Cool thinking

Refrigerator, An appliance for storing food at a low temperature. Well yes, this definition essentially describes the main purpose of a fridge. But they are no longerjust about keeping milk and eggs cold. They are so much more than that.

For example, LG recently unveiled its Smart Manager at the Consumer Electronics Show which can not only order your shopping but even help suggest meals.

Importance of efficiency

But a smart fridge isn’t just futuristic. Doing the weekly shopping on a fridge’s LCD panel may seem alien. But in more realistic terms, smart technology is actually about saving consumeis time, money and energy. Consumers are beginning to appreciate that an energy-efficient fridge can make a huge difference in the long term. After all, it is the only appliance that is switched on 24/7 365 days a year and therefore it makes sense for it to be energy-efficient.

According to Whirlpool, the EU-27 residential consumption report shows cooling appliances are the second highest users of electricity within the household, using 15.3%, which equates to 122 TWH. Therefore, whether a distress purchase or a discretionary purchase, an energy-efficient fridge ranks high on the wish list.

Bill Miller sales and marketing director of ATAG, comments: “An energy-efficient fridge is hugely important to the modern consumer as they are aware it can really make a difference to them well into the long term. Aside from the environmental benefits, it offers the wider world as a whole, energy-efficient refrigeration can truly help the consumer minimise their outgoings and save on bills. Old refrigeration appliances are incredibly energy hungry and so the consumer will certainly notice the difference with a new fridge and appreciate the savings it provides.”

And to make consumers’ purchasing decisions even easier Fnom July 2012, when the EU law comes into force, it will be a legal requirement for manufacturer to only provide A+ rated refrigerators. The European energy label now ranges from A++ to G so it is clear for consumers to see which models are mor efficient.

Andrew Wasdell, product manager of food preservation at Electrolux Major Appliances, adds: “3A+ energy efficient models are highly efficient with a typical model consuming only £16kw per year; costing £38 per year to run. A consumer switching from an A-rated model to an A+ or A+++ model will see a reduction in energy consumption and costs. However; it is important to note that as the average age of cooling appliances in the market, at the moment, is 8 years old, then the old model that customers are replacing is unlikely to be A+rated. Models that are 13 years old will be far more inefficient in their energy consumption and may cost £60-£70 per year in energy. So the customer will see a huge improvement in the switch to a modem fridge freezer.”

Demand for functions

But, a label with a few extra plus signs isn’t the only thing consumers are looking for when purchasing fridges. There is an increased demand for more exciting smart technology features such as large multi-zoned capacities, supencool functions, holiday modes and humidity zones. Consumers expectations of the conventional fridge-freezer have clearly changed.

And the latest technology is all about reducing food wastage with things like ‘vegetable drawers with humidity control’ keeping food fresher for longer. Ultimately saving consumers money and time by enabling them to shop less often and take advantage of bulk buying. Bill Miller sales and marketing director of ATAG, comments: “We find hat the top demand amongst our consumers for refrigeration is a flexible, multi-zoned capacity The current tendency is to shop once a week and so the consumer needs the space to store their food produce.

Adaptable multiple food storage capability such as deli drawers and humidity compartments are all in demand. Secondly useful functions such as fast cool and fast freeze are also desirable with the trend towards bulk shopping expeditions. Keeping food fresh for longer is imperative with the trend in bulk buying; the consumer wants more time to enjoy life’s pleasures rather than to spend it shopping for food.”
And David Garden, commercial director for Lec and GE at Glen Dimplex Home Appliances, adds: “Food preservation features and airflow boosters are the key functions that can actually have an impact on the effectiveness and usability of a fridge. Inadequate airflow can create different temperature zones within your fridge – by improving airflow and creating a constant, uniform temperature, throughout the cavity it means that the rules about which shelf to keep butter or meat on are irrelevant. The airflow also helps to remove odour contamination because there is a constant refreshing of the air.

When it comes to reducing food waste and doing our bit for the environment, the continued development and introduction of food preservation features – which ensure high humidity in the fresh food compartment to keep food fresher for longer; electronic sensors which monitor temperatures constantly for accuracy and consistency and multi- flow air towers which deliver cold air evenly throughout the appliance – offer users greater precision and control.”

Smarter the better

And saving money doesn’t just come in the form of reducing food wastage. The latest talk is about Smart Grid technology which is about saving money through cost-effective electricity Using an electricity grid system, the fridge can perform certain tasks during off—peak times to enable the reduction of energy costs. According to Dean McKeIvie, product marketing manager of freestanding at Whirlpool: “The achievement of the goals of significant energy water and money saving can be accelerated through integrating smart, energy-efficient appliances on a smart electricity grid.”

He adds: “Smart Grid is new technology and is essentially an intelligent energy distribution system, which communicates with household appliances to ensure a more eflicient and cost effective distribution of electricity So for instance, the innovation will allow appliances to tailor their operation, such as a refrigerators defrost cycle, and move it to times of off-peak electricity demand without affecting performance.”

While this technology is still in the early stages, it is likely to become the future of appliances, with Whirlpool set to launch its Green Kitchen this year: Dean McKelvie says: “Through an integrated use of appliances, GreenKitchenTM 2.0 optimises the use of heat and water with processes that increase energy savings of up to 70%. Its technology allows interconnection of the appliances in a kitchen-eco-system and their integration into the upcoming smart grid system. The result is minimised water and energy consumption which reduces impact on the environment.”

Connecting the benefits

According to Gino Grossi, product manager for refrigeration at Samsung Home Appliances: “Connectivity and interactivity is something that will emerge in the UK over the next year: Having a built-in M-H connected tablet will be the next thing, as it’s all about making the life of the leisure centric consumer easier – having an built-in tablet means that leaving notes on the fridge can be done digitally, or to help with the cooking, recipes can be downloaded on the refrigerator.”

So, next time a consumer makes out a fridge is just something which keeps food cool in, be sure to tell it is now so much more than that. It can save time, energy and most importantly money.