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A refrigerator, or fridge, is a large container that is electrically powered to keep food and drinks cool. Compared to the 80% in 1956, today almost 100% of American households have a refrigerator which is not surprising because this appliance is used to:
- Store seeds
- Cool hot food
- Keep natural nut butter from separating
- Cool sunscreen, gel, spray, and aloe vera
Over 8 million refrigerators are sold annually in the United States with some households, about 25%, owning two units. This appliance, when properly maintained, can last for up to 13 years and range from being 24 inches to 40 inches wide, 62 inches to 72 inches tall, and 29 inches to 36 inches deep.
The average refrigerator wattage ranges between 100 watts to 2000 watts depending on the type of fridge you own and how old it is. The most common type of fridge, a freezer top refrigerator will use about 500 kWh and cost you $65 every year. On the other hand, a larger and much older fridge that consumes 2000 kWh will cost you around $260 every year.
You can keep food and beverages cool by using the refrigerator but you can also use this appliance to extend the life of your camera film. A fridge can also be used when you purchase a bouquet of fresh flowers to gift and need them to remain fresh for the next day to two. Other uses of a refrigerator include:
Cool Hot Food
The refrigerator can be used to cool hot food. To do this, divide large amounts of your dish into smaller portions and transfer them into shallow containers to cool quicker. Make sure that your food is placed in the refrigerator that is 40°F (4°C) or below within two hours of cooking because if your food is left at room temperature for any longer, it becomes a breeding ground for harmful bacteria. If the temperature of your kitchen is 90°F (32°C) or higher, refrigerate your food within the hour.
Another use for your refrigerator is as a pillowcase cooler. A high temperature in the evening can negatively affect your body as it naturally cools down in preparation for a good night’s sleep. Having a cool pillow can help in reducing your body’s temperature to make sure that you sleep soundly in your bed. Place your pillowcase in a ziplock and let it cool in the fridge for the whole day. Retrieve it before you go to bed and sleep well.
Cool Sun Care Products
Another way to use your refrigerator is to keep your sun care products cool. Especially during hotter months or if you are in a warmer climate, sunscreen, aloe vera, sun gels, zinc, and sprays will not be runny if they are kept in the fridge. Additionally, they will feel better when you apply them fresh from the fridge.
Ensure Stiff Whipped Cream
A refrigerator can also make sure that you have stiff whipped cream every time. While mixing cream at a high speed will ensure that it is whipped, you can place the mixing bowl, beaters, or whisk in the fridge to get stiff peaks faster. Chill your mixing bowl, beaters, or whisk in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or more before you start beating your cream.
Extend the Life of Film
Your refrigerator can be used in order to extend the life of film for your camera. If you are going to be using your film within the next 6 months, place it in the fridge at a temperature of 46°F (8°C) or lower. This way, your film will not degrade as quickly and can stretch the film’s expiration date by about two times.
Extend the Life of Nail Polish
Alternatively, the refrigerator can be utilized to extend the life of nail polish. Store your nail polish in the refrigerator to slow down solvent evaporation and the discoloration that occurs as nail polish gets older. When you are ready to use your nail polish, take it out of the fridge and let it sit out until it reaches room temperature. After about 30 minutes, you can apply your nail polish evenly and see its smooth finish.
Keep Natural Peanut Butter from Separating
A refrigerator can keep the ingredients in natural or homemade peanut butter from separating. In its purest form, the oil and solids in peanut butter will separate naturally. If you are not going to finish your natural peanut butter within the month, store it in the refrigerator. This will keep homemade peanut butter as one and also keep the oil in peanuts from going rancid.
Maintain Glue and Paint Quality
The refrigerator can also help glue and paint maintain its texture and quality. Simple store your paint or glue in a ziplock bag to avoid any contamination and store these in the fridge until you need to use them. The dry environment of a refrigerator can keep glue and paint from drying out.
