Keeping History Fresh With An Ice-Cold Fridge


A refrigerator, formerly regarded as a luxury, has become a norm in today’s time, with 99.8% of American households possessing at least one or two. In the United States alone, they have sold about eight million refrigerators every year, with an estimated seventy percent being top-freezer refrigerators. On the other hand, side-by-side refrigerators account for around one-quarter of all sales, whereas bottom-freezer refrigerators account for less than five percent. This demonstrates how important the refrigerator has grown to be in modern life. It’s hard to imagine how the world would be without this cooling equipment.

But have you ever wondered when or how refrigerators came to be?

Who invented the refrigerator we’ve been using to keep our food fresh and our favorite brewski cold for the summer?

We at DaDongNY are going to take a trip down memory lane and explore the history of refrigerators throughout time. Now hang on to your seats, and let’s get straight to it.

The ‘Ice’ Age

The refrigerator has a long history extending back to prehistoric times when ice was first used to keep food fresh. In 1000 B.C., the Chinese used to cut and store ice, and 500 years later after that, the Egyptians and Indians discovered how to produce ice by exposing ceramic pots outside during cold nights. According to History magazine, other civilizations, such as the Greeks, Romans, and Hebrews, kept the snow in pits and sealed them with several insulating materials. Around the 17th century, salt dissolved in water was discovered to generate freezing conditions, which were utilized to make ice in various parts of Europe.

According to History Magazine, when ice was hardly accessible or feasible, people used cold caves or submerged items in water. Several people would make their ice boxes. These wooden boxes were coated with tin or zinc and insulated with cork, sawdust, or seaweed before being covered with snow.

Too “Expensive” For Kitchen

Since the early refrigerators manufactured were large and expensive, this equipment was first used in commercial environments. S. Liebmann’s Sons Brewing Company established the first commercial refrigeration in a brewery in 1870. Every large brewery had one within 20 years. The meat-packing sector went on to embrace refrigeration, commencing in Chicago in 1900. Almost all American packing facilities had ammonia-compression refrigeration systems by 1914.

Residential units often required equipment installation in basements, with the cold box in the kitchen. A 1922 refrigerator with a nine-cubic-foot compartment cost $714, which was half the price of a Ford Model T and would cost around $12,785.70 today.

As early as 1914, Alfred Mellowes created a self-contained residential refrigerator with a compressor underneath the equipment. However, William C. Durant, a senior executive at General Motors, bought him out in 1918. He established the Guardian Refrigerator Corporation in Fort Wayne, Indiana, later renaming it Frigidaire. The same year, Kelvinator produced the first refrigerator with automated controls, briefly controlling 80% of the market.

The Emergence Of The First Mechanical Refrigeration

William Cullen showed heat absorption by evaporation in 1748 at the University of Edinburgh in an attempt to replace natural ice with mechanical refrigeration. Refrigeration is founded on the premise that an evaporating liquid absorbs heat from its surroundings. Think about how cold you feel when you come out of the pool. Refrigerators transport liquid from a condenser into a large compartment known as the evaporator, where it expands and evaporates. Mechanical pressure pushes the liquid gas back into the condenser, and the cycle begins again.

Cullen’s study vaporized gas in a vacuum pump, forming a fairly small amount of ice when the gas-liquid evaporates. As refrigerants, subsequent experiments used ammonia, alcohol, sulfur dioxide, and methyl chloride. In 1805, another American, Oliver Evans, developed the first blueprint for a vapor-based refrigerator. Several inventors were interested in making the idea feasible, based on English scientist Michael Faraday‘s 1820 discovery that liquid ammonia might be used as a coolant.

Jacob Perkins, an Evans colleague, patented an ammonia-based vapor-compression refrigeration device in 1835. In 1842, John Gorrie, an American physician, created a similar contraption to generate ice for yellow fever patients

Carl von Linde established Eismaschinen, an ice machine company in Germany, in 1870, using his patented process of vaporizing gas.

The Modern Day Refrigerator

Back then, refrigerators relied heavily on toxic chemicals like ammonia, methyl chloride, and sulfur dioxide as coolants, resulting in multiple fatalities in the 1920s due to methyl chloride seeping through refrigerators. In the 1890s, Frédéric Swarts created a new chemical called chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) by combining carbon, chlorine, and fluorine.

In 1928, a team at General Motors, which now owned Frigidaire, searched for a safer coolant alternative and discovered CFCs. The researchers refined CFC synthesis and patented it as Freon, which established the chemicals’ stability and nontoxicity. 

Preserving food and freezing beverages has become easier than ever, thanks to freon-based refrigerators. In 1939, General Electric (G.E.) created the first refrigerator with different compartments for chilling and freezing food, and in 1947, the first two-door unit. In the 1940s, stand-alone freezers were invented, stimulating an increase in sales and the diversity of frozen foods. 

