What Is A Refrigerator?
Last Updated on July 14, 2021 by Gabriel Goddy
Storing food has been a long practice, though before now, the methods of storing food were crude. However, with the coming of appliances like refrigerators, storing food became a less stressful task. In this guide, we’ll be explaining to you how refrigerators work. Read through to find out how they work.
What is a refrigerator?
A refrigerator is one of our most valuable household appliances. It keeps food and drinks cool, by pushing a liquid refrigerant through a sealed system, which causes it to vaporize, and draw heat out of the fridge. The vaporized refrigerant then is passed through coils outside the fridge (at the back or the bottom). This warms up the vapor and changes it back into a liquid.
Talk about a life-changing invention. Refrigerators allow us to easily preserve food, as opposed to the old days, when this was a major chore. Now food that might spoil in a couple of hours on the counter, will last a couple of weeks in the fridge. This not only makes our lives more convenient but also helps us stay healthy by reducing the risk of food-borne diseases. Lowering the temperature slows down the growth of bacteria significantly. When something is frozen, bacteria growth stops entirely.
Here’s a breakdown of today’s most common refrigerator styles!
- Top Mount RefrigeratorTop Freezer Refrigerator
Tried and true, this is the classic refrigerator style that’s been a kitchen mainstay for decades. While the top freezer refrigerator means having the refrigerator at a lower level, which may not be ideal for some customers (i.e. the taller ones), the low cost of these models may be an agreeable tradeoff. This style is hands-down the most affordable option, making it a great choice for buyers on a budget. It’s also available in a variety of sizes to fit into kitchens large and small.
- Side-by-Side Refrigerator
If you’re looking for a slim style, side-by-side refrigerator models feature a vertical freezer and refrigerator that sit directly next to each other. The slim profile does limit the sizes of the foods that can be stored, and these models aren’t as energy-efficient as other available refrigerator styles.
However, it’s another incredibly budget-friendly choice. In addition to the attractive low cost, Side-by-Side refrigerators also have the benefit of requiring a small door swing space, making them ideal for kitchens with limited area. Most models also feature an external ice machine and water dispenser.
- Bottom Freezer Refrigerator
The bottom freezer refrigerator is extremely popular for good reason. These models provide a large block of storage space for both the refrigerator and freezer sections, allowing easy accommodation of contents in a variety of sizes and widths. Many people also prefer the convenience of having the refrigerator section directly at eye level, making it easier to quickly find what they need.
- French Door Refrigerator
Très Jolie – the French door refrigerator brings a modern look into your kitchen. Not only does the lower freezer setup mean large blocks of storage space, but the ability to open only one refrigerator door at a time minimizes the escape of cool air. Many models include a drawer-style freezer, but some include French doors on the freezer area as well. The French doors require a small swing space, and just like standard Bottom Freezer models, there’s lots of versatility in accommodating wide or large items.
- Counter-Depth Refrigerator
If you’re looking for a low-profile fit for your new refrigerator, shopping our selection of counter-depth models is the perfect way to narrow the field! This category of refrigerators usually hovers between 27″ and 30″ deep, making them easy to blend into your kitchen layout and make the most of your space. If you’re looking to conserve room and create a fully integrated look, a counter-depth refrigerator may be the perfect choice for you.
- Mini Fridge
Not looking for a full-sized fridge? Let a mini fridge be your solution! Mini fridges provide the cooling power you need in a much smaller package, making them a perfect choice for smaller kitchens, offices, rec rooms, and more. Mini fridges are available in a variety of sizes and configurations, with options like a separate freezer compartment, double doors, or a glass front. Some models are designed to be freestanding, while others are made for installation within a cabinet setup.
