Design engineers at Fisher & Paykel Appliances have developed a new refrigerator compressor technology that is designed to save up to 30% energy in refrigeration appliances.

Leading kitchen and laundry appliances manufacturer Fisher & Paykel has finalised a new technology that revolutionises refrigeration in terms of significant energy savings. 

Fisher & Paykel has developed a new line of linear compressors that could fundamentally change the way refrigerators are built and used, given that up to 20% of all domestic electricity consumption is currently being directed towards refrigeration.    

Different from traditional oil-based compressors, the new compressor technology uses gas bearings to minimise friction, offering potential direct energy savings of up to 30% to the average fridge owner.  

According to Ian McGill who led the Research and Development team responsible for the new design, the new development was guided by the same philosophy that under-pinned Fisher & Paykel’s game-changing SmartDrive technology for washing machines. This meant that the technology had to be an integral part of the refrigerator.

Initially the plan was to support the pioneering work of an Ohio-based engineering professor to adapt the technology of his company, SunPower to a new non-rotary form of compressor for use in mainstream refrigerators.  

The SunPower team soon discovered the exercise was a lot more challenging than first estimated. Consequently, Fisher & Paykel brought the project entirely in-house in New Zealand and worked on their own version of the SunPower design, going through a number of design improvements to enhance efficiency.  

Unlike current compressor units in the market that spin on 4 oil-lubricated friction bearings, a single moving part in Fisher & Paykel’s new refrigerator compressors slides on pockets of compressed gas, resulting in vastly reduced friction.

Fisher & Paykel’s compact linear compressors save space inside the refrigerator to make more space for storage. The new refrigerators feature increased internal storage capacity, equivalent to five 3-litre containers of milk while the new compressor technology still uses about 30% less energy to keep that space cool.    

The new compressor technology in the smart refrigerators slows down and reduces its capacity on a cold day instead of intermittently turning off and on. It efficiently runs slower or faster depending on the amount of refrigeration that’s required, greatly reducing the energy that the refrigerator will use.  

Fisher & Paykel has exclusively licensed the manufacture to Embraco, one of the world’s largest suppliers of refrigeration compressors.

Rigorous field-testing of the new technology is underway and Fisher & Paykel Managing Director and CEO, Stuart Broadhurst hopes to have the technology in consumers’ kitchens within the next few years.