A theoretical and experimental study is presented and a mathematical model is introduced for a heat driven refrigeration system operating with continuous temperature control. The model consists of a refrigerated space, an absorption refrigerator, operating irreversibly, a temperature sensor and a reference signal, and a power law control action. The steady-state behavior of the absorption refrigerator model is validated by direct comparison between theoretical results and experimental data. The model is then used to identify an optimal thermal conductance allocation, for a fixed total thermal conductance inventory, such that the refrigeration rate is maximized and the 'pull-down' time is minimized. A simulation of the system operating in a transient mode is carried out to show that closed-loop operation results in a large reduction of fuel consumption, with respect to the 'on-off' operation. Appropriate dimensionless groups are identified and the generalized results reported in charts using dimensionless variables. (C) 1998 Elsevier Science Ltd and IIR. All rights reserved.