r134a will be phased out after 2020 so what is left is propane-butane mixture.
About twice as much as in a lighter.
THE NEW WAVE OF ENERGY EFFICIENT REFRIGERATORS
The solution that has gained currency in the United States is to use HFCs -- ozone-safe hydrofluorocarbons -- as the refrigerant, and HCFCs -- hydrochlorofluorocarbons, which have reduced ozone-destroying power -- in the foam insulation
. The solution is a victory for DuPont and other manufacturing giants, which produce these chemicals. HCFCs are just a temporary solution
, because they are slated to be phased out, by 2020
in the North and 2040 in the South. According to the Worldwatch Institute, DuPont bet heavily on HFCs and HCFCs, investing more than half a billion dollars in their development.
Critics charge that these are imperfect solutions at best. For one thing, HFCs are potent greenhouse gases, with the potential to affect world climate even if they are ozone-friendly. They're also incompatible with some common materials and lubricants. Supporters of HFCs, such as NRDC's David Goldstein, point out that the amount of HFCs in each fridge is relatively small, so that the entire effect of a refrigerator's HFCs on the climate is only 1% as great as the influence of its energy consumption
. If a non-greenhouse
substitute for HFCs increased a fridge's energy use by more than 1%, he says, it would be a net loss for the climate.
The Edge of the Envelope
The 2001 standards will nearly close the gap between mass-market refrigerators and hand-made fridges which were developed for the off-the-grid market. When native New Yorker Larry Schlussler, holding a freshly minted PhD in engineering, developed his ultra-efficient refrigerator
in 1979, its consumption
-- just 300 kilowatt-hours for a 16-cubic-foot model -- seemed like science fiction. Mass-produced fridges at the time used nearly four times as much power. The savings for remote
users were immediate, because they could get by with fewer solar panels
Sunfrost models are still made to order in a converted dairy in the northern California
town of Arcata. Two- to four-inch-thick insulation
, better door seals
, no fan, and a top-mounted compressor
and condenser account for the extra-low energy use. Schlussler and his 14 employees turn out about 600 fridges a year, priced between $1200 and $2800 apiece, depending on their size. The low end of the price
range applies to tiny models -- 1 or 4 cubic feet -- including a vaccine storage
unit exported to the developing world. Regular kitchen-sized models are $2400 and up.
Other highly efficient fridges are available from in Michigan (4 to 8 cubic-foot models, marketed to Midwestern homesteaders and the Amish), and the Danish made Vestfrost, a 250-kilowatt-hour, 12-cubic-foot model, available through a California
The other solution -- being pushed heavily by Greenpeace under the Greenfreeze label -- is to switch to a greenhouse-neutral hydrocarbon (HC) like propane
, isobutane, or a mixture of the two. These chemicals have the added advantage of being in the public domain and one-twentieth the price
of HFCs. The drawback is that they are flammable. The issue isn't really safety
, because of the small amount of butane in a fridge -- roughly twice what's found in a cigarette lighter. Much greater fire hazards can be found in most kitchens in the form of a gas stove. No, the problem is liability -- if the gas stove starts a fire in the kitchen, the fridge manufacturer doesn't wind
up in court. In Germany
, where product liability law is not so exacting, hydrocarbon refrigerants have taken over the market.