Long overdue for an update, I have these backlogged photos of my journey towards building a better refrigerator, and I feel I need to get these published so I can pursue further writing.
See Part 2
The last nine months or so in my shop has been productive, in my opinion, and I have turned out a great number of variations on the simple device commonly called a domestic refrigerator. I’ve bent a lot of copper, gone through a fair amount of propane refrigerant, and done a great deal of thinking. Although seeing an idea come to life fills me with much satisfaction, it is dreaming up the next big idea which gives me the most excitement. You’ll see that I have gone through an absurd number of iterations and that each one followed a line of thinking which sought to test and evaluate each for its suitability in the pursuit of worthy technology for a rugged, reliable, and efficient refrigerator which could serve domestic purposes for generations. I’ll start where I left off in Beginning the Modular Refrigerator.
From this photo, you can see there was some thought put into the organization and layout of an experimental modular unit. Ultimately, this system would be plagued with capillary tube problems, as I hadn’t yet determined the Read more ›
The refrigeration laboratory is here. This is the first blog post I’ve written since late summer 2016, and I’m doing so on a desk and chair I purchased at the Goodwill Bins for $8, not more than an hour ago. It’s funny how much the environment can change one’s behavior so. Before the weather began to turn cold I was cranking out at least two YouTube videos per week on the progress of my 100 Year Fridge project. I told myself that video was the only good way to document my work, because I just didn’t have the time to write and caption pictures. It is true that I was insanely busy bending copper, soldering stainless steel, concocting new heat exchangers and two phase thermosiphons, so sitting down to carefully explain what I was doing would take at least as much time as I spent building the shit (which was a lot). But I realize just now that part of the problem with writing is just getting started, and it sure is hard to start when there are so many distractions to prevent that.
I sit in an 8×10 foot windowless shed, well insulated, and accompanied little more than a homemade beer fridge, a heater, and the laptop I’m writing this on. Read more ›
Let it be known that I do not want to sell refrigerators, own patents, market products, or operate anything which could be construed as a business. That being said, a guy has to make a living, so that if I were to develop a domestic refrigerator I feel confident in, then I would probably attempt to sell them, constructing them by hand, one by one. However, if the world worked differently, I would spend my days building refrigerator after refrigerator, making refinements both in utility and aesthetic appeal. For now, that is exactly what I am going to do, while working a regular day job. Perhaps I will never feel that I have a machine good enough for sale, and I will tinker away in my shop for the rest of life trying to make the perfect refrigerator. This is all speculation, but I really feel like I do work on this for a very long time.
Improvements in technology over time, when driven by competition though the market process, seem to produce individual machines of increasing sophistication and individual energy efficiency, but shorter useful lifespans. This, I feel is due to a mixture of cheap components “made to break”, and a lack of sensible repair options, Read more ›
Tagged with: appropriate technology
, living small
, modular design
, resource depletion
, tiny living
Posted in Personal
Beginning a few weeks ago, I’ve embarked on a project to construct a modular, long lasting cooling system for domestic purposes. I’ve outlined my reasoning for this elsewhere on this site. 100 Year Fridge The majority of my documentation is on YouTube at this time, so I thought it prudent to begin sharing some of the details of the design in a less “rambling crazy person” format.
The first cooling unit was not an all-in-one package, and much more crude, so I won’t be including much of it here. The unit I built was essentially a smaller brine chiller. That is, it was designed to chill an insulated container full of anti-freeze and water. Initial tests were a partial success, as I was able to lower the temperature far below freezing, but not in anything resembling efficiency or longevity. The system was comprised of a 1/4 HP compressor salvaged from an ice machine, a small air cooled condenser, a short length of capillary tube, and a short length of 1/4” copper tubing immersed in the brine tank.
Construction was for two purposes. Initially, I wanted a brine chiller so I could test simple two-phase thermosiphon. I won’t go into it now, but the thing worked just fine, and demonstrated the principle could be used to refrigerate remote liquids (and possibly air) from a distance. The original refrigerative apparatus was consolidated to a single platform with the condenser unit mounted to the surface of a board, and the evaporator suspended from underneath.
