For anyone who stays in hotel rooms, the three pictures above would be familiar. They are the pictures of a mini-fridge inside a wooden cabinet. The cabinet is usually closed from all sides, except for a small hole/ slit for the wiring. This seems to be the case in all types of hotels, regardless of their “star” rating.
Anyone who has some knowledge of refrigeration or thermodynamics or basic physics knows that the closed cabinet will get hot, because:
- Electricity is being burnt inside the cabinet to operate the fridge compressor. Consumption of electricity generates heat.
- There is no escape for the heat. Wood is not a good conductor of heat.
This generated hot air will remain between the fridge and the walls of the wooden cabinet till someone opens the cabinet door (see discussions on quora here). Because of the hot air just outside the fridge, the fridge will take longer to reach a suitably low temperature. The electricity consumption will be higher, and the compressor will have to operate for a longer time.
It is like having the hot exhaust of an air-conditioner emptying in the room that is being cooled.
So, does placing a running fridge inside a wooden cabinet meet the needs of any of the stakeholders? Let us look at each category of stakeholders, in a hotel context.
- Guests: The fridge does not cool properly. The drinks are not cold (lukecool? :-)). Cooked food kept in the fridge spoils quickly, and can lead to sickness. Also, one has to open 2 doors to reach the items in the fridge.
- Hotel Housekeeping: Guests keep complaining, and requesting for ice. The fridges break down more often, requiring repair. The insides of the fridge are also more difficult to clean. And dust gathers in the cabinet, outside the fridge.
- Hotel Management: Electricity bill is higher. Repair costs are higher. Risk of fire is higher. Guests can fall ill after eating stale food, and have a poor experience at the hotel. Consumption of excess electricity and generation of heat is environmentally unfriendly (contrary to the hotel’s claims of being environment conscious).
Here are some questions to consider:
- How did this fridge-in-cabinet trend start? What were the considerations and constraints? How did this trend get adopted so widely?
- Why is it continuing? What should be the triggers for designers to reconsider and question old designs?
Please feel free to share your views, experiences, and queries, using the “comments” feature.