Part 1: ice and the development of chemical refrigeration

Bob's Icebox Repair - History - Ice Photo

The use of ice to refrigerate and thus preserve food goes back to prehistoric times. Through the ages, the seasonal harvesting of snow and ice was a regular practice of most of the ancient cultures: Chinese, Hebrews, Greeks, Romans, Persians. Ice and snow were stored in caves or dugouts lined with straw or other insulating materials. The Persians stored iceBob's Icebox Repair - History - Frederic "The Ice King" Tudor Photo in pits called yakhchals. Rationing of the ice allowed the preservation of foods over the warm periods. This practice worked well down through the centuries, with icehouses remaining in use into the twentieth century.

In the 16th century, the discovery of chemical refrigeration was one of the first steps toward artificial means of refrigeration. Sodium nitrate or potassium nitrate, when added to water, lowered the water temperature and created a sort of refrigeration bath for cooling substances. In Italy, such a solution was used to chill wine and cakes.

During the first half of the 19th century, ice harvesting became big business in America. New Englander Frederic Tudor, who became known as the "Ice King", worked on developing better insulation products for the long distance shipment of ice, especially to the tropics.

Part 2: first refrigeration systems

Bob's Icebox Repair - History - William Cullen Photo

The first known method of artificial refrigeration was demonstrated by William Cullen at the University of Glasgow in Scotland in 1756. Cullen used a pump to create a partial vacuum over a container of diethyl ether, which then boiled, absorbing heat from the surrounding air. The experiment even created a small amount of ice, but had no practical application at that time.

In 1758, Benjamin Franklin and John Hadley, professor of chemistry at Cambridge University, conducted an experiment to explore the principle of evaporation as a means to rapidly cool an object. Franklin and Hadley confirmed that evaporation of highly volatile liquids such as alcohol and ether, could be used to drive down the temperature of an object past the freezing point of water. They conducted their experiment with the bulb of a mercury thermometer as their object and with a bellows used to "quicken" the evaporation; they lowered the temperature of the thermometer bulb down to 7 °F (−14 °C) while the ambient temperature was 65 °F (18 °C). Franklin noted that soon after they passed the freezinBob's Icebox Repair - History - Benjamin Franklin Photog point of water (32 °F) a thin film of ice formed on the surface of the thermometer's bulb and that the ice mass was about a quarter inch thick when they stopped the experiment upon reaching 7 °F (−14 °C). Franklin concluded, "From this experiment, one may see the possibility of freezing a man to death on a warm summer's day".

In 1805, American inventor Oliver Evans designed but never built a refrigeration system based on the vapor-compression refrigeration cycle rather than chemical solutions or volatile liquids such as ethyl ether.

In 1820, the British scientist Michael Faraday liquefied ammonia and other gases by using high pressures and low temperatures.

An American living in Great Britain, Jacob Perkins, obtained the first patent for a vapor-compression refrigeration system in 1834. Perkins built a prototype system and it actually worked, although it did not succeed commercially.

Bob's Icebox Repair - History - John Gorrie PhotoIn 1842, an American physician, John Gorrie, designed the first system for refrigerating water to produce ice. He also conceived the idea of using his refrigeration system to cool the air for comfort in homes and hospitals (i.e., air-conditioning). His system compressed air, then partially cooled the hot compressed air with water before allowing it to expand while doing part of the work required to drive the air compressor. That isentropic expansion cooled the air to a temperature low enough to freeze water and produce ice, or to flow "through a pipe for effecting refrigeration otherwise" as stated in his patent granted by the U.S. Patent Office in 1851. Gorrie built a working prototype, but his system was a commercial failure.

Alexander Twining began experimenting with vapor-compression refrigeration in 1848 and obtained patents in 1850 and 1853. He is credited with having initiated commercial refrigeration in the United States by 1856.

Meanwhile in Australia, James Harrison began operation of a mechanical ice-making machine in 1851 on the banks of the Barwon River at Rocky Point in Geelong, Victoria. His first commercial ice-making machine followed in 1854 and his patent for an ether liquid-vapour compression refrigeration system was granted in 1855. Harrison introduced commercial vapor-compression refrigeration to breweries and meat packing houses, and by 1861 a dozen of his systems were in operation.

Australian, Argentine, and American concerns experimented with refrigerated shipping in the mid 1870s, the first commercial success coming when William Soltau Davidson fitted a compression refrigeration unit to the New Zealand vessel Dunedin in 1882, leading to a meat and dairy boom in Australasia and South America. J & E Hall of Dartford, England outfitted the 'SS Selembria' with a vapor compression system bring 30,000 carcasses of mutton from the Falkland Islands in 1886.

