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Published: Wednesday 14 August, 2013

michael kors charlton crossbody bag michael kors charlton crossbody bag ABC Radio National Australian Broadcasting Corporation

Alexandra de Blas: Remember when your grandmother or grandfather used to say Oh, they dont make things how they used to? Well in the case of our next story, they may well have been right. The old upright Kelvinator fridge still humming away in the corner can still be updated and reused, even in the 21st century.

At the Moreland Energy Foundation in Melbourne theyve taken that on board, and earlier this year completed a pilot trial looking at ways to make refrigerators more efficient and better for the environment.

Bruce Thompson: What we did was collected a series of fridges as a feasibility study, to see if we could take quite simple measures to make fridges operate more efficiently. That involved using insulation, replacing seals, replacing thermostats and in some cases replacing compressors in the units. The results from that were quite enco michael kors charlton crossbody bag uraging. We achieved at least 10% energy efficiency and in some cases up to 50% and 60%, so ultimately its a practical reduction in the greenhouse gases that those fridges would emit, but ultimately it can be a significant reduction in the household electricity bill as well.

Alexandra de Blas: You retrofitted a number of fridges in the trial, and had quite significant benefits. Some of the fridges were costing up to $200 a year to run which is a lot of money. And how did you manage to in some cases halve or more that running cost?

Bruce Thompson: The big increases were where we changed over a compressor, and introduced a new thermostat. The big old fridges that people might remember from their grandparents house are actually very well insulated, large units. The problem with those fridges is that they have older and less efficient compressors, and compressors doing the hard work, its compressing the refrigerant gas and then its pumping it through the system and its coming back the other side. In older fridges, and especially fridges which are operating incorrectly, that compressors working a lot of the time, and when its working, its working quite inefficiently compared with a modern compressor. So to actually replace that component, but not replace that whole large fridge with its great insulation, can achieve some very good results. So if you were saying its costing $200 a year, it can be halved to $100 a year, and the payback is quite short.

Alexandra de Blas: So when a used fridge comes into your warehouse, what process will it go through?

Bruce Thompson: Well assess the fridge, firstly just to see if its safe to go on and be retrofitted. If its not, well degas the fridge, we will recycle the materials that are involved in those fridges, but if its a reasonably healthy fridge and we can make it a bit more healthy, and then well test the fridge to see the efficiency increases. So what we want to be able to do is actually assess the fridge to see the benefits that we can give to it, and then also be able to measure those benefits at the end.

Alexandra de Blas: Youre now moving into a stage michael kors charlton crossbody bag where youre trialling it at the local council level, but youd like to see this move Statewide and perhaps national in the future. How will you actually get it to work as a functioning business?

Bruce Thompson: Well the first stage were working in partnership with two charities in Melbourne, Brotherhood of St Laurence and St Vincent de Paul. What were doing is working within their existing collection and distribution systems. They pick up peoples fridges from the community, are able to certify those for electrical safety and then distribute it to households that need those. What were hoping to do is be involved in that process, but actually be able to provide that treating of fridges in that way. In the longer term were looking at working with whitegoods suppliers that can actually provide information to people who are buying new products that there are existing products in their household that can be recycled through these sorts of schemes. Were also looking at education schemes to enable people to realise the benefits in ultimately utilising their existing appliances, that while a new appliance might be more efficient, there are issues around buying new products that increases our consumption, ultimately theres issues around whats called embedded energy, basically the amount of effort, resources and hard work that go into making a new fridge or a new heater or any appliance in your household, might actually outweigh the benefits of its increased efficiency.

Alexandra de Blas: Most fridges prior to 1994 contain ozone depleting CFCs which are also very greenhouse intensive gases. How will you deal with that problem when old fridges come in?

Bruce Thompson: Its a really important problem. While we were talking earlier about fridges when theyre operating using up a lot of electricity and ultimately contributing to the greenhouse, the CFCs that are contained in fridges are actually 6,000 times more greenhouse intense than normal CO2 or carbon emissions. People might be aware that CFCs contribute to the hole in the ozone layer and to greenhouse gases, but were not at this stage, compelled to do anything about our fridge, so a lot of fridges around on our kerbside for hard rubbish collection, and a lot of those gases when the fridges are bumped around in the back of the truck, are basically leaked back out into the environment. So well be able to capture and contain the gases and safely dispose of them in a way that wont affect the environment. When we regas well be using a more inert product that is actually nowhere near as harmful to the environment, its actually a natural refrigerant which is quite similar to a propane, its a very simple gas or carbon based gas.

Alexandra de Blas: If we look to the future 20 years from now, what role do you think the Phoenix fridge project and others like it, might be playing at that time?

Bruce Thompson: Hopefully it establishes a leadership understanding, or regaining knowledge that we have in the community about the value of using things as long as we can. We have become a throwaway society but I think most people realise that to become sustainable in 2020, we need to reduce our consumption. If we were all to buy new and more efficient appliances, well ultimately be increasing our consumption of resources and of energy. So these programs on a practical and community level I guess take us, or try to embark us on that journey.

Bruce Thompson: Ultimately that is the idea, hence working with groups that are already out there that have established networks and established services, and working with them here in Brunswick, were going to michael kors charlton crossbody bag utilise the warehouse space of the Brotherhood of St Laurence, where there is also a Greenpeace group which is using old parts, putting together functioning and operating computers and being again able to distribute them to low income households. In addition, there is also a group there that is developing more appropriate clothing manufacturing and those sorts of things, where its utilised scrap materials and other sorts of resources, but basically were looking at we take away the jargon, looking at trying to increase the use of the common things that we have in our society for that bit longer.. michael kors charlton crossbody bag