With all the recent advancements in energy-efficient appliances and electronics, manufacturers have been lauded for their progress in reducing the energy impacts of a typical household.
And it is deserved. Take for instance the refrigerator. Just 20 years ago a typical fridge would burn 800 or more kilowatt's per year. 10 years ago that got cut down to 500. Now 350 kWh is par for the course.
But every now and then, someone comes along with an innovation so simple, and so brilliant (in that hidden-under-your-nose kind of way) that it makes all the hard-earned advancements seem moot. For the refrigerator, that someone is Australian inventor Tom Chalko (PDF
He had the idea to convert an old chest freezer (a known energy hog) into a SUPER high-efficiency refrigerator using nothing more than an internal thermostat hacked into the compressor. The result is a almost nonexistent 100 watts per day (the equivalent of a 100 watt light bulb going for an hour). That is about 1/10th the energy use of the most energy efficient (standard size) refrigerator currently on the market.
Here's why it works. The horizontal top-lid layout of the chest freezer is perfect for conserving cooling. Even opening the lid releases very little cooling because of the fact that cooling sinks straight down. Opening up a standard fridge, on the other hand, means that some of the cooler air at the bottom of the fridge will inevitably escape, which is why the same volume on an upright fridge takes so much more energy to keep cold.
Simple physics that pays off big time. One added benefit ... absolute silence. According to the inventor, the fan goes on for about two minutes per day.
That is some serious DIY innovation. Now all we need are some special drawers that slide up and down so the chest refrigerator can become as convenient as an upright.