After this proof of concept, I returned to the long term goal of making a successful cooling unit for a refrigerator. A mini-fridge, originally thermoelectric, was re-purposed by cutting a round hole in the top, Read more ›
Over the course of the next several years I will be illustrating a plan for a long lasting, modular refrigeration system which encompasses my values in the realm of design and simplicity. Here I will begin that process by trying to describe these values in a somewhat coherent manner. Writing, or even conversing openly about this project is very difficult, as putting these concepts to words in an easy to understand format is fraught with many mental blocks. Providing the necessary background information to understand the needs of a new direction in refrigeration engineering seems to be my greatest shortfall.
From my perspective, the well crafted machines of the 1920’s and 30’s represent a beauty and simplicity which remains unmatched to this day, in my opinion. I have a nostalgia for appliances from my grandmother’s youth. This is strange to some, considering my age, but I am not alone as there are many collectors of vintage refrigerators, as well as restoration experts, and clueless yuppies willing to fork over a pile of cash for an old looking fridge with modern cooling equipment.
Where I feel I may differ from many of the others, is that I want to bring back some of these technologies which were developed at that time. Engineering problem solving produced modular cooling units that were separate from the ice box and could be swapped when a problem occurs, also detailed service manuals were produced to make repairs. Refrigerants of the day (other than the Freons) were often inexpensive, naturally occurring, or produced by simple chemical synthesis. Many of the most successful insulating materials were again naturally occurring, or produced from a simple industrial process. When implemented well, they were resistant to rot and vermin attack. The structural components of the compressor unit and ice box were common materials like wood, felt, cork, mineral wool, glass, and metal. Time has shown that many of these models were handsome, sturdy, reliable, and long lasting. In retrospect, the scientific community has shown the ecological dangers of the Freon group, adverse health affects of asbestos, lead paint, and mercury. But, they were all good ideas at the time, I guess! Read more ›
It has taken me some years to find my path. I believe that were I born in a previous era, I would have found my way to the field of engineering, as that seems to be the my core interest: solving problems and building better things. Alas, this was not the case, and I was born into sick world from the toxic effects of over consumption and growth. The principle of problem solving is no longer the goal of the average engineer beyond the band-aids slapped onto the bad designs inherited from the last iteration of uber-complex, mass produced garbage.
Having just entered my third decade of life, the aggregate experiences of working many jobs, social experiences, and a decent body of literature, has left me with the humbling realization that although I do not have a solution to the world’s problems, I nonetheless recognize their existence and severity. My greatest criticism of our technological culture lies in the things we make, their social and environmental consequences, and the obsessive, bordering religious, quest for “progress” which has been described by others as a “cult of efficiency”.
I am one man, with a variety of basic skills, writing well not being one of them, but I have learned and applied these skills in several vocations that typically involve the maintenance of industrial machines and furtherance of the systems underlying industrial society. Each one of these positions came with it a new perspective of engineering, design, the bureaucracy of management, and dynamics of the economic and political system which governs it: neo-liberalism.
Listing back and forth between cynicism of human nature, Read more ›
In the fall of 2015, I did something which I felt was for my own good: I quit my job as a local truck driver, and pursued a residential HVAC maintenance position at a Portland area company. My view then, for which I still stand by, was that the sensible thing to do was to work in a field or related field that could teach me a valuable skill, and for the first time provide an opportunity to really use my head, rather than only my back. I have long considered HVAC as a trade, but was too cautious to throw my hat in the ring, since the vast majority of the fellas I’ve met doing HVAC or refrigeration were ego driven, pig-headed, stubborn assholes with a god complex. Also, by its very nature, HVAC techs works a lot when it is really hot or cold, and not always in the most favorable of environments generally. I want to be in this to hone my brazing skills, get plenty of trouble shooting experience, and hopefully make a little money to fund my personal refrigeration projects.
In nine months or so at this company, I went from curiosity and excitement, to boredom and cynicism. That part is hardly new; I always get bored. The strange part came from an initial image of ongoing education, and good honest work.
Starting in installations, I was impressed to see the quality which the journeymen strove to achieve. This work could be pretty labor intensive, especially if anything needs run through the attic or crawl space. I’m not as nimble and flexible as I once was. Leave that labor to the younger guys. I was moved to the maintenance program within 6 weeks. After all, I was hired to eventually do repairs. On this side of things, I saw that good old god complex attitude in more than one technician, but there were two good technicians for every one bad, so I can live with that. The part that bugs me, is the amount of sales we are expected to achieve.
I’ll try to lay out the general scheme here. This program is practiced around the country (US) in various forms, but this is how mine worked. Read more ›