Make Plastic Wrap Easy to Use
Using the refrigerator for the plastic wrap in your kitchen will make it easier to use. While unrolling plastic wrap is not extremely difficult it can be made easier. The cool temperatures of a fridge will reduce static electricity and actually affects the molecules of plastic wrap. Store your roll of plastic wrap in the fridge and take it out when you need to wrap up leftovers. You’ll notice that the roll is easier to unroll and also easier to use.
Prevent Flowers from Wilting
A refrigerator can be used to keep your freshly cut flowers from wilting. Unlike warmer temperatures, flowers will be less prone to wilting in a fridge which is why you may see them displayed in refrigerated cases at your local florist. The next time you buy flowers for someone or an event, place them in the fridge one or two days before you display or give them away to keep them fresh.
Store Cosmetics and Beauty Products
The refrigerator can be used to store cosmetics and different beauty products. For instance, storing your eye cream in the fridge before you use it can help reduce the redness and puffiness around your eyes. Storing your eyeliner in the fridge for at least 15 minutes will help you apply a wing with more precision and definition. As for lipstick, refrigeration can help this cosmetic last longer because the cool temperature will not cause the chemicals in the lipstick to break down or change its shade.
Your refrigerator can alternatively be used to store seeds. Seeds stay viable in places where the temperatures and moisture levels are low which makes fridges a great place to store them. The best temperatures for seeds is 32°F (0°C) to 41°F (5°C) which is the usual temperatures inside a refrigerator. Make sure that your seeds are completely dry before transferring them into an airtight container. You can also place a silica gel packet inside before placing your seeds in the refrigerator to make sure that they are safeguarded against moisture.
What are the common mistakes for usage of a refrigerator?
Learning how to use a refrigerator may seem straightforward but there are quite a few mistakes that people make when it comes to this appliance. Common mistakes may include:
- Cleaning your refrigerator scarcely. Your fridge should be cleaned every three months even if you are keeping its contents organized and cleaning up any spills. Change the water and air filters this often too.
- Disregarding the condenser coils of your refrigerator. The refrigerator coils keep your fridge running because they hold coolant and are constantly exposed to dirt and dust. In order to keep your refrigerator running efficiently, clean your condenser coils once or twice a year.
- Forgetting about your refrigerator seal. The rubber seal that is found along your refrigerator door can be dried out which is why your door will not close properly. Thankfully, gaskets are easy to replace so check on this seal regularly.
- Leaving the door open for too long. If your refrigerator door is open for more than 2 minutes, the inside of your appliance can become too warm and become a breeding ground for bacteria that can make you sick.
- Not checking on the refrigerator temperature enough. Your refrigerator’s internal temperature should be 32°F (0°C) to 41°F (5°C) so that bacteria will not grow on your food or in your drinks and they will not spoil.
- Placing too many things inside the refrigerator. Having your refrigerator filled to the brim can block the vents inside your appliance and cause it to work harder than it should.
- Putting fruits and vegetables in the same space. Storing fruits and vegetables together is actually not recommended because of the ethylene that fruits produce as they ripen. This means that as fruits ripen they are prone to spoiling faster and can cause vegetables to do the same. Store them separately so that your vegetables do not rot quickly.
- Refrigerating the wrong types of food. There is actually a long list of shelf-stable food that should be stored in the pantry instead of taking up unnecessary space in your refrigerator. To name a few, you should not refrigerate avocado, potato, condiments, soy sauce, apples, melons, bread, or peanut butter.
- Storing dairy in your refrigerator door. The door of your fridge is actually the warmest place in the entire appliance and storing your dairy products there can actually cause them to spoil faster than they should.
- Storing food that is not completely sealed. Leftovers should be entirely sealed off so that bacteria and odors do not take over your refrigerator. Keep your food stored in airtight containers of plastic wrap to reduce the likelihood of contamination.
Even if you own an appliance manufactured by the best refrigerator brands, keeping these common mistakes in mind and avoiding them can help maintain the quality of your fridge, food, and beverages.
What is the history of usage of refrigerators?
