Every household in the United States has somewhere they store food. Everyone that can afford one, which is a very high majority, utilizes cold storage with a refrigerator of some sort. This is the case among all third world countries. Of the billions of refrigerators in the world, think about how many users each is in operation for. For an average household of say three, each group needs to eat 2 – 3 times a day. All of that opening and closing of the doors (both on the fridge and the freezer compartments) lets an unimaginable amount of cold air out. This causes the compressor to turn back on, drawing electricity from the grid.
So the question is how can we reduce the amount of electricity these appliances are wasting? The first solution would obviously be to create a more efficient electrical design. This type of research, development and design is expensive and time consuming. Each new iteration of this type of appliance usually does become more efficient, but there has to be another solution. By thinking about why the energy is wasted, we realize that it’s because the door is open. But why is the door open so often and for so long in the first place? I can say from personal experience that often I don’t remember what’s in my fridge or more likely I can’t make up my mind what I want to eat. This time I spend with the door wide open, blankly staring at the shelves is energy wasted and dollars out of my pocket.
What if there were a way to know what was in the fridge in the first place? I can think of several solutions that could easily be implemented. With newer top of the line refrigerators, many have some type of screen or control panel already in place. You can imagine a future appliance with several tiny cameras that can show a live feed of just what you would see if you were to open the door and look yourself. Even further dumbing down the problem is a refrigerator that has a transparent door. Materials science has come a long way from the first iteration of these behemoths. It is definitely feasible to think that an insulating and transparent material exists and could be modified for use in a refrigeration setting. The reduction in the carbon footprint could be enormous and is deserving of study in the not so distant future.
Note: This idea has apparently been discussed among inventors around the world and has even been submitted as vision for the future in the Dyson invention submission contest for 2011. Credits for the picture are likewise.