ORNL Building Tecnologies Could Cut Refrigerator Energy Use by 40%

ORNL signs agreement with Whirlpool Corp. to develop new energy-efficient refrigerator

ORNL, February 25, 2015

The Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Whirlpool Corporation are collaborating to design a refrigerator that could cut energy use by up to 40 percent compared with current models.

The goal of the cooperative research and development agreement, or CRADA, is to make a next-generation household refrigerator more energy efficient by using WISEMOTION, an innovative linear compressor manufactured by Embraco, and other novel technologies and materials.

In the 1970s, the average refrigerator used approximately four to five kilowatt hours (kWh) per day; today’s models average about 1.5 kWh/day. The result is massive utility savings for consumers, and ORNL and Whirlpool will further that innovation with the goal of building a refrigerator that consumes less than one kWh per day.

“If every refrigerator in the U.S. were replaced with the advanced refrigerator design, the projected primary energy savings would be 0.56 quads per year—the equivalent of 100 million barrels of oil,” said Ed Vineyard, director of ORNL’s Building Technologies Research & Integration Center.

The team will redesign a refrigerator to incorporate a linear compressor, which reduces energy losses by continuously matching the compressor pumping rate to the refrigerator’s cooling requirements. Associated components will provide additional efficiency gains.

Together, these features could cut refrigerator energy use by approximately 40 percent, which would translate into an estimated $26 savings per year on the average consumer’s electricity bill.

The ORNL building technologies staff draws on nearly four decades of experience working with appliance manufacturers, as well as advanced expertise in heat transfer, alternative refrigerants and insulation materials. The project will make use of the Building Technologies Research & Integration Center (BTRIC) user facility at ORNL, including resources at the Maximum Building Energy Efficiency Research Laboratory (MAXLAB).

The three-year project is supported by the Buildings Technologies Office in DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit http://science.energy.gov/.