Free Fridge -or- The Collaborative Cooler

“Think free as in free speech, not free beer.”   -Richard Stallman

Refrigerators are not software, but they could be designed and shared freely like software.  Granted, I’m talking about hardware: steel, glass, copper, insulation, etc., but why not have an “open design” refrigerator?  Why not build things like we gave a damn about the future?  Why not consider the unborn generations, and the impact our decisions today are going to have on them?  Can’t we do better?  Isn’t that what progress should look like?

  • Constant improvements
  • Cradle to cradle design
  • 100% recyclable  (Not just down-cycled)
  • Modular
  • Serviceable
  • Technology that ensures our species survival, rather than ensures its demise


Why a Refrigerator?

I focus my attention on the domestic refrigerator (and you’ll be seeing a lot more about this, so sit tight) because, although it may not be the most crucial technology for our survival, I think most people would put it high on their list of necessities if really forced to think about it.  There are hundreds of machines that should be re-invented, but my personal obsession is the refrigerator – I think they’re neat, while most folks remain largely indifferent.  So, it’s my thing, and I’d like to afford others the opportunity to take notice of the heat pump in their kitchen.  Shall we begin?


Design Principles

  • Low to zero toxicity
  • Few to no petroleum based plastics
  • “Natural” refrigerants like propane, butane, carbon dioxide, etc.
  • Well insulated cabinet, utilizing insulation such as mineral wool, cork, radiant barriers
  • High efficiency cooling system
  • Serviceable refrigeration unit with the capacity to fully replace without special tools
  • Control system based on open platform such as Arduino
  • Freely available source code
  • Capacity to self monitor power consumption, temperatures, and duty cycles – feedback to user
  • Freely available instructions for manufacture and repair
  • Made to operate as long as is possible, but fully recyclable when desired


 Reinforcing Ethic

It has been shown in the development of software through collaborative, open source methods, that great strides are made through the free, unconstrained access and cooperation of users and programmers.

Pretty well every household needs a refrigerator, and it is not as if many people feel constrained or held back by appliance manufacturers.  Myself- I feel that the refrigerator is just one more example of a rotten culture, unable to view the world for what it is:  a finite place with infinite resources; but only for the infinitely imaginative.  In the early days of domestic refrigerators, there were dozens of companies competing fervently for market share, and the creative designs that resulted from those manufacturers was a testament to the ingenuity of humankind.  Consolidation after several economic bust cycles, has left us with many colors, but few real options.  Instead of making many mediocre things, lets make a few really good things.

The design principles I mentioned above are just a few that I am considering for this project.  Rather than propose a product, I am trying to develop a concept that reinforces an ethic:  Efficiency is a relative term, and is not the only metric of success.


Next time, I’ll discuss some design ideas I’ve been floating, and some examples of where they could be used.

-M.C. Pletcher






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Posted in Philosophy, Refrigeration, Refrigerator

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