More than 50 years later, CFCs were discovered as a contributor to ozone depletion in the atmosphere. As a result, the 1987 Montreal Protocol was established as an international measure to prohibit their usage.

By 1940, more than 85 percent of American households had kitchen refrigerators. With the capacity to preserve perishable foods cold, consumers no longer needed to make many trips to the neighborhood grocery store now and then. Instead, they would have to travel to suburban supermarkets starting to appear back in the day. The milkman and ice supplier ultimately stopped coming. Even in the blistering heat of summer, a cool drink was only a few steps away in the kitchen, thanks to refrigerators.

Liebherr’s Contribution To The Creation Of Modern Day Refrigerators

Liebherr‘s invention of new technologies helped to the creation of makeshift refrigerators in the 80s. One of its inventions is the NoFrost technology, which was introduced in 1987. NoFrost prevents frosting within the freezer section, and thanks to its development, defrosting has become obsolete.

BioFresh technology was also introduced later, ensuring convenience and increased freshness from the refrigerator. Refrigerator models featuring BioFresh technology allow you to keep fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, and dairy items fresh for longer.

Many foods have various temperature and humidity requirements, and they must be satisfied in order to keep the food’s flavor, texture, appearance, and vitamin content. BioFresh technology provides the ideal conditions to increase the food’s storage time.

Over the years and up to now, Liebherr has solidified its position as an industry pioneer in the design and energy-efficient appliances. They use high-efficiency compressors, eco-friendly refrigerants, and innovative insulating materials. They also offer a selection of energy-saving household appliances.

Different Types Of Modern Day Refrigerators

Modern-day refrigerators preserve temperatures slightly over the point at which water freezes. They replaced the icebox, making it the most significant piece of equipment in today’s kitchen. Because the designs come in various sizes, everyone can store a significant amount of food. 

Because the designs come in a range of sizes, everyone can store a significant amount of food. Tailored to fully satisfy the needs of individuals. Following are some examples of modern-day refrigerator types:

  • Top-Freezer Refrigerator
  • Bottom-Freezer Refrigerator
  • Side-by-Side Refrigerator
  • French Door Refrigerator
  • Counter-Depth Refrigerator
  • Compact Refrigerator
  • Smart Refrigerator

Related Article: The Art Of Refrigeration: How Does A Refrigerator Keep Your Food And Beverages Cool?

Major Refrigerator Features

The following are the primary elements of the refrigeration system:

RefrigerantA substance that flows right through the device and helps in cooling the refrigerator.
Two Sets Of PipesThese pipes transfer heat while maintaining the refrigerant. One of the pipes draws in cold air, while the other, placed outside, releases heat into the air.
CompressorA compressor raises the pressure in the refrigeration system, forcing the gas to dissolve.
Expansion ValvesThese expansion valves disperse the gas, decreasing the pressure, and absorbing the heat from the refrigerator.

Through The Decades: The Timelines Of Refrigerator Technology 

Throughout the years, we have tried to come up with a way to produce cold weather without relying on the environment since people noticed that food kept at lower temperatures lasts longer. Here is a brief timeline of the inventions before refrigerator technology, which we know and love today.

  • 1920’s

General Electric (G.E.) created the first electric refrigerator in 1927, costing each excited homeowner around $520 (approximately $9,111.65 today). They were known as a ‘Monitor-Top,’ and they established the standard for refrigerators in terms of aesthetics until about the 1940s. These refrigerators served as the inspiration for retro appliances today.

  • 1930’s

As ice cube compartments were widely accessible in electric refrigerators in the 1930s, consumers were exposed to the notion of freezers. Refrigerator manufacturers replaced Sulphur dioxide as the most widely used refrigerant during this era with Freon 12.

  • 1940’s

In the 1940s, people used their cold compartments to preserve frozen food. Refrigerators were popular during this period, with 85% of American families owning one by 1944.

  • 1950’s

The 1950s were a defining moment for refrigerator technology. Refrigerators were sold to women at the time and were a great addition to any household. Matching their colored refrigerator to their kitchen cupboards and walls was a common home design and decoration concept. Refrigeration technology advanced significantly in the 1950s when game-changing developments such as automated ice makers and automatic defrost were on the market. 

  • 1960’s

The refrigerators from the 1960s echoed a hopeful lifetime of household improvements and independence. This decade saw an expansion in freezer sizes, allowing hard-working mothers to load up on a hot culinary trend: frozen family meals.

  • 1970’s

Refrigerators of the 1970s, surprisingly, resorted to the more rectangular shape of refrigerators in the 1940s. Compact and small refrigerators gained popularity in the market, and the environment became a primary focus with the development of energy-efficient refrigerators and other appliances to achieve new criteria set by various governments across the world. In 1975, a refrigerator consumed roughly 1800 kWh of energy per year.

