Saturday, October 3, 2009

Saving BIG on electricity co$t$: chest refrigerators

IMG_0434When is a fridge cooler than a freezer? When it helps prove the chest fridge concept! Image by libraryrachel via Flickr

Yup, that's "refrigerator," not freezer . . . . If I were making a list of way under-appreciated luxuries, in-home food refrigeration would probably be the top of my list. As a contributor to both higher life satisfaction (via improved enjoyment of food) and greatly, greatly improved public health (via improved food safety and enhanced nutrition through reduced food spoilage), there's probably no other device that compares to the home fridge for value.

Alas, as with everything, there's simply no free lunch. Refrigerators are energy pigs. Even the super-high efficiency (and super-high cost) ones sold for "off-the-grid" homes are pigs, because they are vertical --- all the cold air dumps out whenever you open the door.

That means that the big white box in the kitchen is helping to propel climate change, meaning that it helps exterminate countless species and helps ensure future generations will curse us for our thoughtlessness.

Been thinking about this conundrum for quite some time. Don't want to even think about giving up the fridge. Don't want to contribute more to climate chaos than we absolutely have to. So I keep coming back to the idea of chest refrigerators. LOVESalem HQ is well-suited for one, having one entire wall with no cabinetry, and thus being blessed with a kitchen where there's no space that would only work with a vertical fridge.

Been trying to figure out how to modify a chest freezer's thermostat to make it work and, just tonight, while redoing a search for "chest refrigerator" information, found a site that I had previously missed ---- and of course it's the one that has an elegant, simple and (in retrospect) obvious solution: don't mess with the freezer's own thermostat, just override it with one suitable for refrigeration! (I'm quite red-faced to admit that something so obvious eluded me for so long . . . just another reason I should never have given up drinking beer after leaving Wisconsin!)

So, with one of these, applied to something like this, I should be able to use one of these to measure what I hope will be nearly a 90% reduction in energy consumption by our single biggest electricity hog, our fridge. It's pretty much our "base load" here, given that LOVESalem HQ has few, if any incandescent bulbs, no air-conditioning, and an old-style, low-energy TV plugged into a wireless-remote-operated power-strip that we click off whenever we're not actually watching it.

So, if you have a chest freezer in good to excellent condition and working order, width 59" or less, and want to help us test the chest fridge concept, check this ad and drop us a line.
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Anonymous said...

A fellow in Australia has done this and claims using 100 watts per day. See at the link:


Walker said...

Thanks for the lead. That was one of the first things I found. It guided my thinking for a long time, but I was always uncomfortable with the modification to the freezer -- the idea of using a separate thermostatic controller switch really appeals to me because it means (1) no monkeying with the wiring; and (2) I can always use the freezer as a freezer if I want to in an instant (or sell it intact).

If I was more ept (rather than in-) with circuits I'd probably jump on his version, but I think I can source the controller switch at the local Homebrew Heaven place on 12th St. (near the Habitat for Humanity RE-Store, which is on Wilbur).