Modern Icebox

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theanimal
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Modern Icebox

Post by theanimal »

Has anyone ever explored the non electrical alternatives of refrigeration? I am considering going forward with some type of modern icebox. I have in mind using something like an unplugged fridge or a cooler and rotating frozen blocks (ice packs/water jugs/something else frozen) continually to maintain cooler temperatures. Any thoughts on better alternatives? For the purposes of this discussion I'm interested in above ground solutions (ie no root/cold cellars).

jacob
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Re: Modern Icebox

Post by jacob »

Technically not above ground, but when I was a kid, my parents had a metal milk jug (one arm deep, prob about 10gal?) buried to the neck sticking up above ground just outside the backdoor, nearly always in the shadow. That worked well as a backup.

Alphaville
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Re: Modern Icebox

Post by Alphaville »

once upon a time i had a freezer but no refrigerator. i’d keep a cooler for unfreezables with blue ice packs, replacing from freezer at regular intervals.

if you need cool but not cold you could use a wind-powered swamp cooler in the right climate (low relative humidity + constant wind + sufficient water supply)

still electric, but off the grid: solar peltier cooling?

i gtg back to work but i’ll mull it over...

eta: dip it in the arroyo?

sky
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Re: Modern Icebox

Post by sky »

Assuming a cold climate: I always thought it was somewhat crazy to keep a cold box (fridge) in a warm box (house), and burn things to heat the warm box while using electricity to turn motors and compress coolant to cool the cold box. Why not put the cold box outside where it is cold? Maybe heat it with a thermostat and warm exhaust air from the warm box (house) to keep it from freezing.

Protection from insects and animals is important.

In cabin country in northern Michigan, some people put the fridge outside, on the back porch just outside the kitchen door. Sometimes with a lock on it.

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Dream of Freedom
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Re: Modern Icebox

Post by Dream of Freedom »

You could definitely beef up the insulation on a cooler. I was thinking root cellar before you said no, but it's easy for me to say because I wouldn't have to make one since there is already one on my property. Would you have to pay for the ice during warm bouts?
Last edited by Dream of Freedom on Fri May 08, 2020 6:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.

theanimal
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Re: Modern Icebox

Post by theanimal »

Root cellar or similar would be ideal but the ground in my area isn't great for building things in place and completely freezes for much of the year. I had a root cellar beneath the cabin when I lived more remotely but almost all homes here are raised since they are over potentially under permafrost laden ground (or it's nearby) whereas the previous cabin was not.

@alphaville- Your previous circumstances are exactly what I envisioned. No running water nearby here and rarely any wind. Great ideas though, I'd imagine they'd work well in a desert or plains environment. I'll have to look into the solar peltier. I haven't heard of that before.

@sky- I'm of the same opinion that it's just as crazy. That's what people do with their freezers here but I don't think I've seen it with fridges. Heating some type of box outside with exhaust air is a really neat idea. I'm going to have to think about that some more.

@DoF-More insulation is a good idea. I have a chest freezer that I use during the summer and leave unplugged during the cold months. It is very efficient and I plan to keep it now until I have better options.

Fish
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Re: Modern Icebox

Post by Fish »

Is a propane refrigerator an option?

Also, I’ve played the rotating ice pack game with coolers before. Always wondered if a nested cooler setup would make a noticeable difference with the insulation.

Alphaville
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Re: Modern Icebox

Post by Alphaville »

the solar peltier cooler is just some cockamamie notion i came up with where the more solar heat you have the more it cools. i dont know what it would take to make it actually work though ha ha ha. maybe some ee can chime in and call me an ignorant fool. like chucky in soa, i’d accept that.

now that i read that you live in a place where the ground freezes i would not recommend even thinking about it. i live in the high desert with brutal sun and swamp coolers are common (though usually operated by electric fans).

i think in ianto evans book about cob houses he talks about some iranian cooling chimneys... i don’t recall how that works maybe there was water at the bottom...

since you have cold ground near maybe there’s a way to do a heat exchange with your cooler without having to bury it?

