The Ultimate in Wood-Burning Appliances: A Green Refrigerator

The debate continues as to whether or not a green refrigerator designed by Stephen A. Sieradzki truly is the ultimate in wood-burning appliances or whether it will simply crash and burn

| January/February 1976

In Response to The Wood Burning Alternative Refrigerator Project.

I'm not sure, but I think Dale Degler's going to blow his head off with that wood-burning contraption! These fridges are designed to be used with a small flame. When you hit them with intense heat — such as that of the wood fire you pictured — you're going to boil the water, not only lowering efficiency to the point where the machine won't work, but building up steam pressure in the unit to destructive levels. 

BOOM! Thar' she blows! And the explosion will have an added bonus, lots of ammonia, a toxic compound. 

H. Hartzog. Bellingham, Wash. 

You're right, H . but only partway. The intermittent absorption refrigerator does work. In fact, the "Icy-Ball" model (also mentioned in the article), was a widely used, dependable commercial product. And it was heated by being placed over a fire.  

However, our illustration of the unit's inner workings was somewhat more poetic than accurate, As you say, nobody should set the ammonia-water pan right next to a giant blaze like the one pictured. Application of heat to a wood-burning  fridge should be gentle and predictable. The whole point of the system, after all, is to boil the ammonia without boiling the water.

The heat-accepting side of an intermittent absorption machine would probably be best kept along the edges of a moderate fire. (It doesn't take a lot of heat to turn the ammonia to vapor, just a steady application of low-level heat. Again, the idea is to warm the pan, not boil the water.)  

1/23/2009 9:29:51 AM

You can see the photos in the Image Gallery of The Incredible Wood-burning Refrigerator in the original article that these comments are related to here:

Alexis Acuna_3
1/22/2009 2:44:10 PM

I think this is a very interesting article, but unfortunately its seams that the diagram of Stephan refrigeration it’s not posted. Is any place where I can see it?

mother earth news fair 2018 schedule


Next: April 28-29, 2018
Asheville, NC

Whether you want to learn how to grow and raise your own food, build your own root cellar, or create a green dream home, come out and learn everything you need to know — and then some!