A Brief History of Refrigerators

Refrigerators (or fridges) are ordinary domestic appliances that cool their insides to temperatures below the room temperature. Refrigeration is a key process of food storage in modern countries.

Before refrigerators were invented, people kept their food in ice-houses during the year. They were situated close to lakes or filled with snow and ice during the winter. Of course, natural ways of food storage are still present today, but not as much. The history of refrigerators started when William Cullen, a Scottish professor, invented a small refrigerator in the 18th century.

He operated a pump and made a partial vacuum over a container of diethyl ether. As a result, diethyl ether boiled by consuming heat from the air. This experiment also made some ice, but that didn’t have an efficient application back then. At the beginning of 19th century, Jacob Perkins made the first working vapor-compression cooling system in the world.The first useful cooling system was made by James Harrison, and he used a vapour compression system with ether, alcohol or ammonia. He also made a mechanical ice-maker and presented commercial vapour-compression refrigeration system to breweries, meat packing houses and other services.

Ferdinand Carre was the frist to invent a gas absorption refrigeration system utilizing ammonia mixed in water better known as aqua ammonia. Later on, Carl von linde, used an advanced method of how to liquefy gas. This improved process used ammonia, sulfur dioxide and methyl chloride as refrigerants and was extensively used for refrigeration systems until the second decade of the 20th century. At the beginning of the 20th century Fred W. Wolf invented domestic refrigerators, and they consisted of a refrigerator unit on top of an ice box.

refrigerator history
Jacob Perkins made the first working vapor-compression cooling system in the world.
Nathaniel B.Wales presented an idea for a functional electric refrigeration system, nd Alfred Mellowes invented a self-contained refrigeration system which included a compressor at the bottom. William C. Durant bought this idea and started the company Frigidaire.

This was the first company to mass produce refrigerators and are probably still the most famous refrigerator company in the world. The Kelvinator Company was the first to present any kind of automatic control, and they controlled 80% of the market in the 1920s.

General Electric company presented a “Monitor-top” refrigerator in 1927. These domestic refrigerators demanded that the mechanical parts (motor and the compressor) be installed in the basement, and the so-called cold box in the kitchen. These models were sold for around $700.

During the 1920s, Freon was introduced and thus the refrigerator market spread. Freon was a much safer version of refrigerant than the previous ones were.

Freezers were presented in the 1940s, and frozen foods became just a typical thing in our lives. Freon was banned in 1994, because it damages the ozone layer, and our modern refrigerators use tetrafluorethane as a less toxic replacement.

Basically, refrigeration systems become more advanced every day. It has become something we cannot live without, a basic necessity, so more and more useful features are introduced on a regular basis like we’ve witnessed in our history.

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