It’s Time for a Refrigeration Revolution

Is our quest for comfortable temperatures going to drive us into a heat wave we canít escape from? It looks that way, after a recent report from The Guardian has shown our rising use of refrigeration and air conditioning is turning it into the dark horse of climate change.

Itís the ultimate catch-22. Our energy use is driving up global temperatures so many of us must use cooling devices. But itís only compounding our problems. According to the report, ďThe US uses as much electricity to keep buildings cool as the whole of Africa uses on everything; China and India are fast catching up. By mid-century people will use more energy for cooling than heating.Ē

Most air conditioners and refrigerators run using the same technology, known as vapor compression refrigeration. Essentially transferring a refrigerant from a compressor to an evaporator, thus transporting heat out of the device, leaving the cool air to be directed either into your home or refrigerator.

Oddly, as weíve scrambled to find new technologies to heat things using new and renewable energy sources, the refrigeration industry has stayed fairly static. There have been notable upgrades such as phasing out chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) in 1995. And itís safe to say that many refrigeration devices have gone through several upgrades to render them more energy efficient.

However they still run on fossil fuel and our options to stay cool are limited. In heat waves, where temperatures soar into the triple digits, access to cooler temperatures can be a life and death situation. Tricks and tips are great at times, and dunking your feet into an ice bath will absolutely help you stay cool during hot summer months. But†with the heat waves expected to hit various communities in the upcoming years, we need a better solution.

The lack of pubic outcry over this issue could hold back any future advancement. It means fewer companies are sprouting up and less investors are pouring their money into solving this issue. Which is why itís so important the public begins demanding better refrigeration options.

There is some hope on the horizon that could knock vapor-compression refrigeration to the sidelines. A new scientific method called elastocaloric refrigeration is not only more energy efficient than the current method, but it stays away from the more dangerous chemicals found in many refrigerants.

So how does elastocaloric refrigeration work? When a superelastic material is ďstressedĒ or squeezed quickly enough it discharges heat and cools down. When the pressure or squeeze is removed, it then absorbs the surrounding heat, further cooling the temperature.

The biggest roadblock to this technology is that fatigue on these materials can cause failure over time. But donít refrigerators also break? What it really needs is further funding so scientists studying these technologies can radically shift the way we keep our homes and offices cool.

The University of Maryland is now developing air conditioners using this technology and there are hopes these can make it to market sooner than later. New technology such as this will require massive overhauls to manufacturing workshops as well as training for repairs. However, having to adapt has never been a good excuse to shirk innovation.†

Keeping cool using outdated methods will eventually make life on earth miserable. We must change what it means to get cool or risk sending ourselves into an endless cycle of destroying our planet.

Photo Credit: Chenspec/Wikimedia

40 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill3 years ago

Some areas, people could do without the a/c others not so much. Although when I was little, we didn't have them. We survived. I was in third grade before I even knew someone with an a/c, and that was just a window unit in their den. I thought they must be rich.

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Sharon F.
Sharon F3 years ago

There should be a tax on ice. Stop wasting electricity.

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Jeannine Johnson
Jeannine Johnson3 years ago

All I Have Is A Fan No A/C Can't Afford One So I won't Miss It At All !

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Dan Blossfeld
Dan Blossfeld3 years ago

Will R.,
You may need to hunker down. I just heard your forecast for a brutal winter.

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Natasha Salgado
Past Member 3 years ago

More emphasis needs to be placed on housing design as if properly designed than it would def limit the need 4 AC or even a lot oh heat in some cases. Even in Europe you can find so many older buildings houses which have thick concrete walls which helps a lot keeping the heat out plus a few other features.

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Fi T.
Past Member 3 years ago

Effective and sustainable

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Lorraine Andersen
Lorraine A3 years ago

Our parents (if you are my age anyway,..LOL) managed to survive without air conditioning. Now, children would no more know how to live without it as to live without their cell phones. If we had a major power outage no one would know what to do anymore!! We need to change the way we live.

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Ben Oscarsito
Ben Oscarsito3 years ago

Air conditioning...? -You wish! : ~ (

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

They have been talking about refrigeration changes since the '90s. I am amazed that nothing more has come of it.

Thanks for sharing.

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