The first gas absorption refrigeration system using gaseous ammonia dissolved in water (referred to as "aqua ammonia") was developed by Ferdinand Carré of France in 1859 and patented in 1860. Due to the toxicity of ammonia, such systems were not developed for use in homes, but were used to manufacture ice for sale. In the United States, the consumer public at that time still used the ice box with ice brought in from commercial suppliers, many of whom were still harvesting ice and storing it in an icehouse.Bob's Icebox Repair - History - Thaddeus Lowe Photo

Thaddeus Lowe, an American balloonist from the Civil War, had experimented over the years with the properties of gases. One of his mainstay enterprises was the high-volume production of hydrogen gas. He also held several patents on ice making machines. His "Compression Ice Machine" would revolutionize the cold storage industry. In 1869 he and other investors purchased an old steamship onto which they loaded one of Lowe’s refrigeration units and began shipping fresh fruit from New York to the Gulf Coast area, and fresh meat from Galveston, Texas back to New York. Because of Lowe’s lack of knowledge about shipping, the business was a costly failure, and it was difficult for the public to get used to the idea of being able to consume meat that had been so long out of the packing house.

Domestic mechanical refrigerators became available in the United States around 1911.

Part 3: commercial refrigeration

Bob's Icebox Repair - History - Refrigerated Beer Truck PhotoBy the 1870s breweries had become the largest users of commercial refrigeration units, though some still relied on harvested ice. Though the ice-harvesting industry had grown immensely by the turn of the 20th century, pollution and sewage had begun to creep into natural ice making it a problem in the metropolitan suburbs. Eventually breweries began to complain of tainted ice. This raised demand for more modern and consumer-ready refrigeration and ice-making machines. In 1895, German engineer Carl von Linde set up a large-scale process for the production of liquid air and eventually liquid oxygen for use in safe household refrigerators.Bob's Icebox Repair - History - Refrigerated Railroad Car Photo

Refrigerated railroad cars were introduced in the US in the 1840s for the short-run transportation of dairy products. In 1867 J.B. Sutherland of Detroit, Michigan patented the refrigerator car designed with ice tanks at either end of the car and ventilator flaps near the floor which would create a gravity draft of cold air through the car.

By 1900 the meat packing houses of Chicago had adopted ammonia-cycle commercial refrigeration. By 1914 almost every location used artificial refrigeration. The big meat packers, Armour, Swift, and Wilson, had purchased the most expensive units which they installed on train cars and in branch houses and storage facilities in the more remote distribution areas.

It was not until the middle of the 20th century that refrigeration units were designed for installation on tractor-trailer rigs (trucks or lorries). Refrigerated vehicles are used to transport perishable goods, such as frozen foods, fruit and vegetables, and temperature-sensitive chemicals. Most modern refrigerators keep the temperature between -40 and +20 °C and have a maximum payload of around 24 000 kg. gross weight (in Europe).

Part 4: HOme and Consumer refrigeration

Bob's Icebox Repair - History -  Home Refrigerator PhotoWith the invention of synthetic refrigerants based mostly on a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) chemical, safer refrigerators were possible for home and consumer use. Freon is a trademark of the Dupont Corporation and refers to these CFC, and later hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) and hydrofluorocarbon (HFC), refrigerants developed in the late 1920s. These refrigerants were considered at the time to be less harmful than the commonly used refrigerants of the time, including methyl formate, ammonia, methyl chloride, and sulfur dioxide. The intent was to provide refrigeration equipment for home use without danger: these CFC refrigerants answered that need. However, in the 1970s the compounds were found to be reacting with atmospheric ozone, an important protection against solar ultraviolet radiation, and their use as a refrigerant worldwide was curtailed in the Montreal Protocol of 1987.

Part 5: bob and Bob's Icebox Repair

Bob started working on refrigerators, freezers, and air conditioners in Texas in the early 1980's, but moved to Montana to enjoy the many recreational activities the state has to offer. Bob's first job in Montana was with J & V Refrigeration, which specializes in commercial refrigeration. Bob then decided to work in the consumer realm of refrigetration with Ducello Appliance Repair, and was head of the entire refrigeration repair department.

After servicing regeration units for over 20 years, Bob decided it was time to start his own business, Bob's Icebox Repair. Bob's decision to start this company stems from his ideals as a human being, and his strong belief that a broken refrigertator shouldn't have to be such a big problem. That's why he offers same day service whenever possible, because he wants your refrigerator running just as bad as you do.

Information obtained courtesy of: