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Friday, 21 July 2017



The first refrigerant was ammonia, a poisonous gas. Carl Von Linde's ammonia system was introduced in the mid 1870s and used in some commercial and industrial refrigeration systems, and occasionally, one would leak, causing a minor emergency. This would never do in homes, where people could be trapped in their sleep, so home refrigeration was slow to take off.

McCray pre-electric home refrigerator ad (1905) 

Before fridges were invented, Russians and Finns kept their milk fresh by putting live frogs in it.

In 1913 the first refrigerators for home and domestic use were invented by Fred W. Wolf of Fort Wayne, Indiana with models consisting of a unit that was mounted on top of an ice box.

The first European-made refrigerator, lined with ceramic tiles, was made the same year by AEG of Nuremberg, Germany. In the UK, it sold for £85, which was the price of a typical small country cottage at the time.

By 1916 Electric refrigerators were being sold to American housewives, at the exorbitant cost of $900.

In 1914, engineer Nathaniel B. Wales of Detroit, introduced an idea for a practical electric refrigeration unit, which later became the basis for the Kelvinator.

Three years later the Kelvinator company introduced the first refrigerator with any type of automatic control. This was the first refrigerator with a small and reliable enough electric motor to be sold en masse. By 1923, the Kelvinator company held 80%of the market for domestic electric refrigerators.

Kelvinator ad from 1920.

In 1922, a refrigerator based on an entirely different operating system was invented by Baltzar von Platen and Carl Munters in Sweden while they were still students at the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm. Their absorption refrigerators used a 3-fluid configuration and could operate without a pump. They became the basis for the Electrolux Refrigerator, which first appeared two years later, and was powered by natural gas.

Sales of home refrigerators only began to take off in 1927 when General Electric Company introduced its"Monitor-Top" refrigerator. The first hermetic compressor refrigerator, it enclosed the refrigeration parts in a small cabinet.

General Electric "Monitor-Top" refrigerator, introduced in 1927.

Early domestic refrigerators used sulfur dioxide, methyl formate, or ammonia as the refrigerating medium, which could all do damage if inhaled or ingested. In the late 1920s, a research team was formed by General Motors to find a safer, low-toxicity alternative to these refrigerants. The team, headed by Thomas Midgley, Jr, improved the synthesis of CFCs and demonstrated their usefulness for such a purpose and their stability and nontoxicity. In 1930, General Motors and DuPont formed Kinetic Chemicals to produce Freon, the chlorofluorocarbons or CFC compounds.

A few decades later, people began to realize what the CFCs were doing to the ozone layer. Most uses of CFCs are now banned or severely restricted by the Montreal Protocol of August 1987.

Domestic refrigerators became largely universal by the late 1960s. In 1956 in the UK 8% of homes had fridges, 33% by 1962 and 69% by 1971.

By 2005, a refrigerator was present in 99.5% of American homes.

As low income countries grow rich a fridge is among the first things people buy - in China ownership went from 24% of homes in 2004 to 88% in 2014.


Domestic refrigerators run at 4°. A colder-running version (at c.-20°C) is the deep freeze, which can store food for some months.

The very first household refrigerators would cost about $16,000 today.

Early refrigerators could only be opened from the outside, making accidental trappings—particularly of children playing with discarded devices—a possibility, and several such deaths have been recorded. Modern designs close with a magnetic mechanism that can be opened from the inside, reducing the danger of accidental trappings.

By Bretwa - Own work,

The average fridge door is opened 154 times each week.

Source Europress Encyclopedia

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