How Does an Electric Refrigerator Work?
An electric refrigerator uses a cooling agent called “freon” to produce cold. The freon starts out as a liquid. (Freon is the brand name of the gas. This gas chemically is called Chloro-Flouro-Carbon or CFC. This gas was found to hurt the environment if it leaks from refrigerators.)
An electric pump pushes the liquid through a pipe to the freezer compartment in the refrigerator. When the freon reaches the freezing unit, it evaporates, taking heat from the freezing unit, and cooling the refrigerator.
Next, the hot gas goes through a pipe to an air-cooled condenser, where it loses the heat it collected inside the refrigerator. The freon then changes back to a liquid and is ready to start the next cooling cycle.
On the other hand modern refrigerators don’t use CFC because CFCs are harmful to the atmosphere if released. Instead they use another type of gas called HFC-134a, also called tetrafluoroethane. HFC turns into a liquid when it is cooled to -15.9 degrees Fahrenheit (-26.6 degrees Celsius).
A motor and compressor squeezes the HFC. When it is compressed, a gas heats up as it is pressurized. When you pass the compressed gas through the coils on the back or bottom of a modern refrigerator, the warmer gas can lose its heat to the air in the room.
Today’s refrigerators, however, are very energy efficient. Ones sold today use about one-tenth the amount of electricity of ones that were built 20 years ago. So, if you have an old, old refrigerator, it’s better to buy a new one because you’ll save money (and energy) over a long period of time.