Compact appliances are becoming more multifunctional and, like all other industry segments, more efficient. MicroFridge (www.microfridge.com) combines a microwave oven, refrigerator, charging station for handhelds, and a Safe Plug power management system to keep the appliance from drawing too much power. The unit is Energy Star rated and achieves the highest rating for energy efficiency: CEE Tier 3 status.
Recent years saw resurgent interest in
refrigerants that were previously written off as impractical, such as
CO2 and isobutane (R-600a). New engineering effort is going into old
technologies, and these revived systems may soon find new applications.
For the most part, however, innovation is still focused on improving
efficiency using more common refrigeration system technologies in
fridges have been a growing segment. GE Appliances quotes statistics
from the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers (AHAM) that show
1.67 million bottom freezer refrigerators were sold in 2008, making for
almost five-fold growth in this subcategory since 2000. Dollar sales
were US$2.46 billion in 2008, more than seven times higher than in
2000. Bottom freezer models accounted for 27% of the dollars spent on
refrigerators in 2008.
Designers of appliances
have developed configurations that make access easier, and consumers
have been particularly drawn to French door models, with a 2-door
refrigeration section up top and a freezer below. GE took the idea
further with its Armoire styling, with two freezer drawers designed to
make food organizing easier. A top-drawer freezer compartment is for
everyday use and items that are accessed more often. A deeper bottom
drawer stores larger items, and is big enough for a frozen turkey.
Tools for Entertainment
with built-in DVD players, internet access, and digital photo frames
have come and, for the most part, gone. Refrigerators do offer the best
existing hardware platform for bringing consumer electronics
capabilities in the kitchen, but only if enough buyers can be persuaded
that they might actually make use of it.
attentions are now on maximizing the core fridge/freezer
capabilities—which incude maximizing their value to households that
host big gatherings.
America Inc., has been increasing its refrigerator lineup in the United
States and added the first refrigerator in the industry with two
icemakers. When the second icemaker is turned on for a party or family
get-together, ice production is 1.5 times as much as current models. An
external filtered water and ice dispenser is located in the
refrigerator and the second icemaker is in the freezer.
reduced the space taken up by the insulation to create more usable room
inside the fridge, resulting in a design with 3 more cubic feet than
many other French door fridges. At 28.5 cu ft, the RFG298 is designed
for the largest storage capacity in a French door refrigerator with a
Whirlpool Corp.’s Amana brand is also targeting consumers that host large gatherings with its QuickTap Entertainment Refrigerator. The appliance has a beverage reservoir to hold and dispense up to 2.5 L of cold beverages, including mixed drinks. The reservoir is connected through the refrigerator door to a dispenser for easy beverage service.
Innovation on a Smaller Scale
well-known cooling technique for small refrigerators is absorption
cooling, which has a strong advantage in its quiet operation. Dometic
Group (Solna, Sweden; www.dometic.com) has long been a global supplier
of refrigerators using absorption cooling for hotel minibars (and for
marine and RV use). These refrigerators use no refrigerant and have no
compressor or other moving parts, giving them silent operation and a
refrigeration system that’s virtually maintenance-free and wear-free.
At Home Appliance @ IFA, last month’s appliance trade show in Berlin,
Dometic’s German business unit launched an absorption refrigerator for
“In the home, a silent second
refrigerator is ideal when people do not want their peace disturbed,
for example in workrooms and bedrooms,” said Steffen Gross of Dometic
GmbH. The miniCool refrigerators were shown in special models such as
the Music-Coolbox, allowing connection to an iPod and speakers.
effect refrigeration technology is also known for operating quietly and
has been used in small refrigerators for several decades, but hasn’t
been capable of creating cooling temperatures low enough for everyday
refrigeration. That may be changing now that Haier has launched small
units with thermoelectric cooling technology that can reach
temperatures as low as 37°F, enhancing the technology with special
firmware, electronics, and a dual-fan system. Haier has said the
technology will migrate to larger home refrigerators soon.