Refrigerators are found in nearly every home throughout the civilized world, an appliance that has changed our lives by adding convenience, savings and better health. Despite such significance, this appliance is rather easy to forget about – at least until a problem occurs and refrigerator repair becomes necessary. To really appreciate the significance that refrigerators play in our lives, look back in the pages of history to the days when cold food preservation involved a great deal more than just plugging in a unit and opening a door.
The Advent of the Ice Box
Believe it or not, the first recorded people to use ice to chill food were the Chinese and interestingly the Egyptians. The scholar and philosopher Sir Francis Bacon experimented in the late 1600’s with those ancient ideas for keeping food cool. Up until the 20th Century, naturally derived snow and ice were used for this purpose.
Ice boxes were wooden boxes lined with tin and zinc and insulated on the inside with sawdust and then filled with ice. They were first seen in England in the 19th Century and used throughout the Western world. By the 1890’s, it was obvious that a better method for keeping perishables cold was necessary. Warmer winters in America caused ice shortages, so the effort to invent an easier, more reliable means of refrigeration was born.
The invention of the first ice-making machine in 1856 by scientist and inventor Alexander C. Twining was developing, as the need to create better iceboxes became significant. Unfortunately, his invention was never produced for lack of financing due to the onset of the American Civil War.
At the same time, other inventors were using ideas similar to Twinning’s to produce various designs; however, because of a number of problems, none of them were realized. The best continuation of Twinning’s idea, introduced in the late 1850’s, used ammonia as a cooling agent; this was highly toxic if the unit required refrigerator repair and the ammonia leaked. This design was more effective in 1920 when freon was invented.
Prior to the invention of freon, the first commercially available electric refrigeration unit was invented in 1913. It was an air-cooled unit that sat on top of an ice box, from which the cool air was drawn. By 1916, the Guardian Refrigerator Company came into existence and began manufacturing an improved design that was a fully enclosed unit with a compressor on the bottom. This invention used freon cooling technology as well; however, it did not sell and was deemed a failure.
Birth of the Frigidaire
W.C. Durant, president of General Motors, eventually purchased Guardian Refrigerator and renamed it Frigidaire. Beginning in 1918, Durant was able to market Guardian’s design; from that point on, home refrigeration across the globe was changed forever . Designs continued to improve over the years and new products such as ice cream cabinets, soda fountain equipment, and milk coolers were added to Frigidaire’s catalog. By 1929, over one million Frigidaire units had been sold. Since then, technology has continued to improve, making the refrigerator one of the most influential technological designs of our time.
Although they are few and far between, Frigidaires still exist today and are considered nostalgic pieces from the American era of invention. Looking back, it is easy to see how far this technology has come over the centuries. Even though we are sometimes inconvenienced by a malfunctioning unit necessitating refrigerator repair, it certainly beats the alternative of cutting and carrying ice blocks every day to prevent food from spoiling!
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