Time: Your Icemaker Is Killing the Earth

April 18th, 2011 4:37 PM

This just in, courtesy of Time Magazine: Mother Gaia is dying and your ice maker is the perp. Continue churning out ice with your automated cube-maker, and you'll be contributing to the plight of the 50 million refugees the United Nations insists anthropogenic global warming has caused will cause by 2020.

Time took a study by the National Institute of Standards and Technology showing significant energy use by ice makers and ran with it. Want to save the Earth?" the article asked. "Easy, just buy a couple of ice trays." The article goes on to educate "laypeople" (the actual phrase used) on the havoc their refrigerators are wreaking on the planet (h/t Moonbattery).

According to the just-released findings, the average ice maker in the average fridge increases energy consumption by 12% to 20%—a whole lot of juice for an appliance that is in operation 24 hours a day from the moment you first plug it in till the moment you replace it a decade or more later. The reason that number was so unexpected was that the large majority of refrigerators are refrigerator-freezer combinations anyway—which means they're freezing water and making ice no matter what. So why should the simple business of automating the process be so energetically expensive?

The answer, it turns out, is the tiny motor inside the freezing system that's used to release the bits of ice from the mold and dump them into a tray. A motor that is designed to operate in so cold a setting needs an internal heater to keep it from freezing up, and heating elements require a lot of power—in this case, roughly three fourths of the total additional energy the ice maker uses.

Certainly, on the list of big things that are responsible for global warming, the icemaker ranks a good ways behind the coal-fired power plant, but averting climate catastrophe is often a game played in increments and inches, and every kilowatt hour helps. NIST is thus urging refrigerator manufacturers to look closely at the design of their icemakers, insisting that there are "substantial opportunities for efficiency improvements merely by optimizing the operations of the heaters."