Monday, August 3, 2009

The Great Refrigerator Round Up Scam

The great refrigerator round up, don’t believe the hype. I’m going to do my very best to keep things in order to make it easy to follow. Alright where to start. How about a mean way. This program is not backed by any environmental agency what so ever. This is completely run by the power authority. This is about as good an idea as those compact florescent that they have just proved are causing more problems (this is just one of the problems) than saving them.

So lets start with the ad first. If you listen closely they will only pick up fridges that are in working order. Awww you mean you want me to throw out something that is fine?? Yes they do!!! SO where is the environmental benefits to that??? This is the first sign showing that this is not a good idea. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it and if it's not broke don't throw it out for no good reason. Pretty simple right???

Here is the run down on the pre 90’s fridges. The two biggest differences to a new unit are the refrigerant change and insulation. The older units used r12, this is the famed gas that apparently killed the ozone layer. I’ve also heard that the manufacturer of it lost the patent and it was billions to resign. Hmmm makes you think. The other big factor is the insulation. The older units were hand stuffed insulation like what is used in your house walls, sound dead for sure but usually there are some voids in there which means a little energy loss.

Jump forward to the 90’s . The new units are now expandable foam cabinets. This is like the foam that you use to seal in a window. This stuff is very dense and fantastic at keeping the cool where it should be and the heat away from where it shouldn’t be. So as of the early 90’s fridges are already efficient. The next major change is the refrigerant. Now a134. I’ve seen the graphs and comparisons. It’s still bad but not as bad as r12 for breaking down in the atmosphere. Regardless it’s not supposed to be released in the air. If you see a tech blasting of refrigerant from a fridge or air conditioner it’s very illegal and has a nasty fine for both him and the company he/she works for.

Ok so there is the basic timeline of the products that are out there. So here is where my problem with this program starts. Obviously throwing out something that is still working is a very bad idea but here is where the short sighted kicks in and the sneaky influence to make you consume more things.

Lets start with the disposal side of things. First how much power would it take to recycle that old fridge? Well the factory that is running all those lights and all the machines are a strain on the power grid. Then there is the recovery of all that refrigerant. If done properly it must be stored. Awww stored since it will take about 140 years for it to break down. Wasn’t it being stored a little more efficiently having it still in that working fridge??? Next up is they say that everything will be recycled except about a hardhat sized piece of garbage that will end up in the landfill. Excuse me??? Haven’t we put enough in the earth?? Now the funny thing is a fridge is pretty much a frame with a lot of dead space. One of those big ass garbage compactors would probably squash a full size fridge into that hardhat size so are things really being recycled and which parts are??? So where is the environmental and the power savings so far?
Next up. That wonderful new fridge. How much power will it take for the factory to manufacture the frame, then the factory that makes the inner cabinet mold, along with the compressor etc etc etc. Wow that’s a lot of juice. I didn’t even start into the refrigerant. The other problem is the metal needed to build the fridge. Does that magically appear or do we rip it out of the earth?? Well we do need a place to stick that old fridge so keep digging boys.

So far we have an excessive amount of factories running 24 hours a day 7 days a week that are sucking up huge amounts of power while stripping out non renewable resources out of the ground while putting the leftovers of another product back into it. Woo hoo I feel very green now. Al Gore eat your heart out. Check out this video, I like it Yep I'm sold. They neglect to include all the other parts of it.

So here is the common sense side of saving the world with your fridge. Keep it full. Refrigeration works on the principal of removing heat. Every time you open and close the door warm air is introduced to the cabinet space which now needs to be removed. The more air space removed by product the less dramatic the change. Think of a frozen chunk of meat. It takes hours to thaw. If you open the door to your house in the winter for 1 minute you see a huge temperature change.

So that beer fridge in the basement, keep it full of beer. If you don’t have that much beer will the freezer with bags of ice to remove dead space. This will cause the thermostat to cycle less. A new fridge will suck up just as much power as an old fridge if it’s running a lot.

As for the energy star rating . It’s just a new flashy word to stick on a product. Appliances are used different by every consumer. How can they predict the power draw by each unit? It’s kinda like car manufactures giving crazy mpg predictions. Sure if you drive downhill with a tail wind. Trust me on this one, nobody does laundry the same way, nobody loads the dishwasher the same way, no one keeps the exact same temperature or product in their fridge identical to someone else, etc etc. There are a bunch of other appliance myths that I’ll get into another time. Things like hot water on demand systems which don’t work with most dishwashers and washing machines. That’s on another day.

The end result involving the great refrigerator roundup. Don’t do it. If you care about the environment it is better to keep your old fridge running. Keep the back clean and keep it full. Remind the kids not to stare blankly into the fridge trying to figure out what to eat, we have all done that. It’s pretty simple math showing that the 20-30 factories will suck up way more hydro than any single family home.

Let's not forget about the excavating machinery for raw ore to make the new steel frame and the ones in the garbage dumps burying the old parts. Aww then comes the transport trucks used to deliver both the raw materials and the finished product. Don't they use a non renewable resource??? and pump out wonderful emissions that we are all so concerned about.

On a side note, warranties have changed on compressors also. What used to be 5-10 years are now as low as 1 year. Average compressor replacement cost is between $450-$600 and with the cost of a low end fridge at the $600 mark what do you think is going to happen??? Now not to discourage you on the cost of service. Comparing the amount of compressor changes now to how many Dad did back in the 70-80's the numbers have dropped. There is more product out there now also. They do work much better.

Most repairs in fridges now a days are based around defrost issues and I hate to say it but all those toys that we love to add. You know what I'm talking about, ice makers and water dispensers. Yes toys!! and of course toys break. Either way repairs are not crazy expensive and it is always much cheaper to fix an existing unit than it is to replace it.

Ok that's enough appliance babble. So not that you are going to do the right thing go have fun with that money you were about to use on that new fridge, buy another bike instead. I’ll do another soap box spiel in the near future. Maybe on where you can really save power when it comes to appliances. For now enjoy.


Scott Mac said...

Wow, quite the rant. I do have one question... We bought our first fridge in 1999 and left it when we sold the house and moved in 2005. The fridge for the new house had a 200kWh difference in energy rating (lower) than the first fridge. We spent the same amount of $$$ (comparitively) on the fridges and they were equal in cubic ft capacity - and that was just the fridge all of the new appliances (left all the old ones at the old house) had better energy ratings than the ones we'd purchased in 1999.

So in just six years, how is it they can make a fridge more efficient were it uses 200 kWh of energy less per year?

Or is the energy star ratings just a scam?

Peter Keiller said...

Spoken like a refrigerator repair man!


EVERYONE that knows KNOWS that olde refrigerators are sunk in Lake Ontario and make super fine not-natural reefs along side retired battle ships and my SOLO medal collection...

Besides, if you aren't CONSUMING, you are a terrorist.

Matt Spak said...

Awww Peter,

You should be happy that people will have more money to buy your bikes. As for a terrorist, well my passport photo does make me look a little shadey.

Scott as I said earlier, how can a company really put an energy rating on something that each consumer will use different.

My car and truck both get great gas mileage as long as I keep my rightfoot elevated, of course the MPG predictions go out the window pretty quick.

Scott Mac said...

Its a good point, which underscores what I suspected in that the energy guide rating is no realistic and/or a farse.

Eco said...

Great post!
Have you seen the Environmental Commissioner's website:

Let him know why you hate the round up so much.

He's collecting ideas for his next report