There’s an episode of This American Life in which Toby Lester tries to harmonize the hums the appliances in his life make — from the toaster to the fridge. That sound, in the refrigerator’s case, comes from the compressor that controls the condensation and vaporization of refrigerant, which flows through the coils and absorbs heat. A new wine fridge from Haier doesn’t make that sound, because it doesn’t have a compressor, thanks to magnetic refrigeration.
It’s a concept companies like GE are also working on, because not only is it quieter, it’s more energy efficient and does away with the refrigerant. Haier’s model uses water and CO2. It operates similarly to compressors, only with magnets, using metals that heat up in the presence of a magnetic field and cool down when they’re not. Unlike a compressor, the Haier fridge only has one moving part, meaning it won’t vibrate. That’s ideal for wine storage, according to the company, as is the fact that it has “zero fluctuations in temperature.” Its sound output is less than 30 decibels, which is about as loud as a library. By comparison, the latest dishwashers typically range between 40 and 50 decibels.
The wine fridge, which was on display at IFA 2015 and debuted at CES 2015, will be available in 2016, though the price hasn’t been set yet. The company also hopes to put the technology in bigger appliances in the future. Haier’s high-end brand Casarte was also showing off its fridge with an oil-less compressor. Though it’s still a compressor, it’s helps the appliance hold a more consistent temperature.
A company called Phononic is working on a similar appliance, though it would have separate compartments for whites and reds. It already has its solid-state thermoelectric machines ready for commercial applications, like laboratories and medical facilities.