What is a refrigerator and where did it originate from? The idea of refrigeration can be traced back to China in 1000 B.C. The Chinese would cut and harvest ice from different bodies of water and would fill up empty ice cellars as a religious ceremony. The Greeks, Hebrews, and Romans would use storage pits filled with snow and insulated with tree branches and grass to cool beverages. 500 years later, Indians and Egyptians would leave their earthenware pots outside during cold nights to make ice.
In the 17th century, Europeans would use saltpeter and dissolve it in water to create a cool environment for ice. Then in the 18th century, the English collected ice during the wintertime, add salt, wrap it in flannel, then store it underground for months. It was only in the 19th century where iceboxes became popular in England.
However, harvesting ice proved to be dangerous and difficult which is why there was a need for artificial refrigeration. The first breakthrough was a small refrigerating machine designed by William Cullen, a Scottish professor in 1755. A partial vacuum was created over a container that contained diethyl ether and this would boil then absorb the heat of surrounding air. In 1805, Oliver Evans designed a refrigerator prototype that featured a closed cycle of ether that had been compressed. Based on this, John Gorrie built something similar in 1844 but used compressed air.
In 1835, Jacob Perkins, who had previously worked with Oliver Evans, patented a vapor-compression cycle that was fueled by liquid ammonia. Also based on Evans’ design, an American doctor named John Gorrie build a refrigerator in 1842 to create ice for his patients with yellow fever and received a patent for artificially creating ice this way in 1851.
Then in 1927, General Electric introduced the first refrigerator where more than 1 million units were produced and this was known as the “Monitor-Top.” However, in 1929 refrigerators that used vapor compression were dangerous and caused accidents when the toxic gasses leaked. Freon became the standard synthetic alternative until 1970 because it negatively affected the ozone layer. Today, there are alternative refrigerants that are more environmentally friendly.
Do the use cases of a refrigerator change based on type?
Yes, the use cases of a refrigerator changes based on the type of refrigerator you choose to purchase. The most common type of freezer is the top freezer where the appliance has a separate compartment for freezing food. These are the most energy-efficient refrigerator and is 10% to 25% more efficient than fridges with a freezer compartment at their side or bottom. However, there are not many features because this type of refrigerator is the most affordable.
A bottom freezer refrigerator will require more open space because you will need to pull out the freezer drawer to retrieve items. This type of refrigerator allows for easy access when you need to grab fresh food items. There is also a side-by-side refrigerator that is slim and does not offer as much space as other types of fridges.
Finally, there are French door refrigerators that offer wider compartments for both the fridge section and freezer. There are adjustable shelves and compartments where models usually have exterior water and ice dispensers.
Which refrigerator is best for storing vegetables?
The best refrigerator for storing vegetables is one with a separate vegetable crisper drawer at the base of the appliance where you can control the humidity in that compartment. By changing the settings and adjusting the temperature in your vegetable crisper, you can ensure that your produce stays fresh for a longer period of time.
Does a refrigerator have more use cases than a mini-fridge?
Yes, a refrigerator has more use cases than a mini-fridge. Looking at the refrigerator vs. mini-fridge argument, refrigerators offer more capacity for the use cases above. Mini-fridges are designed for a few food items and beverages and may not be designed with a separate crisper, water dispenser, or ice dispenser like refrigerators.
What are the other kitchen tools with various use cases similar to a refrigerator?
Other kitchen tools with various use cases similar to a refrigerator include:
Beverage Fridge: Smaller than a traditional refrigerator, a beverage fridge keeps drinks cool while also allowing them to be displayed on metal or glass shelves.
Freezer: A freezer is used to bring food to 32°F (0°C) or below in order to preserve and store food.
Mini-fridge: A mini-fridge is a more compact refrigerator that is used to store small amounts of food and beverages.
Wine Cooler: A wine cooler uses refrigeration to hold wine bottles at a certain angle and keep them at a temperature of 50°F (10°C) to 59°F (15°C) to preserve wine’s flavour and protect it from spoiling.
These kitchen tools have similar designs to a refrigerator but have their own use cases. You can learn more about the 5 different use cases of these 4 kitchen appliances here.