Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Alternatives to Electric Compressor Refrigeration?

Your refrigerator is one of the largest consumers of energy in your home. In an average home, refrigeration burns 125 watts per hour1. You can, of course, take steps to reduce the amount of electricity your refrigerator uses—by shag carpeting it, for example. But why not replace your fridge with something entirely renewable? I mean, as Derrick Jensen points out in this video, no civilization that consumes resources is sustainable.

Stephen and Rebekah Hren, in their book The Carbon-Free Home: 36 Remodeling Projects to Help Kick the Fossil-Fuel Habit, provide this brief exploration into the use of an alternative refrigeration technology: Absorption Refrigerators.

An alternative method of refrigeration from the standard compressor fridge is what is known as a gas-absorption refrigerator. Typical fridges take heat out of the air in the fridge using a liquid with a very low boiling point, such as freon. By putting freon under pressure with the compressor, the fridge converts the gas into a liquid at a very cold temperature. As the liquid evaporates into a gas, it pulls heat out of the air in the fridge and freezer. This gas is then compressed again and the cycle starts over.

Absorption refrigerators also cool by evaporation, except they use ammonia trapped in a hydrogen environment. After the ammonia evaporates, drawing heat out of the air, it combines with the hydrogen to form water. Heat is then used to boil the ammonia off the water and return it to the hydrogen environment. Propane refrigerators, commonly found in recreational vehicles, boats, and some off-grid homes, operate on the same principles. The main difference in the ammonia versions is that the cycle is powered by a source of heat, such as solar power or waste heat, instead of an electric generator or battery.

Solar-powered gas-absorption refrigerators have been around for a quarter-century or so, most homemade by skilled tinkerers. A few have been mass-produced. Fridges of this type are often referred to as intermittent solar ammonia-water absorption cycle, or ISAAC, refrigerators. The idea is intriguing because the fridge has no moving parts and, theoretically, nothing to wear out, giving it a potential life span well beyond that of an electric compressor refrigerator. The main hurdle is the ammonia, which is poisonous if handled improperly and is therefore difficult to obtain and work with and is probably not suitable for residential use. It is possible to use other refrigerants. Energy Concepts is a company based in Maryland that makes solar-powered absorption refrigerators, although only for larger industrial customers.

If you have an innovative method for reducing the energy used for refrigeration in your home, we want to hear about it!

Related Posts:


Get Ready, Get Resilient

Are you resilient? How about we put your answer to the test, literally. Now, we know that assessment is always an important, albeit imperfect, subjective, and incomplete tool. In order to understand one’s skill in living a resilient lifestyle, Ben Falk, author of the award-winning The Resilient Farm and Homestead, developed the following assessment tool. […] Read More

Happy Holidays from Chelsea Green Publishing!

Today we kick off our Holiday Sale — with 35% off every purchase at our online bookstore. Simply use the code CGS16 at checkout from now until the end of the year. Along with this great discount, we are offering free shipping on any order over $100*. Are there homesteaders or organic gardeners on your […] Read More

The 5 Rules of Lean Thinking

Are you ready to co-create the future? These 5 Rules of Lean Thinking are a useful tool as we set out to collectively invent a post-market future. Surviving the Future is a story drawn from the fertile ground of the late David Fleming’s extraordinary Lean Logic: A Dictionary for the Future and How to Survive […] Read More

Imagination, Purpose & Flexibility: Creating an Independent Farmstead – Q&A (part 1)

Twenty years ago, the land that authors Shawn and Beth Dougherty purchased and have come to name the Sow’s Ear was deemed “not suitable for agriculture” by the state of Ohio. Today, their family raises and grows 90% of their own food. Such self-sufficiency is largely the result of basing their farming practices around intensive […] Read More

Using Permaculture Principles to Design Resilient Cities

The Permaculture City begins in the garden but takes what we have learned there and applies it to a much broader range of human experience; we’re not just gardening plants but people, neighborhoods, and even cultures. Author Toby Hemenway (Gaia’s Garden) lays out how permaculture design can help towndwellers solve the challenges of meeting our […] Read More
Follow us
Get every new post delivered to your inbox
Join millions of other followers
Powered By WPFruits.com