We cannot do without refrigerators especially in the hot summer. When gulping the lemonade that has been cooled by our humble refrigerators, hardly do we think about the processes that go behind cooling it. However, it is good to get acquainted with your refrigerator well because it is such an important part of your daily life and also because if you know your refrigerator, you can actually save money and also make efficient use of energy.

It is surprising for most people to know that refrigerators actually work by a heating principle. The various tubes which you see at the back of your refrigerator contain a gas known as a refrigerant. In old refrigerators, this gas is chlorofluorocarbon (Freon) and in new refrigerators, it is tetrafluoroethane (HFC). The following is the method with which modern refrigerators work:

1. The tubes or pipes behind the refrigerator compartments contain the refrigerant. These pipes are connected to a device known as a compressor that runs with an electric motor (one of the reasons why a refrigerator needs electricity and a traditional icebox doesn’t – an icebox does not have a compressor). There is no outlet anywhere in this system which means that the refrigerant can never come out of it.

2. The compressor is where the process begins. As its name suggests, it is able to compress the gas. The compression is to a very high value so that the gas gets converted into a liquid.

3. Gases become hot when they are compressed. Hence the compressor makes the gas very hot. The heat is then released into the surroundings. This is the reason why the back of the refrigerator is always hot.

4. Now, the liquid refrigerant is passed through a device known as the expansion valve. This device performs the opposite of what the compressor does. It tries to reconvert the liquid refrigerant back to its gas form. This it does by making the refrigerant move through a very narrow valve. The refrigerant that comes out of this valve is almost molecular in size and is suddenly subjected to expansion.

5. When the gas expands, it suddenly begins cooling down. Since the expansion is done forcefully and to a high degree, the cooling effect is also drastic.

6. In order to come back to its normal temperature, the gas will take heat from the surroundings. The surroundings here are the compartments of the refrigerator. As the refrigerant draws heat from these surroundings, the compartments become intensely cold. This is the principle behind the cooling action of the refrigerant.

7. The cycle is continuously repeated. Whenever the temperature in the refrigerant begins to rise, which can happen whenever the refrigerator is opened or even through closed doors because rubber insulations are not completely heat-resistant, the mechanism sets into action again and the refrigerator is re-cooled.

8. Modern refrigerators use a thermostat which adjusts the internal temperature. You can set the thermostat to get the required amount of cooling. Thermostats in the freezer compartment are set at a much lower temperature than the thermostats in the other compartments because of the high cooling required there. Whenever temperature begins to rise, the thermostat will detect it and will set the compressor back into motion till the set temperature is achieved.

Some points can make refrigerators work longer. Whenever their compartments are opened, they lose some of their cold as heat rushes into them from the environment and then their compressor will need to bring the temperature back to acceptable levels again. The effect of this is felt on electricity bills as the refrigerators begin to consume more energy. Refrigerators are also prone to leak, especially at the pipes that contain the refrigerant. Any leak requires professional attention because the refrigerants used are not healthy for humans.

This Refrigerators Review is Written/Updated on May 7th, 2009 and filed under Kitchen Appliances. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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