A Quick Look Back At The History Of Refrigeration

We use advanced refrigeration technology in our fridge vans vehicles and freezer van conversion kits, to allow us to deliver a consistently high quality service to you, our customers. But everything that we do wouldn’t be possible without centuries of innovation before us, so to honour that, this week we’re taking a quick look back at the history of refrigeration.

Early Refrigeration Food Preservation Techniques

ancient refrigeration techniques

Though obviously there isn’t that much information about refrigeration in prehistoric times, throughout history humans have been known to use the naturally cool environments of caves and icy streams to help preserve their food. Though technology has now developed far enough for our fridge van conversion kits, in some parts of the world these sorts of ancient natural techniques are still used today.

Ancient civilisations had a number of innovative ways to cool their food and drink – Romans were known to transport ice down from mountains (not very efficient in itself), before storing them below ground level in ‘ice cellars’. Insulated with wood and straw, ice cellars were surprisingly effective, and were in use right up until the first commercial refrigeration systems in the early 19th Century.

While that might sound like quite a late development, it’s worth remembering that up until that period, most people had relatively little need for refrigeration. Meats, fish, and fruits were often eaten immediately rather than being stored for any length of time, and it was only in the 1800s that people’s diets began to change.

The Invention Of The First Commercial Refrigeration Systems

 old fridge unit

When ice was being shipped commercially from New York in the early 1800s, two business partners changed the face of the young industry. At that time, it was struggling with the fact that large amounts of ice melted during transport. Frederick Tudor experimented with insulation, reducing melting losses from 66% to 8%. Meanwhile, his partner Nathaniel Wyeth invented new ways of cutting ice to ease storage, transport and distribution, all while minimising waste.

A few decades later, the 1830s saw the invention of the first vapour compression refrigeration machine by a man named Clarence Birdseye (who, by the way, gave his name to the frozen foods giant operating globally today). Then in 1885, the first commercial ice-making machine was produced. Commercial freezing and refrigeration systems were more advanced by the 1920s, and by then they more closely resembled the machines we use today. In fact, commercial refrigeration is older its domestic equivalent by over 40 years – this was because it used mildly toxic chemicals like ammonia, which people were understandably uneasy about having in their homes. By the 1940s, synthetic alternatives like Freon were developed, leading to more widespread use of fridges and freezers across the globe.

Modern Commercial Freezer Vehicles And Refrigeration Systems

coolkit vans

That leads us neatly onto today, when our chiller vehicles and freezer vans can transport goods and commodities for a wide range of industries. This includes not just frozen foods, but things like drinks and highly advanced medical treatments as well. Our bespoke insulated lining kits ensure that the temperature is kept to an optimal condition at every stage of the journey, helped along with technology like our temperature data loggers. Feel free to browse our range of fridge vans, or contact us or call us on 0845 459 5418 to discuss a bespoke solution for your fridge or freezer van requirements.

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