A lot of the convenience we have now are products of innovations made through the years, and some of them are somewhat taken for granted whether we admit it or not. For example, take a look at that tall and firm appliance at the corner of your kitchen. Yes, take a look at your refrigerator. Have you realized how your life would be without this? How would you keep your drinks cold? How would store the meats, fruits, and vegetables? Where would you place leftovers without the fear of getting spoiled easily? And who would you turn to during those nights when you suddenly feel the need to fill your stomachs when the stores outside are already closed? Do you now feel your refrigerator’s relevance to you?
Now that we know how refrigerators impact our lives, let’s take a walk down memory lane, and remember its beginnings.
The first cooling systems for food involved using mere ice collected from streams and ponds and were store year-round in icehouses and cellars. Records say that the Chinese people mostly did this. In the other part of the world, Egyptians and Indians made ice on cold nights through setting water out in clay pots and keeping the pots wet to keep their foods cold.
Following the manual use of ice was the icebox. This was introduced in the 18th century in England where wooden boxes were lined with tin or zinc. Then, these are filled with sawdust or seaweed that keep the ice from melting. Drip pans were placed beneath the boxes to catch the water that melted, which had to be drained everyday.
Not long after iceboxes, commercial refrigeration began, which is the process of moving heat from one location to another in controlled conditions, and this made household refrigerators and industrial freezers possible.
In the early 1700s, Scotsman Dr. William Cullen pioneered refrigeration with the evaporation of liquids in a vacuum. Then in the 1800s, Londoner Michael Farady liquified ammonia to cause cooling.
Many says that the compression refrigeration system used these days operates following the concept adapted from Farady’s experiments, which involves compressing gas into a liquid that will then absorb heat, which in doing so returns to gas. This is a simplified description of what happens in a home refrigerator.
From here, multiple companies have innovated and came up with their refrigerator units. For instance, in 1911, General Electric Company launched a refrigerator unit invented by a French monk. Then, in 1915, Alfred Mellowes introduced the first self-contained mechanical refrigerator, which was marketed by the Guardian Refrigerator Company. While Mellowes had the right idea, Guardian did not deliver. Seeing his opportunity, William Durant, president of General Motors (GM), bought Guardian Refrigerator Company in 1918 and renamed it Frigidaire. He then put some of GM’s best engineering and manufacturing minds to work on mass production. A few years later, Frigidaire also bought Fred W. Wolf Jr.’s Domelre, which at that moment mass marketed package automatic electric refrigeration unit. GM began mixing Domelre’s units, introducing improvements in every new production run.
Kelvinator and Servel followed suits when they unveiled two-dozen home refrigerators to the U.S. market in 1916, which rose to 200 by 1920.
In 1923 Kelvinator introduced “ automatic temperature control,” which helped them obtain 80 percent of market share. Its opponent, Frigidaire, made it to the top again when it cut the price of its units in half from $1,000 in 1920 to $500 in 1925.
Market shareholders were not the only ones that kept changing; refrigerators’ looks did, too. In 1922, a model featured a wooden cabinet, a water-cooled compressor, two ice cube trays, and nine cubic feet of storage space. And in 1923, Frigidaire introduced the first self-contained unit. The steel and porcelain cabinets that we are more accustomed to only began appearing in the mid-20s. Mass production of modern refrigerators started after World War II.
Fast-forward to the 1930s, Freon 12 replaced sulphur dioxide, as the most commonly used refrigerant. And another century later, frozen food storage became widely used by consumers. The following decades gave more innovations with the new functions, such as automatic defrost and automatic icemakers.
Today, domestic refrigerators and freezers for food storage come in all sizes. The smallest is a Mini-USB-Red-Refrigerator-Fridge-Cooler-Warmer-Car-Boat-Home-Office-New-Portable that is sold at 70 AED. This can store a can of beer or soda. There are also large refrigerators, and one company that boasts of its huge inside is LG. It claims its refrigerators have the most shelf space enabling a massive 31 cu. ft. of shelf space.
Other popular and/or best units also include LG LTCS24223S 24 cu. ft. Top Freezer (3,893.54 AED), Whirlpool WRB322DMBB Bottom Freezer Refrigerator (6,527.19 AED), GE GNS23GMHES 22.7 CU. FT. French-Door Refrigerator (5,065.27 AED), and Samsung RH25H5611SR (6,237.01 AED).
Refrigerators have been through a lot, and as proven by time, they continue to provide great convenience to us. No wonder 95.55% of American households own this fella. Now, go ahead and pat that appliance standing tall at the corner of your kitchen.
This is a commissioned work for a UAE-based blog Snappo (http://snappo.ae/).