Refrigerators consume about 8% of the electric power used in American average homes and environmental temperature conditioning adds 44%. Most of these use electricity to generate the power required to operate refrigeration compressors but some use burning gas to obtain the energy to operate the refrigeration cycle. There are about one hundred thousand portable refrigerators in use in the world which use kerosene for their power source. They are mainly used for vaccine storage in remote places without reliable electricity. These flame powered refrigeration systems could be adapted to become solar powered refrigeration systems if the heated elements were exposed to concentrated beams of sunlight. A search of the internet didn’t come up with a permanent installation such as would be appropriate for a residential home or even an industrial setting but here at Greening the machine blog is a great site for saving energy. The Tasman energy guy has some personal experience with various refrigerator systems and preferred the battery operated system powered by solar cells. Here the LPG Refrigeration Indonesia has several refrigerators based on gas which might be adaptable to solar use.
A gas refrigerator diagram.
The diagram above is of the Hop-Hallstrom gas refrigerator designed in the 1920s and sold by Electrolux and discussed at greater length at Earth Garden. To convert this to a solar powered system would only require a solar concentrator, such as a reflector, to concentrate the sun’s radiant energy upon the part labeled Generator-Boiler. This adaptation could be ideally accomplished by exposing the generator-boiler located on the back of the refrigerator to the outside of the sun exposed side of the house and piping through the wall to a fully insulated compartment opening to the inside of the house. A larger system of this type could be used for air-conditioning the entire house.
Comparing the Dometic and Norcold Cooling Units
The vertical pipe on the right in the photographs of these two refrigerator systems is the generator-boiler and in this photograph they seem to be discussing the electrical option of heating the working material within it. As it is possible to use either burning gas or electricity to heat the material it would also be reasonable to use solar heat for that purpose. That would be easy enough to do if the columns were designed in such a way that a solar heatable surface were presented.