Einstein Takes Refrigeration Green

Would you believe that in 1930 Albert Einstein invented, and patented, a refrigeration system that uses ammonia, butane, and water instead of environmentally damaging Freon gases? This invention uses no electricity, has no moving parts, and could reduce greenhouse gases if replicated today!


It seems many people are not even aware that Einstein, along with his colleague, Hungarian physicist Leo Szilard, developed this practical refrigerator in 1930. The invention was in direct response to a 1926 incident involving a family in Berlin that had been killed by poisonous gases leaking from a refrigerator. Einstein and Szilard were then inspired to invent a safer alternative to current refrigeration systems.  Their ultimate goal was to invent a refrigerator that required no electricity and no moving parts. They believed this would alleviate the chance of seals leaking and gas escaping, thereby providing a safer in home refrigeration unit.

In 1930, they were successful in designing, and building, a refrigerator that had ­­­no moving parts and used only pressurized gases to create low temperatures. The premise of this design was used in the first domestic refrigerators; however the concept was abandoned when more efficient and affordable Freon compressors became popular in the 1950s.

Current refrigeration systems are notoriously damaging to the environment. They work by compressing and expanding man-made greenhouse gases called Freon. Freon is a huge contributor to The Greenhouse Effect and the depletion of the ozone layer. This process is far more damaging than carbon dioxide (also a useful, and less damaging alternative, for refrigeration). Einstein and Szilard’s refrigerator completely eliminates the need for Freon. Their design uses ammonia, butane, and water to take advantage of the fact that liquids boil at lower temperatures when the air pressure around them is lower. Inside the unit there is a container of butane, if you introduce a gas above the butane, the liquid will boil at a lower temperature, as it boils, it uses energy from its surroundings. As the butane burns, the ammonia evaporates and is absorbed by the water. The condenser pressure liquefies the butane, and as it passes back into the evaporator to start the process again, the ammonia provides the cooling for the unit. This interaction is what creates and maintains the lower temperatures.

Pressurized gas refrigerators based around Einstein’s design were replaced by the Freon compressor refrigerators that we use today, primarily because Einstein and Szilard’s design was not very efficient on a large scale. Many scientists and environmentalists believe that with a few tweaks Einstein and Szilard’s refrigerator could become markedly more efficient, and may make a comeback to help protect the environment. Since the only energy needed is the heat pump, some scientists are even looking into powering the pump with solar energy.

Einstein and Szilard’s 81 year old invention may very well be just what the planet is in need of in terms of refrigeration. No greenhouse gasses. No moving parts. No electricity required. Sometimes the simplest answer is the best answer.



Spring Cleaning for Commercial Refrigeration Equipment – Comprehensive Maintenance Checklist

Spring has Sprung!

Thoughts turn to blue skies and flowers. (Shh! Yes, it is snowing right this very minute in Chicagoland!)

Have you given thought to your commercial refrigeration needs? Probably not. When everything is chugging along in perfect working order, preventative maintenance often slips our minds. So, we’d like to give you a gentle reminder that preventative maintenance is always better than trying to find a cure for something that has already met its demise.

The best way to stay on top of your preventative maintenance needs is to keep a to-do list. Sounds like one more thing to add to your already full schedule, but it can be very simple. No need to complicate things. All you need is a straightforward checklist with the following:

  • Task
  • Department
  • Person
  • Date Checked

To make things easy for you, we’ve put together a list of items you should check on a regular basis.

Commercial Refrigeration Maintenance Checklist

Basic Refrigeration Maintenance Check List:

  • pressure clean / degrease condenser coils
  • clear condensate drain lines
  • check condition of  door gaskets
  • monitor thermostat operation and adjust as needed
  • monitor temperature and cycling
  • check compressor operation and control wiring
  • check refrigerant level
  • oil motors if oil ports exist
  • check unit thermometer
  • check suction line insulation
  • inspect door hinges & door closers
  • check and adjust defrost timers

Ice Machine Maintenance Check List:

  • all removable parts should be taken out and cleaned
  • bin drain should be pressure cleaned
  • an acid wash should be done on evaporator
  • bin should be scrubbed and sanitized
  • after cleaning ice level sense probe will need to be adjusted

Maintenance Check List for A/C:

  • pressure clean condenser coil
  • replace air filters
  • replace blower belt
  • clear condensate drain
  • check thermostat operation and settings

Did you know it can be dangerous to have a dirty ice machine?  It is very important to keep your ice machine clean!

Important Ice Machine Maintenance Tips

  • Clean Ice Cooler: Do this every other week and you’ll have ice cubes that are uniform in shape and don’t harbor an unpleasant odor. You risk your machine shutting down if you don’t clean regularly.
  • Check for Brown Slime: Ice machines can develop a brown slime.  This brown slime develops from specific types of yeast such as: airborne yeast, beer, brewing yeast, and baking yeast. We recommend that you consult your ice machine manufacturer’s manual.
  • Check Ice Machine Temperature: It’s important to keep your ice machine in a cool location. It will expend less energy and make better cubes.
  • Replace Ice Machine’s Water Filters Regularly: Every six (6) months. Ice quality will increase, and the speed in which ice is produced also increases.
  • Clean Your Condenser Coils: Condenser coils are often ignored by restaurants. Dirty condenser coils have an adverse effect on your ice cooler’s temperature, resulting in slow ice production. If your condenser coils are weighed down by gunk and grease, you should give us a call or Tweet us!
  • Maintain a Regular Professional Cleaning Schedule: Ice machine cleaning should be on your list of highly important kitchen jobs.  We recommend you hire a certified technician, like Northeast Cooling, to clean your ice maker every 6 months.

