Among all the household appliances ever invented, the refrigerator is probably one of the things humans are most thankful for. Since keeping our very perishable food fresh, cold, and extending its shelf life has never been made this easy thanks to the existence of what most people consider as our kitchen’s best friend. However, just like living organisms; this cooling agent went through an evolutionary upgrade over the years before it has turned up to the version we’ve come to appreciate nowadays. So let’s take a walk down memory lane, and find out how refrigerators have changed from its roots to the most recent models of the decade.
Before we check out the various refrigerators through the years, it’s only proper that we first introduce the main man behind this ingenious invention. And it's none other than an acclaimed inventor who goes by the name of Jacob Perkins. Born and bred in the state of Massachusetts, Perkins' passion for tinkering and inventing various machinery was taken from his extreme curiosity with everything mechanical. and, it doesn't come much as a surprise that this mechanical engineer and physicist was given credit for various inventions throughout his life including machinery for nail cutting and heading, the bathometer, and many others. But his most notable creation was creating a refrigeration machine that is used for cooling via a vapour-compression mechanism. And this has become the backbone of our refrigerator appliances nowadays.
Even before machinery has ever existed, the very concept of using a low temperature to extend the shelf life of food was already practiced through more primitive yet effective means. If you're an outdoorsy kind of person or had the chance to go camping; you have probably noticed that some people would place wine or champagne bottles in a net and immerse it by the riverside. This cooling technique was made famous by older civilizations way back and has been practiced by generations even to this day. But the low-temperature concept made a revolutionary stride from ancient civilizations to this century, and here's how.
If you think that the earliest civilizations were already settled with just salting, sun drying, and smoking as a means to preserve and keep their perishables alive and edible then think again. The Egyptians were already clever enough to make use of the frigid night time temperature to cool down their food. They would store their food in large clay jars, you know like the ones you see archaeologists unearth in some Egyptians' tombs. And they would place it outside or on top of their roofs during night time.
Meanwhile, the Greeks and Romans were known for their ice houses which resemble that of a hobbit house from the Lord of the Rings film that has been dug from the side of a hill. The moist soil will then keep the inside of the structure cool like in caves. And then they would painstakingly collect large chunks of ice from nearby bodies of water that have solidified and store it in the ice house which acts as a natural icebox.
During the late 1700's, a professor from the University of Glasgow; namely, William Cullen first came up with the concept of vaporization as a means of artificially creating cold temperatures. The Scotsman then created a miniature skeletal refrigeration machine to prove his theory. Sadly, he never got around into making a larger version of it, but his concept became the base for all of the succeeding inventions leading to our current cooling appliance.
Around the year 1805, Oliver Evans used Cullen's concept but tweaked it by using vapor instead of liquid to produce the same cooling technique. The American inventor then proceeded in creating the first refrigeration machine. But sadly, it was still just a prototype, which is why the title of being named the Father of Refrigeration went to another American inventor named Jacob Parkins instead. And it happened a few decades later around 1834 when Parkins successfully came up with the very first workable refrigeration system through vapour-compression using ether. However, despite getting the patent for this machine, Parkins refrigerator failed to cater commercially.
This failure to meet the public's demand for a cooling device led to the creation of the first iceboxes. Unlike the ones we use nowadays that are made from Styrofoam, these were made of wood and had an inner lining of tin to help keep the block of ice-cold for more extended periods. But it turned into a flop just because people were not that keen on buying ice blocks all the time and continuously replacing the melted one. It's not precisely cost-efficient and practical that time, mostly when money was hard to come by. I mean, would you.
It wasn’t until when the early 1900's rolled in that commercialized refrigerators were finally produced. The Frigidaire Company, a startup business created by William Durant, started making refrigerators that have compressors below. And the well-known Kelvinator Company brand created its version that has a more "futuristic" touch by installing an automatic control system.
But it was the General Electronic Company and their Monitor-Top refrigerator in 1927 who successfully catered to the public's taste, and about a million units were sold. This started the stable market for what is to become one of the must-have kitchen appliances at present. Their version solely uses two chemicals as refrigerants; methyl formate or sulfur dioxide.
For the past years since refrigerators were developed, the main chemicals used for coolants were either sulfur dioxide, ammonia, or methyl formate. And it was during 1928 when Charles Kettering partnered together with Thomas Midgley, Jr. and created Freon. And it's the game-changing chemical that will soon kick out these three toxic compounds from the refrigeration appliance race. But it took a while before it was eventually used for the cooling kitchen appliance, with Frigidaire leading the pack around 1935 when it released their version that’s all Freon.
During the 1940's newer models have a more levelled up look, by replacing the safe-looking older models that have table-top legs with a more solid rectangular refrigerator that has rounded edges. By the 1950's, appliance repair for these kitchen mainstays has become even more complicated with the addition of various innovations such as automated defrosting and built-in ice makers. And it was also considered the decade of refrigerator mania as about 80 percent of American households own this appliance.
By the 1970's the rounded types have been replaced with a more sleek-looking box that has sharp edges. But it wasn't just the design that had a make-over since by this time people have become environmentally conscious after studies showed that Freon was killing our ozone layer and have geared to replacing the CFC compound. Furthermore, energy-saving refrigerators have also started popping out during this decade.
When the new century rolled in, technological advancement in various appliances and machinery has become unstoppable. And with the advent of the digital age, refrigerators have become more futuristic as companies began including computerized systems in the device. The internet has started penetrating the refrigerator industry, with some being capable of connecting with WiFi. Meanwhile, others can now be controlled using just your phones. And what’s more, the newer luxury versions are even voice-controlled.
