Friday, 13 September 2013

This water cooler is a disaster for the planet (and so are many others)



Our water cooler provides
hot and cold water
I was at work the other day making some tea with our water cooler and hot water was flowing as usually ... when I realised the input tap was shut. I found this is strange that water coolers strore hot or room temperature water since it can cause health hazards. 

But the truth I was about to discover was much more surprising...

Since I'm working on this energy consumption project where we find back individual appliance electrical consumption from a unique point of measure and we already noticed the water cooler was consuming lots of energy (more than a fridge!). I decided to open it to verify if there was something like a room temperature or hot water tank inside.

Here is what I discovered: the cooler heats water it just refrigerated

Tap water comes in through a unique pipe and fills a unique refrigerated tank. 
The water mains pipe filling
a unique refrigerated tank
This tank is fitted with two holes: one goes to the cold water (blue) button while the other one goes through an electrical heater before going to the hot (red) tap.

Inside the refrigerated water tank
there is a plastic separator between
the tank top and lower parts
Center hole: through the heater
Right hole: to the cold tap










Finding this highly inefficient, I contacted the manufacturer to understand the rationale behind this apparently inefficient approach. Their answer was in short: 'we heat refrigerated water to reduce sanitary hazards caused by hot or room temperature water storage'.
Even if this could have somehow made sense, it is highly inefficient and greatly increases electrical consumption. They could have simply gotten warmer water from directly from the tap instead of using chilled water without storing it.

Conclusion: manufacturer profit at the expense of the final consumer (and the planet)

The thing is... mains water valves are a little more expensive than low pressure ones and since manufacturers don't have to pay for their final customer's electricity, they save costs where they can. They apparently do not care about the environment neither.

2 comments:

  1. You know what else pisses me off? Putting a refrigerator inside an air conditioned house, forcing you to pay the square of the Carnot penalty. You know what else is stupid? Putting a refrigerator inside a heated house.

    Central air conditioners should provide a chilled coolant loop that connects to your fridge and freezer. In hot weather, you only pay the Carnot penalty once. In cold weather, you could just circulate the coolant, and leave the compressor switched off, for nearly free cooling. Keeping the heat rejector indoors is just stupid.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Russel,
      I like your view. It indeed seems very inefficient to cool a fridge putting heat pumps in series.
      For a heated house, I would be a little more nuanced: if you see the cooling system of your fridge as a heat pump heating your house (just like an a/c would do), you then heat your house with electricity with a fairly efficient technique (heat pump). Using the outside as free fridge cooling then only seems interesting to me if you can heat your house in a more efficient way than with the heat pump of your fridge (putting all embodied energy and maintenance aspects aside).
      What do you think?

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