  • 1980’s

In the 1980s, refrigerators were made to last with new household appliances featuring strong and altruistic designs. Residences in the 1980s were more practical than in previous eras, and refrigerators were no exception. Removing chlorofluorocarbons from refrigerator-sealed systems made refrigerators of this decade safer and more rational in the view of manufacturers and customers. In 1985, a refrigerator consumed around 1700 kWh of energy.

  • 1990’s

With the emergence of French-style doors and stainless steel refrigerator facades in the 1990s, appliance manufacturers aimed to be more sleek and modern. Bulky refrigerators were progressively going out of favor, with consumers choosing more modern and elegant designs. Each decade saw advancements in electricity expenses and energy efficiency, with climatic changes gaining public attention. Throughout this decade, the Energy Star refrigerator became a fixture and consumed over 40 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in the U.S. alone.

  • 2000’s

In today’s refrigerator market, the world is your oyster. When it involves an innovative modern appliance, futuristic and traditional styles collide, giving homeowners a wide range of options. Modern refrigerators preserve the beauty of some of the classic mid-century modern styles but with the added benefit of cutting-edge energy efficiency features.

In 2013, a standard refrigerator used almost half the energy a comparable-sized device would have consumed in 1970. A modern and energy star-certified refrigerator’s energy efficiency can go to 450 kWh per year, which is less than a 100-watt light bulb. 

Did You Know: Fun Facts About Refrigerators Throughout The Years

  • Almost All Americans Households Own A Refrigerator

Compared to 85% of American households owning refrigerators in 1944, this demonstrates how popular and essential the refrigerator is until today.

  • Albert Einstein Is Credited With Co-Inventing The Refrigerator

When most people think of Einstein, they think of his theory of relativity. Nevertheless, Einstein and a former pupil developed a refrigerator patent. On November 11, 1930, they invented refrigeration equipment and method, but after seven years of hard effort, they were unable to commercialize their invention.

  • Refrigerators Have The Longest Average Lifespan

A standard refrigerator can last between 10 to 20 years, and sometimes even more if maintained properly. You could own several televisions in that period, as the average lifespan of a T.V. is between 4.5 to 6.8 years.

  • Refrigerators Revolutionized The Beer And Meat Packing Industries

The earliest refrigerators of the nineteenth century reshaped the brewing and meat-packing industry. The brewing industry, in particular, recognized early on that freezers would considerably improve commerce. Breweries, for example, could now produce consistent products throughout the year.

  • During The 1920s, Home Refrigeration Had Become Common Necessity

While industrial refrigeration originated in the mid-nineteenth century, residential refrigeration did not become mainstream until the 1920s. As a result, home refrigeration has been utilized for over a century.

  • The First Refrigerators Were Quite Durable

In 1939, Frigidaire placed a 4-ton elephant on one of their refrigerator units. They then tested the refrigerator doors to demonstrate how durable the seals were.

  • Fridges In The Past Were Incredibly Large

The original refrigerators were too large to be installed in a household in the nineteenth century, weighing over 5 tons.

  • Refrigerators Revolutionized the Society We Now Know Today

It is hardly an overstatement that refrigerators have dramatically altered the way society functions, boosting the standard of living for individuals. Food preservation is much easier thanks to fridges, and people have much better access to healthier foods. Refrigerators allow considerable trade and business between countries, as frozen commodities are constantly transported.


  • Why Were Household Refrigerators Invented In The First Place?

As more people moved into cities in developing countries and further away from food sources, household refrigerators became a necessity. Throughout the nineteenth century, there was an upsurge in demand for fresh food. As the distance between fresh food supplies and people’s homes increased, it became even more essential to maintain perishable food refrigerated during transportation and in homes to extend shelf life.

  • What Was The Cost Of The First Refrigerators?

In the 1920s, the first house refrigeration systems cost between $500 and $1,000, equivalent to $7,521 to $15,042 in today’s dollars. As a result, residential refrigerators were regarded as expensive appliances for the first few years of their existence.

  • When Did Refrigerators Become Widely Used In American Households?

Refrigerators started gaining popularity in residential homes in the late 1920s. After the invention of Freon, a safer solution to the toxic gasses formerly applied in vapor compression, home refrigerators became even more popular in the 1930s.


Although environmentally benign refrigerants are now widely used, refrigerants have caused massive environmental damage throughout the years. Refrigerators have made it possible to keep food fresh for extended periods. Food preservation has enabled humans to enjoy fresh and safe food. Refrigerators, in addition to being convenient, have made a wide range of foods available at our disposal. 

Refrigerators have been there since day one and have spared us from having to rush out to get groceries since they can store things safely for a longer time frame. Refrigerators have profoundly affected people’s lifestyles and eating habits, and we still have a bright future ahead of us because of their dependability and convenience.

To learn more about refrigerators and how this valuable piece of equipment chills the food and beverages inside, check out the post here.

Articles You May Be Interested In