There are just so many improvements we can give to our refrigerators to make life easier. And who knows what kind of upgrade companies are gearing toward these days for our appliances. There's only one thing we do know. With the additional innovative mechanisms, also means that it has become more of a challenge when conducting appliance repairs for them. Then again, we do love a good challenge.
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If there is one thing that makes the kitchen one of the most attractive places to stay at, it would be due to the presence of none other than the refrigerator. This must-have home appliance is like a treasure trove that contains all of your prized food and drinks, keeping them cold, fresh, and edible for as long as it can. And besides your bed and television, the refrigerator has become one of your go-to things at home when you need some pick-me-up after a long stressful day.
Refrigerators are so valuable that even a slight mishap sends our moms to frenzy and panic. I remember my mom frantically dialing the repairman's number and begging him to come immediately and fix our fridge or else all of our food would go to waste. And refrigerator repairs don't come cheap, especially if the damage begs for a replacement part. However, as challenging as it may seem, you can still try to fix your refrigerator first before calling SOS. And here are some DIY refrigerator techniques you can do if you encounter one of these common fridge headaches.
A little bit of water does sometimes escape from your refrigerator from time to time; however, it is a different story if it's already creating puddles of water on the floor. Two problems often cause excessive water leakage; a broken water supply line or the drainage for your defroster has been blocked off.
A broken water supply line
Your refrigerator’s water supply can sometimes tear or have holes due to clogging in the line. And a simple fix is replacing the tube by a new line which you can easily buy in a hardware store near you. If by chance there is ice build-up clogging the line, let it thaw for an hour or two and you can turn your refrigerator on again. But if the damage is none of the above, then it's probably time to call for help and have your appliance repaired by an expert.
Blocked drainage defroster
Water leakage often happens when you're defrosting, but the water that should have been drained into the tank behind or below your refrigerator starts flowing in other directions. And it's all because your drainage hole is blocked by a build-up of small food debris or by ice. Remove the residue by either fishing it out with a wire or a coat hanger or by running hot soapy water mixture on it.
One of my favorite compartments in a refrigerator is the freezer, just because it’s that one place that keeps your frozen meat and desserts in excellent condition. However, it is a different story if the inside and even the outer rims start turning into Antarctica. You see, one of the most prevalent problems that require a refrigerator repair is excessive ice build-up in the freezer which takes forever to thaw out. And there are several reasons why this happens.
Broken door seal
Just like the main door of a refrigerator, the freezer's entry also has a sealant on its side to keep the extra cold temperature trapped inside the compartment. And due to wear and tear, this seal often breaks or becomes loose. You can try cleaning it out first and drying it thoroughly. But if that doesn't work, then it's high time to replace the gasket which you can either buy from a hardware store or order it from the company that made your appliance. Unscrew the old one, align the new gasket properly, and screw it back in place.
Freezer door left open.
There's a reason why the freezer has its door, and that's to keep the relative humidity of the compartment levelled. But sometimes, either due to laziness or us being in a rush; we often forget to close the freezer door properly. This will cause a sudden spike of humidity which will, in turn, signal the fridge to work double-time in lowering the temperature, causing the excessive formation of ice. Be sure to always close the door properly and make sure that it's sealed tight. If by chance the door is already loose, then you either replace it or tighten up the screws. If by chance these two are not the culprit, then it’s most likely that your defrost timer or even your temperature sensor. And that means it needs its immediate replacement which only a maintenance specialist can do.
Oh, how we love quiet purring machinery in an appliance because that shows that everything is running smoothly and all its components are in top shape. However, if you start hearing some rumbling and rattling noise whenever your refrigerator turns on, then that only means trouble. The not so pleasant noise is often due to loose parts such as the condenser fan, the compressor tubes, defrost timer, or the drain pan.
If it's just the condenser fan, then a little cleaning and dusting are all that it needs using a soft-bristled brush. Meanwhile, if it's the draining pan, then nudge your fridge and turn it around to expose the drain pan. Remove its contents, slide back in place, and screw it tight. But if the trouble lies with either the compressor or defrost timer, then the only way to repair it to replace these parts.
Although your refrigerator is always plugged in, this cooling appliance, like the air-con, has a built-in control timer that turns it on and off from time to time to save electricity and minimize ice build-up. That's because a continually running refrigerator can take quite a big chunk in your electricity expenses if not fixed as soon as possible. And this usually happens if you leave the door hanging open, allowing warm air to get inside. Furthermore, a fridge filled to the brim will always run more than usual to make sure that it cools down all of the food stored inside. But here are the most common component culprits of a continually running refrigerator:
Dirty condenser coils
The condenser can easily be exposed to dirt and debris such as dust and fur. It is usually located at the back of your refrigerator behind the grille. Once you've unscrewed the grille, carefully use a low-powered vacuum and such out all the dirt. Then use a soft brush and dust away from the remaining debris on it. Be sure to clean this up now and then to avoid this problem, or you can also hire a maintenance man who specializes in refrigerator repair and cleaning to do this for you.
Faulty door seal
Notice that white, grey or black rubber at the surrounding your refrigerator's door? That is the gasket that serves a sealant to keep the cold temperature in and the warm air out. As your fridge ages, it undergoes wear and tear, and the gasket is usually the first part that breaks or gets damaged over time. You can unscrew this and replace it with a brand new one. Just make sure to screw it tight when replacing to avoid loosening in the long run.
Fixing your appliance on your own may seem like a daunting and problematic task. Refrigerator designs nowadays are far more advanced with complex machinery and components. However, there are some refrigerator repairs which you can smoothly perform on your own with a little help online. Only, be sure to assess and locate the damaged or faulty parts first before going ahead with your DIY refrigerator repair. In the instance that you're way out of your game with your appliance's problem, then it's the time to call for professional help.
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