On Jevons' Paradox and The Size of Your Refrigerator

Big FridgeLG /Promo image

LG has introduced a 31 cubic foot monster fridge with a interesting double-door arrangement that saves up to 17% of the energy of comparably sized fridges, but raises interesting questions.

Whenever there is a discussion of Jevons' paradox or the rebound effect, which suggest that if our stuff gets more efficient then we use more of it or go bigger, Fridges are trotted out as proof that it is not necessarily true. In Beating the Energy Efficiency Paradox, the Rocky Mountain Institute wrote:

After all, there is a maximum size to the refrigerator you can easily put in a kitchen and a limit to the number of refrigerators you need in your house. In short, improvements in efficiency have greatly outpaced our need for more and larger fridges.

They, and I, were wrong. Not only are fridges getting bigger, but they are adapting, in the name of energy efficiency, to the peculiar way that Americans eat and shop, compared to the rest of the world. According to Gizmag,

...a recent survey revealed that 32 percent of the 1,000 or so American families questioned said that their refrigerator door is opened between 20 and 50 times each day, with so-called "go-to" foods ranking high among the regular quick grab and go visits. Each time the door is opened, cool air escapes and ambient air sneaks in. As its name might well give away, LG's new Door-in-Door French-door refrigerator has a storage compartment in the door itself, allowing users to retrieve most commonly needed items without affecting the temperature of the main storage space.

In other words, they graze all day. If you watch the commercial, they are visiting the fridge for cheeze snax, pop and juice, and one can imagine they are opening the fridge 50 times per day. So LG has designed the fridge to if not encourage, to support this unhealthy and fattening way of eating. "It lets you grab your food with ease and sends you on your way."

Behind the first door are the things that don't fit, the backup supplies, and the stuff for meals, if they actually eat any.

Oprah small kitchen shock photo

In Europe and much of the world, most people have small fridges; they shop every day for fresh food in their neighborhood. Oprah was shocked to see how small fridges were in Denmark, even in the fanciest home. Perhaps it is time to change our mantra, Small Fridges Make Good Cities to Small Fridges Make Good Cities and Healthier People.

On Jevons' Paradox and The Size of Your Refrigerator
Fridges are often used as an example of how things don't get bigger when they get more efficient. We were wrong.

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