Beaverton couple trades aging appliance for energy savings and a shot at $1,000 contest
by: Jaime Valdez Gloria and Ralph Bernardo, from left, say goodbye to their 1966 Kelvinator “Foodarama” refrigerator as Steven Sanchez and Keton Welch of JACO Environmental haul it away to be recycled.

For 45 years, she did all that was expected of her, to the best of her ability.

Front and center in one Beaverton kitchen, she faithfully kept the milk, cheese and meats ready for family meals.

After moving to a relative's house in 1979, she took on a supporting role in the basement, seeing to it that beer stayed ice cold for the guys watching football in the family room, and the Thanksgiving leftovers remained fresh for days.

Then one September afternoon, a truck pulled up and hauled her away.

A fresh replacement - one that required less money to keep around - had already moved in.

It was nothing personal. Ralph and Gloria Bernardo just felt the hulking Kelvinator 'Foodarama' refrigerator-freezer, which dated from the Johnson Administration, in their garage no longer provided the most efficient, cost-effective way to chill beverages and leftovers in the garage.

'It's been in the family since 1966,' Gloria Bernardo says of the faded-beige workhorse. 'My parents bought it to put in their new house. When they moved to Georgia, we inherited it. They practically had to move a wall to get it in their house. We've only had it worked on once.'

As dependable as she was, the Weir Road couple realized it was time to let go.

'It was a massive energy hog,' Ralph Bernardo admits. 'When I went in the garage, it was always on, if that tells you anything.'

When they heard about Energy Trust of Oregon's 'Oldest Fridge Contest,' they knew they'd found a graceful way to say goodbye to the trusty but power-hungry Kelvinator.

Through September, Energy Trust - a nonprofit agency that promotes energy-saving strategies and use of renewable resources - is encouraging folks like the Bernardos to turn in their power meter-busting refrigerators to be recycled.

In addition to its ongoing $50 incentive and free pickup for refrigerator recycling, the organization will award a new, energy-efficient appliance, valued up to $1,000, for the 'oldest fridge' surrendered in Oregon.

Energy Trust will announce the winner of the inaugural Oldest Fridge Contest on Oct. 17.

'Through September, we're on the hunt,' says Lizzie Rubado, a spokeswoman with Energy Trust of Oregon. 'If yours is the oldest, you get $1,000 toward a high-efficiency appliance of your choice.'

Energy Trust representatives say a refrigerator built before 1993 can waste up to $200 a year in electricity costs. Newer models certified by Energy Star, however, cost an average of $40 a year to operate.

Gazing at the Bernardos' Foodarama, whose rear label reminds the nostalgic that Kelvinator was a division of the former American 'Nash Rambler' Motors Corp., Rubado seems impressed with the couple's chances.

'These guys are definitely in the running. This is what it's all about. They're wasting so much energy,' she says of vintage refrigerators and freezers chugging away in suburban garages.

Working with Portland-based JACO Environmental, Energy Trust has recycled more than 47,000 refrigerators and freezers throughout Oregon since the program started in 2008. The group estimates the elimination of 'energy hog' appliances has collectively saved residents nearly $3 million in energy bills. That's enough energy to power 2,300 'average Oregon homes' for a year.

'It's a great deal for Oregonians,' Rubado says. 'There are so many opportunities for savings. There are a lot of old fridges working in garages and basements.'

Herman Marioth, facility manager for JACO Environmental, says 95 percent of old refrigerator components - right down to compressor oil and foam insulation - are typically recycled or disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.

'The only thing that becomes trash is Fiberglas, if that's the insulation instead of foam, and the vinyl door gasket,' he says. 'It gets rid of a lot of stuff that would go somewhere else. It's really a good thing.'

As Marioth and his co-workers haul the Bernardos' faithful Foodarama out of the garage, where it's kept Ralph's beer and Gloria's ice cream chilled since its late '70s move, the genial baby-boomer-aged couple remain stoic.

It marks the end of an era, they admit. But the old gal's time had simply come.

'Bye-bye,' Gloria says with a smile.

'Forty-five years is enough,' adds Ralph.

For more information on the contest, visit or call 1-866-444-8907.

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