerators. In April, Consumer Reports urged those who couldn’t find a freezer to consider a second upright back sliding door refrigerator instead.
The second refrigerator can be a homey holdover or the latest model. And, for many, it can be aspirational. It may fulfill a yen for storage space. For others, its contents may function as edible insurance policies during lean years. And there are countless other reasons for a second fridge: frequent entertaining; storing kimchi or other specialties that take time to age; a tendency toward hoarding; or simply the cost of getting rid of a refrigerator.
But class and context matter in the world of multiple fridges, or for that matter, freezers. (Statisticians at the Energy Information Administration call those chest or stand-alone appliances “deer freezers” because of their popularity among Midwestern hunters.)
Newer models have made owning a second refrigerator easier on the pocketbook. Once, refrigerators routinely used more than 10 percent of a household’s total power, which prompted old-fridge disposal or buybacks around the country during previous blackouts and energy crises, said William McNary, a research statistician for the agency. “Now it’s nowhere near that,” he said. Modern EnergyStar-rated models can cost as little as 10 cents a day to operate.
Despite once-valid concerns about a nation of power-sucking surplus refrigerators, Mr. McNary knows they’re not going away — even in his own family. His in-laws keep an avocado-colored refrigerator from the 1970s in their basement.
“I go down there, and it’s got three beers and six ginger ales in it,” he said. “My mother-in-law complains every year at Thanksgiving and holidays that our fridge isn’t big enough” to store sides or uneaten turkey.
Ms. Reilly remembers an Italian-American friend whose family removed shelves from an extra fridge to hang homemade sausages.
Jonathan Ammons, a food writer in Asheville, N.C., contends that refrigerators transmit culture as much as they chill food. “I am a third-generation multiple fridge-freezer kid,” he said. “It is as deep a part of my culinary heritage as candied yams and sugar beets.”
He currently owns one refrigerator and one stand freezer, packed this time of year with discounted whole ducks and broth.
Mr. Ammons’s parents have three refrigerators, including one that he stocks with prepared meals for his mother, who is ill and bedridden. He traces the family’s desire to have more than one refrigerator to his grandmother’s traditions and preservation practices, common in Appalachia.
“Her house in Bakersville had the smokehouse out back and the canning shed,” he said. “And they had smoked meat. When the freezer came, it became an irreplaceable thing, an ingrained thing with my grandmother, that if you have a freezer, you can preserve things.
“I see that as an aspect of Appalachian culture: preserving the things you love and prioritizing it — and growing enough of it that you can stay there through the hard times.”
While conventional wisdom suggests that the more mouths there are to feed, the more refrigerators, the statistics don’t bear that out. U.S. households with only two occupants lead in two-fridge ownership.
People of color also have second refrigerators in disproportionately high rates. Nearly 20 percent of Black Americans have them, as do 22 percent of Latinos and 23 percent of Asian-Americans. One-third of Native American respondents in the Energy Information Administration’s last major survey of residential energy consumption, completed five years ago, reported having more than one stand up back front sliding door refrigerator.
That last figure gave Farina King some pause. She’s a citizen of the Navajo Nation and a history professor in Tahlequah, Okla. While her parents, Phillip and JoAnn Smith, have two refrigerators at their home in Utah, they use the second to feed patients, who travel long distances to her father’s medical clinic, as well as friends and missionaries in their church community.
Dr. King knows that second refrigerators are rare in the Navajo Nation, which stretches across three states but has only about a dozen full-service grocery stores. Some people, particularly those in urban or semirural areas, may have two fridges, but the dominant reality is quite different.
“Many Navajos on the reservation actually do not have access to the space and electricity” for even a first multi-deck display refrigerator, she said.