The most difficult part of designing a durable, robust, long lasting refrigerator is dealing with the the question of how to power it. Electricity is the answer most people would pop off before I get the last breath out. But, that doesn’t really answer the question sufficiently. Electricity from what source?- I might ask.
This may seem trivial to most people, but it really bugs me, considering the great deal of time I spend designing this machine and pondering all of the possible futures, homes, failures, and repairs it may go through. This is nothing to be taken lightly. Man-made, controlled electricity is not an entitlement to modern living, and it hasn’t been around very long, so the suggestion that elecctrical power could one day become scarce doesn’t strike me as anything odd. The world has likely hit peak conventional oil production more than ten years ago, and the days of inexpensive coal and natural gas may be short lived, peaking in the next forty years or so, we’ll say. On top of the fact that worldwide demand for energy shows little signs of declining, and when it does start to decline (and it will), then people are going to have much greater concerns in their lives than how are they going to pay the electricity bill (like where are they getting food to put in my fridge).
Efficiency improvements through technology: Not an energy source. Does not change the laws of thermodynamics. Cannot replace energy with technology.
Then there’s nuclear: Toxic. Dangerous. Insane
Fusion power: 60 years and still dumping money down that pit.
Again, my common friend will say that the economy will shift to sustainable sources of energy (“renewables” they call ’em) like solar, wind, and hydro. Well first of all, I seriously doubt an expanding industrial economy can operate on these “green” forms of energy converters. The economies of today formed around the basis of super abundant cheap energy derived from fossil fuels. Without fossil fuels to mine the raw materials and process them into the infrastructure needed to supply the needs to this wasteful culture, any notion of a solar economy is at best a pipe dream, unless we’re talking about the solar economy that life itself has operated upon for billions of years.
Rooftop solar is just a temporary band-aid, and only provides a false sense of energy independence. This can produce electricity for home use, office, and light industrial, but the unsustainable nature of PV panels will shine light on the ugly truth. Home-grown wind power might have a little more life, but again is very limited. Hydroelectric power destroys rivers. Life needs free flowing rivers. Enough said.
I’m not holding my breath on some new breakthrough technology that will make energy so cheap that it is free. I think that is the last thing this sick culture needs. What we need is to look at the gluttonous monsters we are, and the way we are destroying the life support system that is our home planet.
I’m not going any deeper down this rabbit hole of doom and gloom, because I’m not the best resource for it. If you want to read some good authors that take a realistic look at the authoritarian technic called “industrial man”, shoot me an e-mail. This guy writes about refrigerators.
The answer, for now, is low voltage direct current. The reason is pretty simple. DC allows for an off-grid installation, and that is likely to be where the most interest in a refrigerator built in such a strange way, and with such strange principles instilled in it. Focusing on this application also drives me to make it run in a way which requires the least amount of energy and considers the intermittent nature of power availability in home energy production systems. DC inverter compressors also have the capacity to vary the capacity, leading to further energy savings and fun.
These compressors will someday cease to be manufactured, and/or the electronics which drive them will become unavailable. The best I can do is to design a refrigerator that considers this as a possibility, and makes the conversion to another form of compressor as easy as possible so the owner can at least consider repairing the unit. This is done my making the compressor mounting extremely adjustable so a variety of compressor mounting configurations can be accepted. All of the copper plumbing should be easily accessible with sections designed to be cut for component replacement. 1/4″ flare Shrader valves are provided for easy access to the the system. Integrated pressure gauges are installed providing for easier diagnoses if a problem should present itself. All of the electrical should use standard components that will likely remain common for years to come.
I can’t be sure the refrigerator as I design it will always be applicable to the electrical sources available in the future, but I can be damned sure that I tried to give the owner as much help in making it run on whatever is available at the time, even if it is farts and rainbows.