Common refrigerator features
There are all kinds of features available on today’s refrigerators:
- Water and ice dispenser
- Climate controls for different compartments
- Blast chillers
- Soda stream dispenser
- Hot water dispenser
- Systems to make the fridge quieter
- LED lighting
- Coatings to prevent bacteria growth
- Shelving with rims to contain spills
There are even “smart” fridges available. These are, naturally, very expensive, but can do some pretty cool things. They can monitor the energy used by the fridge and can forward the information to your smartphone. You can adjust the temperature from your phone as well. Smart fridges have screens where you can access your calendar, photos, get recipes or weather reports from the internet, and much more. Pretty cool, but maybe not really something most of us need.
How do refrigerators work?
Thinking about sweat when talking about refrigerators is a bit gross, but let’s do it just for a second. When you’re hot, you sweat. This liquid (sweat) then evaporates causing your body temperature to drop. This is basically the same thing that happens with a refrigerator, except that when the liquid evaporates, that vapor is trapped, and the cycle of vaporizing and returning to liquid continues.
If you look underneath or at the back of a refrigerator, there is a thin pipe running back and forth. At one time, the pipe was filled with Freon gas. This isn’t exactly environmentally friendly in the case of a leak, so a different type of gas or refrigerant is used today.
The refrigerant begins as a liquid and is pumped, by means of a motorized compressor, through tubes inside the fridge. This compresses the refrigerant and turns it into a vapor, pulling the warm air out of the fridge, leaving cold air in its wake. The vapor then passes through the thinner pipes outside the fridge, warming up, and turning to a liquid again. Warm air is released into the room, so you’ll often feel the heat coming from behind or beneath the fridge. The whole cycle is then continuously repeated.
When the fridge reaches the desired cold temperature, the compressor shuts off. When the fridge warms up again, because it’s not completely air-tight, or because you’ve been standing with the door open staring at the stuff in the fridge, deciding what to eat, you’ll hear the compressor come back on. We’re all familiar with the sound of the fridge “kicking in”.
What should you do when something goes wrong?
Your fridge not working? If you find a serious problem with your refrigerator, like leaking water, it might be a good idea to call a specialist rather than trying to complete the repair yourself. The most common problems with fridges include:
- Excess frost in the freezer
It could just be that the freezer door was left open, allowing warm air and moisture to get into the freezer. Or it could be that the seals around the freezer door are worn and need replacing. If warm, humid air enters the freezer over a period of time, it will cause the freezer to frost up.
You may need to remove the food and unplug and defrost the freezer. Then, you could try lifting the front of the refrigerator a bit, by turning the front leveling legs. This will help the door swing shut using gravity, so it won’t get left open again.
- The noise behind the refrigerator
As fridges get older, they gradually get a bit noisier. But if you’re suddenly hearing a new and strange noise, it could be the fan at the back of the fridge. If you’re a do-it-yourselfer, you can unplug the fridge, remove the back panel, and take a look at the fan. It may be that something is blocking it, such as insulation, wires, or (gasp) a mouse. Be very careful, and make sure there are no wires that have been cut (or chewed).
- Water under the crisper drawers
This could be the result of a blocked defrost drain. It may be blocked by excess ice, which can be fixed simply by defrosting the fridge. To find out, unplug the fridge, and remove the back wall of the freezer compartment. Look for anything that might be plugging the hole at the bottom of the evaporator coils, such as ice, bits of food, or pieces of plastic.
- Freezer and fridge compartments are no longer getting cold enough
Check the back wall of the freezer compartment. If there is a buildup of frost, then you probably just need to defrost the fridge. If there’s no buildup of frost, and things are not staying cold, it might be time to shop for a new fridge.
- Bad smell in the fridge
Unplug the fridge, empty everything, and discard any expired food. Clean the entire fridge with a baking soda and water solution. Some things that will absorb bad smells in the fridge: baking soda, white vinegar, a bowl of oats, charcoal, fresh dry coffee grounds, unscented kitty litter.
Having a refrigerator in your home saves your food items from spoilage. Technology has provided one of the safest storage methods. You wouldn’t regret getting a refrigerator for your home.