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Reducing Refrigerator Power During Peak Hours

July/August 2008
This article originally appeared in the July/August 2008 issue of Home Energy Magazine.
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July 01, 2008
Refrigerators consume about 14% of the total energy in the average U.S. household. While this may not be a very large figure, it is large enough that if most homes could cycle off their refrigerators during peak hours, we could significantly forestall the construction of new power plants. I propose a simple, low-cost modification to a standard refrigerator/ freezer unit that achieves this goal. The basic requirement is the addition of a small amount (2 gallons or so) of phase change medium near the freezer coils, and some additional control logic. Typical frost-free refrigerator/ freezer units have a single evaporator coil in the freezer section, and a small vent that allows some air to circulate between the freezer and refrigerator sections. A single thermostat controls the cycling of the system to maintain each section in the desirable temperature range. For the refrigerator section, this range is 33°F–40°F. For the freezer section, it is somewhat wider, ideally -13°F–14°F, although anything below freezing is acceptable for a short period.  (The freezer temperature affects mainly the softness of any ice cream in the freezer.)  Simply cutting off power to the unit during peak ...

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