PNG images: Refrigerator 

A refrigerator (colloquially fridge) is a popular household appliance that consists of a thermally insulated compartment and a heat pump (mechanical, electronic or chemical) that transfers heat from the inside of the fridge to its external environment so that the inside of the fridge is cooled to a temperature below the ambient temperature of the room. Refrigeration is an essential food storage technique in developed countries. The lower temperature lowers the reproduction rate of bacteria, so the refrigerator reduces the rate of spoilage. A refrigerator maintains a temperature a few degrees above the freezing point of water. Optimum temperature range for perishable food storage is 3 to 5 °C (37 to 41 °F). A similar device that maintains a temperature below the freezing point of water is called a freezer. The refrigerator replaced the icebox, which had been a common household appliance for almost a century and a half. For this reason, a refrigerator is sometimes referred to as an icebox in American usage.

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The first cooling systems for food involved using ice. Artificial refrigeration began in the mid-1750s, and developed in the early 1800s. In 1834, the first working vapor-compression refrigeration system was built. The first commercial ice-making machine was invented in 1854. In 1913, refrigerators for home use were invented. In 1923 Frigidaire introduced the first self-contained unit. The introduction of Freon in the 1920s expanded the refrigerator market during the 1930s. Home freezers as separate compartments (larger than necessary just for ice cubes) were introduced in 1940. Frozen foods, previously a luxury item, became commonplace.

Freezer units are used in households and in industry and commerce. Commercial refrigerator and freezer units were in use for almost 40 years prior to the common home models. Most households[citation needed] use the freezer-on-top-and-refrigerator-on-bottom style, which has been the basic style since the 1940s. A vapor compression cycle is used in most household refrigerators, refrigerator–freezers and freezers. Newer refrigerators may include automatic defrosting, chilled water and ice from a dispenser in the door.

Domestic refrigerators and freezers for food storage are made in a range of sizes. Among the smallest is a 4 L Peltier refrigerator advertised as being able to hold 6 cans of beer. A large domestic refrigerator stands as tall as a person and may be about 1 m wide with a capacity of 600 L. Refrigerators and freezers may be free-standing, or built into a kitchen. The refrigerator allows the modern household to keep food fresh for longer than before. Freezers allow people to buy food in bulk and eat it at leisure, and bulk purchases save money.

Before the invention of the refrigerator, icehouses were used to provide cool storage for most of the year. Placed near freshwater lakes or packed with snow and ice during the winter, they were once very common. Natural means are still used to cool foods today. On mountainsides, runoff from melting snow is a convenient way to cool drinks, and during the winter one can keep milk fresh much longer just by keeping it outdoors. The word "refrigeratory" was used at least as early as the 17th century

The history of artificial refrigeration began when Scottish professor William Cullen designed a small refrigerating machine in 1755. Cullen used a pump to create a partial vacuum over a container of diethyl ether, which then boiled, absorbing heat from the surrounding air. The experiment even created a small amount of ice, but had no practical application at that time.

In 1805, American inventor Oliver Evans described a closed vapor-compression refrigeration cycle for the production of ice by ether under vacuum. In 1820, the British scientist Michael Faraday liquefied ammonia and other gases by using high pressures and low temperatures, and in 1834, an American expatriate in Great Britain, Jacob Perkins, built the first working vapor-compression refrigeration system. It was a closed-cycle device that could operate continuously. A similar attempt was made in 1842, by American physician, John Gorrie, who built a working prototype, but it was a commercial failure. American engineer Alexander Twining took out a British patent in 1850 for a vapor compression system that used ether.

The first practical vapor compression refrigeration system was built by James Harrison, a British journalist who had emigrated to Australia. His 1856 patent was for a vapor compression system using ether, alcohol or ammonia. He built a mechanical ice-making machine in 1851 on the banks of the Barwon River at Rocky Point in Geelong, Victoria, and his first commercial ice-making machine followed in 1854. Harrison also introduced commercial vapor-compression refrigeration to breweries and meat packing houses, and by 1861, a dozen of his systems were in operation.

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