COOL RUNNINGS

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WHAT TO LOOK FOR

AC­CU­RATE and use­able fridge con­trols are im­por­tant for set­ting and main­tain­ing a tem­per­a­ture, but most tem­per­a­ture read­outs on these fridges are not cal­i­brated, so they are not 100 per cent ac­cu­rate. We found this be true, with temp read­out vari­a­tions from -1°C to 7°C, even though all fridges were set at 3°C – clearly, what the dig­i­tal read­outs are telling us is not what the ac­tual temps are in­side the fridge.

In­stant power use means lit­tle. In­stead, it’s how a fridge keeps its contents within a set tem­per­a­ture range that mat­ters. Power us­age is vari­able and de­pends on am­bi­ent tem­per­a­tures, hu­mid­ity, the amount of food in the fridge and the reg­u­lar­ity of lid open­ings. We may all want to use as lit­tle power as possible, but my bet is that most peo­ple would be will­ing to sac­ri­fice a lit­tle ex­tra power us­age know­ing that their fridge will do the job long term.

Other than a good power sup­ply and cor­rect wiring, the most im­por­tant thing to keep any fridge run­ning ef­fec­tively is ven­ti­la­tion around the com­pres­sor. There should be ven­ti­la­tion on the sides and top of the com­pres­sor, as well as a fan to ex­pel the hot air the com­pres­sor cre­ates.

Watch out for con­den­sa­tion (or ex­ces­sive cool­ness) in small sec­tions of the fridge’s ex­te­rior. This proves a lack of ther­mal in­su­la­tion qual­i­ties, which equates to a loss of cool­ing ef­fec­tive­ness and leads to ex­ces­sive power con­sump­tion.

Look at the po­si­tion of the evap­o­ra­tor plate in the cabi­net – the higher it goes in the cabi­net (a gap be­tween the plate and the base of the fridge is okay) the bet­ter the all-round cool­ing will be.

A sep­a­rate evap­o­ra­tor plate (in the fridge cabi­net) should work bet­ter than an integrated one, as both sides of the plate can sup­ply cool air to the in­side of the fridge. A slight convection cur­rent around the plate can also help cir­cu­late cold air, but that sep­a­rate evap­o­ra­tor al­lows liq­uid, food and dirt to build up be­hind it. A

sep­a­rate evap­o­ra­tor can also be dam­aged more eas­ily than an integrated one.

Other key ar­eas to look at in­clude the lid seal; good in­su­la­tion to help re­duce com­pres­sor run-time; tie-down points; low bat­tery volt­age pro­tec­tion; and power op­tions (12-, 24- and 240-volt). Fridge cov­ers may have min­i­mal ther­mal ad­van­tages, but they are a good op­tion for pro­tect­ing a fridge’s ex­te­rior and for keep­ing di­rect sun­light off the unit. Cov­ers are more use­ful on me­tal fridges com­pared to plas­tic and fi­bre­glass units.

COM­PRES­SORS

DAN­FOSS was a Ger­man-de­signed and man­u­fac­tured her­metic-pis­ton-type com­pres­sor, which ar­rived in 1977. It has since been copied, du­pli­cated and coun­ter­feited by var­i­ous coun­tries and or­gan­i­sa­tions around the world.

These days the Ger­man Dan­foss brand is no more – it was ac­quired and its name changed to SECOP in 2010. It’s still the same (or sim­i­lar) unit with the same (or sim­i­lar) mod­els (BD35 for smaller and midrange fridges; BD50 for the larger ones) with com­pany head­quar­ters in Ger­many, al­beit with man­u­fac­tur­ing in Aus­tria, Slo­vakia and China. In 1998 the vari­a­ble­speed com­pres­sor was cre­ated, whereby the elec­tron­ics of the fridge man­u­fac­turer could con­trol the com­pres­sor speed to aid in lower power con­sump­tion.

While most of the fridges on test have a SECOP BD35 com­pres­sor, the En­gel has a Sawa­fuji unit, the WAECO fridge utilises a Waeco-branded com­pres­sor and the Op­po­site Lock fridge has gone with the Sno­mas­ter com­pres­sor.

The Sno­mas­ter com­pres­sor is used in both of Op­po­site Lock’s fridge sizes (40 and 72 litres) in Aus­tralia. It was de­signed to re­turn faster pull-down tem­per­a­tures via its higher power, as well as short cy­cle times in com­bi­na­tion with good ther­mal cab­i­nets. Our test­ing con­firmed this com­pres­sor is the stand­out.

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