Here is a fascinating though experiment: can you use a refrigerator to cool a room? After all, as we’ve discussed before, both a fridge and an aircon operate using the same principle. They even share the same parts only in different configurations. So logic follows that you can use one as you would the other? Well…not quite.
The brief answer is no. A refrigerator can only cool a small area in front of it and not the whole room. The reason being is this: while it is true that both a fridge and an AC use the same working principle, an air conditioner’s blower wheel can cover a larger area than a refrigerator’s fans which are only designed to distribute air within the enclosed compartment of the fridge.
In this article, we will fully explain why a refrigerator cannot be used as you would an aircon.
How a refrigerator (and an aircon) works
Basically, both of these appliances use the power of evaporation to create cold air. Notice how rubbing alcohol on your hands create a cooling effect over the area? That is caused by the evaporating alcohol. Both a fridge an an aircon will harness that, but instead of alcohol, they use a refrigerant gas called “Freon”.
Also, instead of letting the Freon evaporate to the air, both appliances keep it in a closed system (the technical term is hermetic system by the way) where the Freon is pumped by the compressor to the evaporator and the condenser where it will be evaporated and condensed over and over again.
That is how both of these appliances create cold air. However, the prime difference between these two is how they distribute the cold air, and how large an area they have to it over.
Can you use a refrigerator as an aircon?
The short answer is: no you can’t. The slightly longer one is: yes you can, but only to a small area in front of the fridge, and it will do so rather inefficiently at that.
This is because a refrigerator is only designed to distribute cold air to the area it encloses. Some refrigerators use fans to circulate cold air produced by the evaporator throughout the compartments of the fridge. Other refrigerators don’t; only relying on the evaporator to absorb the heat inside the fridge.
Meanwhile, an aircon uses a large blower wheel that can cover a larger area compared to a refrigerator’s fans. I’m guessing the next question in your head is “how large?”. Here is how we will visualize it:
A refrigerator’s size is typically measured in Liters (L), while an air conditioner’s cooling area is measured in square meters (sqm or m2). 1 Liter is equal to 0.01m2. Which means that a typical 350L refrigerator can cool an area of 0.5m2. Meanwhile, a typical small air conditioner can cool an area of 10m2. To say that using a refrigerator to cool a room is inefficient is an understatement.
Also, here is the best part: a refrigerator’s fans turn off when the fridge door is open. Which means that while you will feel a momentary breeze of cold air when you open a fridge, it will not let out more cold air as long as the fridge door is open. The result will be slightly warm food on the fridge and a hike in your energy bill.
So, that does it. A refrigerator cannot cool a room as well as an air conditioner does. As they say: don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole. If you want to feel cool during hot days, give yourself a favor and go buy an aircon instead.
Miguel Mores worked for 5 years as a member of the product management team for a home appliance company in the Philippines. He started 101appliance to answer the most common customer questions that he has encountered during his time in the industry. He now works in the digital marketing field and manages a small online bookstore on the side.