-

eta: our eventual solution was to buy a “european sized” fridge which worked well and drew very little power—it was even in the same circuit as the freezer. i think it’s 4cuft. still at the cabin. works great and more stable than swapping ice. it was like $100 new. magic chef brand at home depot?
Last edited by Alphaville on Fri May 08, 2020 9:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.

sky
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Re: Modern Icebox

Post by sky »

I remember reading about a window fridge, an enclosed cupboard on a north facing window. The heat loss through the window kept the cupboard cool in winter.

theanimal
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Re: Modern Icebox

Post by theanimal »

@alpha- Yes, @riggerjack has suggested such an idea to me before. Capturing the cold from the permafrost in order to keep cool a fridge/freezer. It seems like it would work. My worry is ground liquefication.

That magic chef fridge is also something I was considering. If it seems like developing an alternative is too much of a hassle I might just pursue that. Or I guess it could be possible to use a combination of both strategies, using the Magic Chef when power availability is abundant and unplugged but with ice packs when it's not.

@fish- Yes, I have used a propane fridge before. When it works it's great, but I did not have positive experience. I had the pilot light go out a couple times and ended up with some spoiled food. I think much of that was due to that particular unit. That being said, those fridges use A LOT of propane, and I am interested in pursuing this for both cost and energy savings aspect.

@sky/bigato- The window fridge is an interesting idea. It would certainly work in winter, but I'm not sure about summer. About 2.5 months the average daily highs are well over 60 degrees. I guess that's when you could supplement it with the ice packs. That could very well be the best option.

@bigato-Yes, the issue here is that the coldest part of the year also coincides with the lowest sunlight (~3.5 hrs). The sun does not radiate any heat for much of this period. I have no issue with freezing stuff. It's more a matter of keeping stuff cold but not frozen. While much of the ground is frozen for much of the year when it thaws it almost liquefies making it very difficult to have any kind of cellar or structure beneath the surface. If the ground is permafrost than this is not an issue. If anyone has watched or read Dick Proenneke this is what he did with things he needed to refrigerate. I could look around my property for an area with permafrost but then I introduce the possibility of animal intrusions as such an area is likely a bit of a distance from my home.

Alphaville
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Re: Modern Icebox

Post by Alphaville »

if you go the small fridge way make sure you don’t get a stupid fridge like for 12 beer cans or something. 1-2 cuft is a toy for garages. get something that at least holds a gallon jug at the door and has a veggie drawer/crisper/whatever. ours easily fit a week’s worth of fresh groceries for 2. well, the chest freezer held the stuff but that was usually for “town” visits (3h away) when we’d stock up on berries and such, or for butchered animals, etc.

that little fridge fits under the counter and holds PLENTY of food including diy sauerkrauts and yogurts. the beauty of it was that a) the temp is steadier/more reliable than ice packs, which goes to food safety (meats, reheats, etc), b) you have the freedom to leave town for a couple of days without coming back to a moldy rotfest of warmed soggy foods.

worth it it for safety/health reasons (food poisoning is not fun)

same effect could be achieved with permafrost exchange i suppose. but the power consumption of this model was ridiculously low and it was very quiet in our wilderness nights. barely made a hiss. we loved it and never regretted that purchase.

eta:
this is the model i got https://www.homedepot.com/p/305026422
was a lot cheaper too, likely i bought on sale, $100 or so. or maybe the glorious metal tariffs or something made the price spike? no idea.

sid3
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Re: Modern Icebox

Post by sid3 »

This video rocks and I will probably make one of these from repurposed peltier coolers that I will use to make a cooled dog bed for my mom's old hot dog.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWUhwmmZa7A

7Wannabe5
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Re: Modern Icebox

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Get a hog. Then anything you can’t eat before it goes bad you can feed to your hog or your dog.

Gilberto de Piento
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Re: Modern Icebox

Post by Gilberto de Piento »

If you can't get a cooler or fridge that meets your specs for the right price you could look into making a cabinet with a few inches of insulation. The door seal might be tough. I'm sure someone has tried it and reported the results online.

reepicheep
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Re: Modern Icebox

Post by reepicheep »

This does not solve your electricity problem:

https://shop.dometic.com/store/dometic/ ... 5363870100

I bought one recently. My intention is to use it on the build site all summer and then build it into a cabinet and have it be my main refrigerator for Tiny House.

