Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Unplugging Your Next Best Friend--Findings on the Trail of Refrigerator Unplugging

I did find some rather interesting and questionable things about unplugging or downsizing the fridge:

1. Questioning what we actually put into the fridge--some things really are non-perishable even after opening. If the product doesn't say "keep refrigerated" or "refrigerate after opening" on it anywhere, then it's safe for cupboard storage.

2. Fruits and veggies are safe on the counter for about a week, then they need refrigeration for further storage. If you're buying more than a week's worth of perishable produce, you're buying too much. Remember--the best place for food storage is on the vine, so garden to cut that produce bill.

3. Some people (in an effort to go green) are living without refrigeration altogether, and substituting a cooler or ice chest for the refrigerator. I'd think the ice bill for keeping that thing going would easily exceed the annual electricity costs of an energy-efficient refrigerator.

4. Some people are putting the weather to good use, as in snow, and storing foods in snow. As long as it doesn't attract bears, I say go for it!

5. I found an article about insulating your refrigerator with shag carpeting, but don't think this applies to today's efficient ones. Someone actually glued shag carpeting to the sides and top of his refrigerator, and glued carpeting to panels which then got applied to the doors.

6. This same article also mentioned insulating the refrigerator alcove with rigid foam insulation (ice chest material)--even though we're told refrigerators need room around them to expel heat, this article says refrigerators need to be "built in," even if it's just a frame around it. Then the frame should be insulated with this thin rigid foam stuff.

7. A refrigerator Albert Einstein invented, which runs on propane, is supposedly more efficient at expelling heat than our electric fan system we use today. Old Al's refrigerators are making a comeback, but I'm not sure the cost of propane plus the lost interior space due to hyper-insulation would be a good trade-off for electricity cost savings.

8. We get in our own personal way-back machines and visit the world of traditional food storage before refrigeration existed: root cellars, drying, curing, smoking, salting in brine, and storing in a spring (items would be corralled in a net, then dropped into a cool spring, then tied off for future retrieval).

9. The Amish had two methods for storing leftovers and perishables: pigs and buckets of water. Pigs would eat leftovers not designated for short-term future use, and buckets of water were for submerging jars of food intended for short-term future use.

This is just what I've been able to sleuth out so far. As I mentioned before, my own odyssey with condiments* began with the discovery that most of them are bread-related, and once I gave up bread due to allergies to wheat, I found I could get rid of and cease buying peanut butter, jelly/jam, butter/margarine, ketchup, relish, and could even get rid of the toaster--at last, some free counter space!

*I noticed that living without bread (for me) meant not having a reason for all the things that go on it: butter/margarine, peanut butter, jelly, mayonnaise, mustard, etc., as well as a toaster. This is causing me to pause and reflect on all those things everyone keeps in their refrigerator doors, and wondering if we really need them at all. Are condiments really “condemn-ments”? And how many of us lose valuable counter space to a 1-function machine? What would a refrigerator look like WITHOUT those in-the-door shelves, anyway? It would look like those old, short, very thickly-insulated ones our grandparents had (that experts now say was the most efficient refrigerator ever built). I remember when Dad got one of these and kept it in the garage for his beer.

Oh wait--there's one more thing:

10. Location, location, LOCATION! The refrigerator or freezer has to work harder the closer it is to a heat source, so if the stove or dishwasher and fridge are next to each other, consider moving the fridge/freezer (if it isn't built in)...to the outside in winter, or even downstairs to the basement (if you have one). If you can't move it, then find ways to insulate it from the heat source (move the stove, move the dishwasher, add rigid foam insulation between heat and cold, add cupboards between heat and cold, etc.). If a radiator is in your kitchen, make sure the fridge/freezer are nowhere near it. Turn down your thermostat or close off vents in the kitchen near the fridge/freezer if you have to--this minimizes the temperature difference between hot and cold, and this means the cooling appliances work less trying to maintain temperatures.

Something else just popped into my head.

11. Color. White reflects heat, while black absorbs it, and stainless steel reflects heat back into the room, so the best color of appliance is the one that won't sell your house for you any time soon: white, or the 60's colors (avocado, harvest gold, or brown). Each color has it's own drawbacks, such as white is hard to keep clean, stainless steel shows fingerprints, black shows dust and lint, and those 60's colors are unappetizing and out of fashion with today's home buyers (assuming you leave the appliances in the home when selling). Black sells houses, and goes with virtually any cabinet, floor, or counter top, yet absorbs light and heat.

My advice: go with what you like, and plan to take it with you when you sell.

12. Style. The most efficient style of refrigerator isn't made any more--the old 40's ones with the compressor on top. The modern-day equivalent is the freezer-on-top, one split door model, no ice maker, and manual defrost. Since we don't hack away at built-up ice in freezer compartments any more, most are frost-free, which takes heat to constantly defrost. Heat against refrigeration causes...well, you know. Some things we just have to live with, I guess.

I think I'm going to go out and look at bar-sized refrigerators to see how they're outfitted inside--most of them have soda can holders (intended for college dorms), which I don't need. If I can find one that holds what I need it to hold, I may consider buying it, because I have the feeling my 20 cubic foot Sears refrigerator is suddenly going to become WAYYYY too big!


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