How Refrigerators Work

Refrigerators have been a great boon to society. They have allowed us to preserve foods for long periods that previously had to be consumed right away. At one time ice had to be harvested from lakes in the winter season and stored in ice houses during the warmer months. To get ice, a person had to go to the ice house, which was usually below ground level, wade through sawdust and chop off a chunk of ice with a pick. With modern refrigerator-freezers we can produce ice in the home without even thinking about it.

Children Eating Ice Cream

Even so, we should think about it. How does this marvelous and useful gadget work? It is based on the principle that an expanding gas tends to cool. The system begins with a compressor that begins the process that condenses the gas into a liquid form. This has the effect of warming it to some degree, but when the gas is pumped into the condenser coils a fan blows air over it. The heat in the liquid is exchanged to the air which is blown away. This is why you can often feel warm air coming out from under your refrigerator.

From the condenser coils the liquid is pumped into the expansion valve, which is basically a chamber that allows the gas to expand. When it does this, it cools considerably. It is then pumped into the evaporator coils which run through areas of the freezer and refrigerator. Here, they absorb heat from the food and air. Finally, it is sent back to the condenser where it starts the process all over again.

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