It’s easy to take your commercial refrigeration, especially your ice machine, for granted. It’s always there: churning out perfect cubes for your every need. To keep those cubes perfect, you need regular preventative maintenance.

Benefits of Regular Preventative Maintenance

  • Reduce power consumption. It’s easy to be GREEN with a little preventative care.
  • Extend life of equipment, especially critical components like the compressor, capillary tube, and condenser fan motor.
  • Avoid costly EMERGENCY service caused by lack of maintenance.
  • Avoid mold growth and contaminated “spotted” ice. (To combat this, have ice machines taken apart and cleaned at least twice per year.)
  • Properly maintained line coolers won’t cause system oil and capillary tube breakdown and/or compressor failure.
  • Proper door seal reduces power consumption and extends life of equipment.

Find more helpful information on how you can save energy, and money, by following @Refrigeration on Twitter and Northeast Cooling on Facebook.

R22 Refrigerant Is Being Phased Out. Start Thinking Retrofit!

What type of gas does your commercial refrigeration equipment use?  Is it time to consider a change?  Northeast Cooling is here to help!

R22 Refrigerant is being phased out by the Montreal Protocol Act.  This ozone depleting refrigerant is is used in many air conditioning and refrigeration applications world wide, and this type of  gas is very commonly used in the Chicagoland area.  The sale of new R22 equipment is no longer allowed.  As of January 1st, 2010 the consumption and production of R22 gas has been reduced by 75%. By the year 2015 it will be 90% reduced.  The gas will be 99.5%  phased out by the year 2020. (source EPA HCFC Phaseout Schedule)

This has happened before, one of the first gasses to be completely phased out was R12 in 1995.  After the production of R12 stopped the price rose by hundreds of dollars.  It was used in air conditioning and refrigeration. Retrofit (replacement gasses) became available. This allowed technicians to convert the equipment to newer more ecologically friendly refrigerants.   R409A & Mp66 are two examples of R12 replacement gasses.

In refrigeration, there are two main choices to deal with the phaseout of R22 Gas.

1: Replace the equipment with newer systems that run on different refrigerant.

2: Retrofit existing system to run on new approved gas.

There are several types of gas available to be used in replacement of R22. One is M099, this gas is compatible with the existing oil in the system.  Using a replacement gas that is compatible with existing system oil can speed up the retrofit procedure. Another gas that can be used is 407C. This gas is requires the use of POE oil in the system. The old oil must be flushed out of system and replaced.

The price of R22 gas is already climbing fast, which makes now a perfect time  consider retrofitting or replacing your old R22 Air Conditioning or Refrigeration System.  Most new Air Conditioning equipment is now using R410A gas.  These systems are more efficient and far less harmful to the ozone.  There are some great government tax saving incentives when  buying  HVAC equipment. There are great incentives for Refrigeration upgrades too!

Do you own commercial refrigeration or HVAC equipment? We would like to offer a 2 step program to drastically green up your footprint.

1:  The next time a major repair is needed on your existing R22 Cooler or Freezer have us retrofit it to an ozone friendly gas, or replace it with new energy efficient equipment.

2: Have Northeast Cooling perform a building energy audit & show you the potential savings that could be had by installing WiSuite wireless building management system.

Northeast Cooling LLC had an interesting call this week on a Commercial Blast Freezer!

We ran several interesting calls this week. The following commercial refrigeration service call takes the cake. Monday we looked at a  Blast Freezer at a bakery in Zion. A raccoon got caught in the outdoor condenser fan. We believe it was attracted to the warmth of the condenser during a refrigeration off cycle. When the refrigeration unit turned back on the animal was caught in the fan blade and was killed. The fan blade was lodged and the high pressure relief valve on the refrigerant line opened due to excessive pressure and blew the whole charge of refrigerant. We had to get the raccoon out of the condenser assembly. We also found that the fan motor and blade had to be replaced. We ran to a supply house and picked up a new condenser fan motor, blade, and a new high pressure relief valve. We new from past experience that once a pressure relief opens it usually tends to leak when it closes on drop of pressure. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. That is especially true when trying to prevent more gas from escaping into the atmosphere! We will provide more information on unusual jobs as they come in. Stay posted!

Maintenance to-do List Saves You Precious Money

If you want to keep your refrigeration equipment running at its designed best then you must have a preventive maintenance schedule to remind you. A schedule is important for a busy person like you. At least having this list would not make you forget about what you should be doing at a particular time. You keep a daily-to-do list, right? Then why not keep a maintenance to-do list as well.

The list does not have to be very exhaustive;  just a couple of points with the corresponding task and person assigned to do the work should do.  A good example on your maintenance to-do list would be:

Task  – Department In-Charge – Person In Charge – Date checked

This list is by no means exhaustive and you can always format your maintenance to-do list according to your need. There really is not hard and fast rule about this. Just create a schedule and stick with it so that you get to reap the benefits of a preventive maintenance schedule.

Another  benefit of having a schedule is that you can acquaint your people with how the refrigeration equipment works. They will be able to sense if the equipment is not properly working because they have spent enough time maintaining it. It is always best to incorporate a weekly or bi-monthly schedule as part of your maintenance people’s work load. This way they would be able to repair equipment that is need of their attention as soon as possible.

Preventive maintenance schedule helps you save money by making sure that your equipment works as it should because it is well taken cared of.  Better yet you can contact the specialists to do the job for you.  Contact Northeast Cooling LLC for more details.

Read more