Thursday, August 21, 2014

How to fix a dimly-lit refrigerator

Answer:  As near as I can tell, there is currently no practical solution to this predicament.  Let me explain our attempted workarounds in the sections below so that you won't waste your own time trying the same approaches.

Do you find it a bit odd that everyone acknowledges this issue but no manufacturer has seen fit to correct it??
Yes, yes, I know what you're going to say - this falls squarely into the category of "first world problems".   
It's a first world problem but you might be surprised at how much food (and therefore money) I waste because I can't properly see what's in our fridge.  Our kitchen is in the center of our house and has no windows - it isn't very bright to start with, and light coming from our unusual kitchen skylight and our standard pot lights doesn't illuminate the fridge.
I think what happens is that manufacturers design the lighting without accounting for the food load.  In this example, there is no light whatsoever getting to most of the shelves in the fridge on the right.  
Here's the source of all this aggravation:
Each of us homeowners pays upwards of a thousand dollars for a refrigerator, but a lot of them only come with these crappy little bulbs.  Unfortunately, those obsolete bulbs make retrofitting very difficult, especially because they are so small, with correspondingly small sockets and low wattage.  
My first instinct in dealing with this problem was simply to wait until our 10-year-old refrigerator eventually died of natural causes, because surely a newer replacement model would be brighter??  But I recently went on a pre-purchase shopping trip to look at new fridges, and found that none of the models currently for sale would be bright enough for my dim-kitchen, severely-myopic needs.
Our fridge takes three of those 30-watt incandescent miniature atrocities.  Sigh.  
So upon discovering that new fridges are not significantly better than the one we've already got, we set about trying to resolve this.  We first looked at specialty bulbs.
Don't laugh, but I actually do use a flashlight to search our fridge!!  We could find no specialty bulb on the market that was measurably better than what we've already got.  This is a sampling of Amazon reviews for an LED fridge bulb model that sells for $15 apiece.  Given that I would need three, I could spend $45 on these things and still be no better off than I am right now.  
We initially thought we could achieve partial relief through adaptation of a compact fluorescent in the largest of the three bulb sockets.  
The CF bulb on top, is an "instant on" 14 watt, 900 lumen bulb (intermediate base), so it actually is compatible with the fridge.  You can see here that it looks brighter than the lower two 30 watt bulbs combined.   EXCEPT...
...CFs don't do well in the cold!!  The "instant on" feature did not save it from dimming out as soon as it got chilled.  It ended up being worse than the original incandescent.  
So here is the fridge light summary of failure:
  1. The incandescents are not bright enough
  2. The LED options marketed to replace the dim incandescents are not bright enough, and
  3. The CFs start out being bright enough, but cannot maintain their lumens at 38 degrees F (not while operated only intermittently, at least).  
So where does that leave those of us who are fumbling around in the dark?  Pretty much screwed until technology improves.  Once again, I've essentially written a place-holder post here, a post that I'll come back and update when a better product hits the market, when I discover a reasonable hack, or when someone drops me a comment or email relating a solution that finally will put me out of my half-blind misery.
How about a danged light bulb that is actually fit for purpose?  That would be enough to satisfy me.  

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