The external fridge that saves space and energy

Sensemaking / The external fridge that saves space and energy

03 Feb 2011

Reaching for the morning orange juice could become a whole new experience...

With the Green Deal set to boost the retrofit of domestic and commercial properties, the humble home is increasingly at the heart of the UK’s sustainability drive.

Alongside the (rather dull but) exceedingly smart prospect of loft insulation and double glazing, are innovative new designs, from TV screens that dim automatically when you look away, to clocks that tell you how much energy you’re using day to day (see 'Smart design clocks energy use').

But not all great ideas are new. The humble larder is set to make a comeback, thanks to its eco-credentials – using zero energy to store food at between 3-5°C. Compare that to your average refrigerator, which gets through 694 kWh per year for the same result. The fridge also takes up valuable space in kitchens, which will be increasingly coveted as urban populations grow and kitchens shrink. Nicolas Hubert’s concept design for an external refrigerator,finalist inthe Electrolux Design Lab 2010 competition, solves the energy and space problems in one fell swoop. It’s fitted to an external wall, and slides open across a window for easy access.

During the cold season and at night it collects, filters and reuses the cool outdoors air to chill the food. And when the weather warms up, it draws on a combination of photovoltaics and the mains supply for its energy needs. Hubert had the idea when living in China, where many families store their food on the balcony during colder months.

Critics – including David Jullien, CEO of effciency advice centre Act on Energy – worry that few would be prepared to open their window to the chill, when all they want is milk for a nice hot cuppa – and that the heat lost by doing so could outweigh the energy savings. But Tom Astin of Electrolux welcomes Hubert’s attempt to rethink the way we store our food, an innovative contrast to incremental efficiency improvements on the standard fridge-freezer. Moreover, he adds, “the technology behind this design already exists, so it could certainly be rolled out in the near future”.

- Hannah Sims

Image credits: Electrolux

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