Refrigerator, Its History and Impact on Human Life
Around 200 million refrigerators are sold each year worldwide, more than 8 million are sold in the US. Around 99 percent of households own a fridge. It has been said that the fridge is one of the most used home appliances and is a very commonly used product. Before the fridge was introduced, people would use ice boxes. Ice boxes are boxes with a block of ice to cool and keep their food fresh. Although the fridge has developed the concept of refrigeration which reduces the spoilage rate of food items, the chemicals used in many refrigerators have contributed to the deterioration of global warming. There is a wide range of refrigerator styles but maintaining a fridge for a long period can be costly.
Fridges has come a long way since the early designs. The development of the fridge all started when William Cullen created the first version of the refrigerator in Glasgow, he was a Scottish scientist in the late 1740s. Before Cullen had even invented the first form of the fridge, people would use ice blocks to keep their food cold or fresh. Refrigerators for home/domestic use weren’t invented until 1913 by an American named Fred W. Wolf. Unfortunately, his version of it failed. Earlier, Jacob Perkins, an American inventor living in London had invented the first functioning vapor-compression refrigeration system in 1834, but it did not succeed commercially. The earlier designs of the fridge used vapor-compression refrigeration systems. Then, Einstein created a design without any moving parts and only used constant heat and operated at constant pressure. In 1920, fridges weren’t mass-produced, so only wealthy people had access to them and could afford them. Later on, prices started to drop so the market for fridges expanded and it started selling more and more. The sales rose from 200,000 in 1926 to 5 million in 1935, and even 6 million the following year. The design of the refrigerator continuously evolved and changed and is currently still evolving. Over time, the refrigerator became more and more common. In 1950, 90 percent of urban homes had a refrigerator, although only 2 percent of people in Britain had a fridge in their household. From 1970 through 1980, Freon, a liquid refrigerant brand used in AC and fridges was a threat to the ozone layer. This shows how many changes the refrigerator went through and how it slowly developed into the version that is used today.
The cooling and refrigeration system used in fridges help food last longer, therefore allowing food more likely to be eaten. It also helps slow down bacterial growth. According to PNNL.gov, “Bacteria are among the fastest reproducing organisms in the world, doubling every 4 to 20 minutes. Some fast-growing bacteria such as pathogenic strains of E.coli can sicken and kill us.” Thus, putting food in the fridge helps reduce the rate of bacteria growth. This is important since some of those bacteria can cause illness and even death. Food put in the fridge stays fresher. Without it, people who consume rotten or spoiled food have a very high chance of getting sick. There will more likely be less food wasted because there will be less chance of food spoiling, therefore people will be more likely to eat any leftover food if it is being stored in a refrigerator. At room temperature, foodborne illnesses can double every 20 minutes. If you take home leftover food, they need to be in the fridge or freezer within 2 hours, or else they may not be safe to eat. Even thawing out foods at room temperature is not recommended and is unsafe since bacteria can multiply rapidly in refrigerated foods. If raw poultry is left unrefrigerated, some organisms can create toxins that will most likely survive the cooking process, even if the food is cooked at high temperatures that would kill the bacteria themselves, the toxins would remain. It is a health concern to be leaving out leftovers or even thawing out foods since the growth of bacteria is so rapid, the fridge helps reduce or even solve this problem.
Even though the refrigerator is beneficial to us and the sake of our food, the components of a fridge are quite harmful to the environment. There are many ways that a fridge used daily is destroying our Earth, little by little. The fridge is hard to dispose of; since they are considered hazardous waste, it is quite difficult to dispose of a fridge. Epa.gov states, “Hazardous waste, by definition, has the potential to negatively affect human health and the environment, which is why it is so strictly regulated. Generation and management of hazardous wastes can contaminate land, air, and water and negatively affect human health and environmental conditions.” Fridges and air conditioners contribute to the deterioration of the ozone layer and global warming. This means that it can make global warming worse. Global warming can lead to things such as forest fires, floods, or even droughts. This website, www.pca.state.mn.us, says, “CFCs and HFCs contribute an estimated 11.5% to the present-day effect of GHGs on climate and climate change.” HFCs and CFCs are Hydrofluorocarbons and chlorofluorocarbons which are chemicals most commonly used in air conditioners, for cooling and refrigeration, which creates greenhouse gases (GHG). In 2013, it is estimated that 9 million fridges are thrown out every year in the US, which means since a bountiful amount of hazardous waste is thrown away each year, more people are buying new refrigerators which cause even more waste that contributes to global warming and pollution. The parts of a fridge that make it effective and useful are quite harmful to our planet.
Buying and owning a fridge does have many benefits, but the downside is that it may be hard to maintain. Even though the fridge itself may be quite affordable, paying for fridge maintenance can be quite expensive. A full year’s worth of electricity used from a fridge is around 150 dollars per year, which isn’t expensive until you add 7 percent more electricity used because if you tend to open the fridge door more often, it wastes more money. USDA.gov says, “In 2019, households in the lowest income quintile spent an average of $4,400 on food (representing 36.0 percent of income), while households in the highest income quintile spent an average of $13,987 on food (representing 8.0 percent of income).” According to Sterling Price, “Average rent in the U.S. is $784 per month. The 35% of Americans who rent pay just a little less than homeowners each year for their rent, maintenance costs, and renters insurance, an average of $9,477.” People are spending at least $13,808 a year excluding electricity bills and extra expenses. For people who are poor or less privileged, this can be troublesome and if they have more people to accommodate for, then they most likely will not be in a good financial situation. On top of paying for bills, rent, food, and extra expenses it will add up to quite an abundance of money per year, which a good amount of people may not be able to afford.
There is so much diversity when it comes to different types of fridges or even fridge designs. There are at least 28 different types of fridges. There are even more designs and colors for fridges. The variety of fridges is much needed or even appreciated because there are around 7.8 billion people on this planet, not everybody is going to want the same fridge or even need the same fridge. It can also cater to multiple businesses and food chains since its purpose is to keep food or items fresh or prevent them from going bad. There are even skincare fridges, fridges are not always for foods. For people who look for different designs or colors of fridges, many sites offer fridges in at least 13 different colors. There are at least a total number of 28 different types of fridges, ranging from mini-fridges to fridges for commercial use. There are many types of consumers and they all have different budgets and/or preferences. Nowadays fridges cater to all types of customers.
In the end, whether people like buying or having a fridge, it has become a big part of people’s daily lives and has impacted many lives. The fridge is good at keeping food fresh and there is a wide range of models to pick from, but having a fridge long term is troublesome to maintain. Since having a refrigerator has become an essential kitchen appliance, especially in the US, these pros and cons have impacted a vast number of people. Seeing how refrigerators are still evolving, it’s likely that refrigerators will continue to develop and become more environmentally friendly. Therefore, people who own fridges should be aware of how much this machine is affecting them, whether it’s environmentally, financially, or maybe even personally.