Pros:

Chest-style fridge/freezer saves energy when the lid is opened
12 volt and 110 capable (energy efficient in general)
Can remove from tiny home and take on car camping or boating trips
Can charge my phone from it
If I have vertical space in tiny house kitchen, I can make it into dry storage/shelving/drawers instead of reserving it for a fridge

Cons:
Expensive
Not as big as a regular fridge
Heavy AF
Still requires electricity
I can't fix it myself, probably

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jennypenny
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Re: Modern Icebox

Post by jennypenny »

I know you said you want something above ground, but you can bury a fridge on its side so the door opens up like a cooler. Dorm-sized fridges work well. It's also easy to cover it to hide it and help it stay cool. (people put these inside of sheds) Things stay plenty cold and you can add a pack of ice during a heat wave.

Dorm fridges are garage sale fodder around here if not free. Not sure by you though.

sky
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Re: Modern Icebox

Post by sky »

In the summer you could use solar to power the fridge. Back when I was looking in to changing out our van fridge, I calculated it would take 400W of solar and 4 deep discharge lead acid batteries to keep a fridge and simple electric system going. At the time Whynter chest freezer-refrigerators were the recommended option. It has been 5 years since I did that research so things have probably changed. Use solar refrigeration when the sun is available and temps are above freezing and a window cabinet refrigerator when temps are below freezing.

We have a propane/120V/12V RV fridge in the van, which I don't recommend. It does work but propane costs are high compared to solar-electric. I have 200W of solar on the van which might keep the fridge going in cooler, sunny weather, but would probably not have enough power in longer periods of cloud cover and rain.

I remember seeing a van camper who ran an icemaker directly from a solar panel, and used the ice to chill a cooler of food. Too much work for me, but pretty cheap and no battery required.

luxagraf
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Re: Modern Icebox

Post by luxagraf »

Maybe not the most helpful example, but we lived with an icebox for three years in an RV. We had a 12V freezer, but for fresh goods we just used the icebox. It really depended on climate. Dry, reasonably cool (below 80) was fine, we could easily get 5-7 days out of two blocks of ice. But up the humidity and things went south fast. After three years, I am ready to put in an extra solar panel or 2 and a 12V fridge. Not that the icebox doesn't work, but it's more of a hassle than the solar/12V fridge.

That said, what was totally worth it was being forced to figure out what needed to be in the icebox and what didn't. For us, basically leafy greens, dairy, and leftovers are the only things we need refrigerated.

If I ever wind up in a house again I plan to modify a chest freezer with a different thermostat to turn it into a fridge. It's not non-electrical, but electrical use is drastically lower, well within what you can do with a couple solar panels and a small battery (assuming you're in a place where solar is an option).

Colibri
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Re: Modern Icebox

Post by Colibri »

Is anyone using a thermoelectric fridge/cooler regularly ?

I am just putting the final touch on my off grid cabin and I am debating about the fridge issue. I have 2 x 250w solar panels. Plenty of sun in the land of the midnight sun from April to August. But not enough in winter ( above 60th parallele ) to run anything more than a lightbulb.

I don't want a propane fridge. The thermoelectric fridge seems the best choice as it never gets above 23C or so in the cabin in the middle of summer and it is a dry climate. Seems like I could run it with the solar panels for at least 7- 8 months of the year as it needs very little power.
I am unsure of long term use/ reliability although
Dometic ( USA) or Koolatron ( Canada ) seem to be serious manufacturer.
Any experiences with those ?

What the duck, I could even get one for my place in town and ditch the mini fridge...

UK-with-kids
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Re: Modern Icebox

Post by UK-with-kids »

I know a vegan who claims his diet means he no longer needs a fridge at all. Assuming he buys vegetables regularly or grows then himself, I believe this to be true. Personally I still eat meat and dairy so this wouldn't work for me.

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