Vacation mode

fridge2Many people are in vacation mode at the moment.  In some organisations it is impossible to hold meetings because of non-overlapping holidays, unless of course you work in countries where everyone goes on holiday at the same time – try getting in or out of Paris on certain weekends in August!  We have been away already and when we got back home one question that was asked is ‘What was the fridge/freezer doing while it was set on vacation mode?’  Fridge and freezers are one of the largest consumers of power in most households so saving energy while we are away on vacation makes sense and there are a number of strategies adopted by different manufacturers.  The most common one is to raise the temperature of the fridge compartment to around 39°F or 4°C which is just cold enough to prevent bacterial growth. Energy movement due to heat transfer is proportional to the temperature difference. Hence, if the temperature difference between the fridge and its surroundings is reduced then there will be less heat transfer into the fridge and less energy will be expended to remove it and keep the contents cold.  Of course the door being shut thoroughout the vacation helps.

In normal use, when we open the door there is heat transfer into the fridge from the warmer room which raises the energy level inside the fridge.  This energy is stored as internal energy in the air and fridge contents and temperature is a measure of this internal energy level, i.e. the temperature goes up.  The fridge has to perform work to remove the internal energy and reduce the temperature.  The situation is exacerbated by the light inside the fridge which comes on when the door is opened because the light bulb generates heat, this is the basis of Everyday Engineering Example about the extra cost of running of a fridge when the light stays on permanently because the switch is broken.

Back to vacation mode for a moment, most fridge/freezers also de-activate the automatic defrost function in vacation mode as well, to save energy.

Sources:

Alison for asking the question – thank you.

Information on safe food storage – Food Safety and Inspection Service

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