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A refrigerator (often called a "fridge" for short) is a cooling appliance comprising a thermally insulated compartment and a heat pump—chemical or mechanical means—to transfer heat from it to the external environment, cooling the contents to a temperature below ambient. Refrigerators are extensively used to store foods which deteriorate at ambient temperatures; spoilage from bacterial growth and other processes is much slower at low temperatures. A device described as a "refrigerator" maintains a temperature a few degrees above the freezing point of water; a similar device which maintains a temperature below the freezing point of water is called a "freezer." The refrigerator is a relatively modern invention among kitchen appliances. It replaced the icebox, which had been a common household appliance for almost a century and a half prior. For this reason, a refrigerator is sometimes referred to as an "icebox".