Refrigeration

copper cooking dreamstime m 15263485 640x427In my kitchen at home we use cooking pots and pans made from a variety of metals, and I thought it would be an interesting project to delve into the pros and cons of each material and then go on to see how that works with refrigerator evaporators.

After all, cooking pots and fridge evaporators both utilize metal surfaces to transfer heat, so many similarities exist.

When cooking on the stove, we're conducting heat from an external source (the burners), through the material of the pot or pan to the contents in the interior.

Simple enough you'd think, but different metals have different characteristics, and work in different ways. The ability of a material to transfer heat is known as its Thermal Conductivity. This is quoted in various units, but here we'll use good old fashioned BTU's per hour per foot per degree Fahrenheit (Btu/hr-ft-F).

Listed below are some of the common metals used for cooking pots and pans together with their Thermal Conductivity rating, starting with the most conductive and ending with the least. Basically, the higher the number, the more heat the material will conduct through it

beer ice cubes dreamstime xl 31879589 640x353

"Icing Down the Beer" vs "Beering Up the Ice"

Here's a fact: Heat travels in one direction only; from warm to cold. So if a temperature difference exists between two items, the warmer item will lose heat to the cooler item; so the warmer item gets colder, the colder item gets warmer.

Simply put, when we put warm beers into a cooler of ice, we don't actually cool down the beer as much as warm up the ice! When heat leaves the beer for the ice, the beer gets colder as a result, and soon the contents are all at a wonderfully refreshing 32F temperature. And thanks to the laws of science and beerology, everything will stay that way until all the ice has melted and the beer has been consumed.

But what about your refrigerated ice box? Isn't it always being kept cold?

stuffed-dreamstime m 38862411Here's a fact: Heat travels in one direction only; from warm to cold. So if a temperature difference exists between two items, the warmer item will lose heat to the cooler item; so the warmer item gets colder, the colder item gets warmer.

Simply put, when we put warm beers into a cooler of ice, we don't actually cool down the beer as much as warm up the ice! When heat leaves the beer for the ice, the beer gets colder as a result, and soon the contents are all at a wonderfully refreshing 32F temperature. And thanks to the laws of science and beerology, everything will stay that way until all the ice has melted and the beer has been consumed.

And now here's a conundrum: Should you endeavor to keep your fridge and freezer as full as possible in an effort to save power usage?

Green plugI recently had an air conditioning system replaced at my house. Out went the old energy hog with a noisy, fixed speed compressor, and in came a high efficiency unit with a quiet compressor and fan, both of which run at variable speeds. So, today’s question is: Why does varying the compressor speed increase efficiency, and how is that achieved?

Golden Rule: The longer and slower a compressor can run, the more efficient it will be
Danfoss BD CompressorEfficiency in refrigeration and air conditioning systems is measured as a ratio of power out to power in, and can be in several forms. The Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) is the ratio of output cooling energy in Btu’s to input electrical energy in watts under certain fixed conditions. So a system with an EER rating of 10 will produce 10 Btu’s of cooling for every watt of power consumed under the specified conditions. The Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER) that is used in commercial and residential equipment is similar to the EER, but is assessed over time and under varying conditions.

When a fixed speed compressor is operating under light-load conditions, i.e. nighttime, cool weather, etc., a fixed-speed compressor will be running for short spurts and do a lot of cooling in a hurry, which is inherently very inefficient. If we were to be able to slow the compressor down during periods of light load, the system would run longer and be more efficient overall, but would still have the required capacity available for high heat-load conditions.

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