Everything Is In the Wrong Place

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014

The problem with civilization, Scott Adams (Dilbert) says, is that our stuff is so often in the wrong place:

For example, it bugs me that I pay to heat my house . . . and then I put my refrigerator inside the heated house. That just feels wrong. I want my fridge to have an insulated conduit to the outdoors that senses temperatures and opens when the outdoors is sufficiently cold to help out. And let’s give that conduit a bug screen and an odor filter. This idea won’t happen soon because it requires the homebuilder and the refrigerator-maker to coordinate. I’ll put this idea on hold until I build my well-planned city of the future.

I recently blogged about the idea of consumers hosting computers in their homes and selling CPU time back to the grid. I got that idea about half right. A reader pointed me to a company that has a smarter take, so much so that I laughed out loud when I checked their website.

The company is Nerdalize, and their insight is that computers are also accidental heaters. With their business model you can heat your home for free in return for allowing a computer/heater in your home that is connected to the grid. This way data centers don’t need to spend vast amounts of money discarding excess heat that other people would happily pay for. It’s brilliant if it works. I’m going to add this idea to my city of the future too.


  1. Doubt there’s much efficiency to be had on the “fridge ducted to winter” plan. The time of year when you’d want to do it is when you’re spending a lot to heat your house. Your refrigerator is a heater: it sucks marginal bits of heat out of the inside of the fridge and dumps it into the rest of the house.

    If you’re running a heat pump as your primary heat source, then there really isn’t much difference, at that time of year, between sucking marginal heat out of your fridge and dumping it into the house and sucking marginal heat from identical-temperature-outside and dumping it into your house.

    Or at least there’s not a lot of gain.

  2. Spandrell says:

    That’s the kind of pointless optimization that I’d imagine Dilbert’s character to push for.

  3. Bruce Charlton says:

    One the one hand we discuss saving a few calories of energy and a sliver of resources here and there; on the other hand (in the UK) for more than a decade about a million economic dependents are added annually to a population of about 55M (from delaying employment by warehousing youths at ‘college’, by population ageing and – mostly – by mass migration).

    An insane world.

    The only rational attitude in life is “Look-after the pounds (or dollars) and the pennies (or cents) will look-after themselves…”

  4. Handle says:

    Actually, I specifically remember this precise ‘indoor refrigerator heat transfer efficiency’ problem from a thermodynamics class.

    One compared the two scenarios:

    1. A BOX1′s internal temperature must be held at T1, inside a larger BOX2 held at T2, and the outside temperature is T3.


    2. BOX1 is outside of BOX2.

    The question is, what the is the difference in energy requirements for the two scenarios.

    The answer, at realistically and reasonably high levels of heat transfer efficiency, is ‘there is hardly any different for highly various values of T1, T2, and T3.

    It’s almost never worth moving appliances around except in extreme circumstances that are not representative of most homes.

  5. Alrenous says:

    The problem with civilization is none of its critics know any engineering.

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