Tag Archives: off-grid

Freezer to Fridge Update

I was asked by a reader if the numbers I put on my last post were correct. I made the error of relying on my memory instead of referring to notes taken at the time or taking current measurements. If I’m not certain of the claims I make, then I aint got no bidness making ’em. Things have changed a lot since I recorded any previous numbers. The fridge is now in an earthbag home instead of the old stick house. I’m also generating my new numbers using a new temperature controller and the temperature is set to 2C instead of 4C. I have set my temp differential to 3.5C meaning the fridge wont turn on until the temp reaches 5.5C before it cools things to 2C again.

My freedger (not bad eh?) is a Danby Premium 7 cubic foot I picked up at a big box store. It had a minor dent in the lid and was on sale for $225. I offered the manager $150 and he offered to help me get it in the truck. So here’s the numbers as measured over the last 24 hour period:

Total power used – 0.21 kWh

Total run time – 1 hour, 56 minutes

Running watts – 150 on startup and then settling down to about 105

Running amps – 0.98 to 1

(Note: My meter did show max amps at 4.75 and max watts at 552 but I watched the thing when it kicked in a few times and never saw it hit those levels.)

Now I am running the numbers for my chest freezer. I’m pretty sure I will be disappointed. I got the unit from a friend who just wanted to get rid of it. Because I’m generating my own power, it may just turn out that I can’t afford free. (Too bad he didn’t have a Sundanzer he couldn’t stand the sight of.) We’ll see how the freezer situation shakes out.

Convert Freezer to Fridge

The first thing any off-gridder will tell you when asked what’s involved in going off grid is “Reduce your power needs!!”. (Unless they think you are inherently lazy or a pussy, then the best advice they could offer would be “Don’t bother”.) Part of our power strategy was to convert a small chest freezer to a refrigerator. It it’s a great way to reduce our power consumption. Our old fridge consumed about 0.8 kWh per day. Not bad when compared to most fridges out there. The new setup consumes about 0.15 kWh day. Pretty substantial power savings for our small(ish) off-grid home setup. The way we accomplished the conversion was pretty simple, buy a temperature controller. Nothing has to be modified on the freezer itself. Stick a temperature probe inside the freezer, plug it into the controller, then plug the controller into the wall. Set the desired temperature and you are done.

The first controller I bought was designed and built by another off-gridder from scratch. Pretty cool, the guy even makes his own printed circuit boards in his units. But my early production unit just didn’t last, and started screwing up. It would click a bunch of times and then set the ‘desired’ temperature to 0 degrees. That means frozen food in the ‘fridge’. Not good. Worse than the frozen eggs and milk and the long unscheduled drive to town is ‘that look’ that I mentioned in a previous post.

So I picked up a couple STC 1000 controllers for about $35 each. One for the fridge and one for the freezer. These require a bit of wiring, but nothing too difficult. A good video on the web shows how to wire it properly in great detail. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=30TvX1Zz1-Y#t=488) Note that these units can trigger both cooling and heating devices with one controller. I’m only interested in cooling for my purposes, so my wiring ended up simplified a bit. If they work out well, I’ll definitely get another when it’s time to get into chickens and an incubator.

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Yep, that’s calfskin on the floor. It feels awesome on bare feet. So soft, warm and smooth. It’s like walking on babies.

Coffee – Just gotta have it

We’ve been off-grid for about a month now. Although we expected some lifestyle changes would be in order it’s entirely a different thing to live through than theorize about. Coffee is a must around here. I’ll chew the beans and pour scalding water in my mouth if I have to. But that’s kind of a last resort. On one of the first days of our off-grid adventure I tried to use our drip coffee maker. Amazing how much power that thing pulls. It tripped the low voltage disconnect on the inverter. No coffee and suddenly no lights either. So the faithful old coffee pot is now retired. To the rescue, a small stovetop espresso maker.

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This thing is awesome. It only makes one cup at a time but the coffee is excellent. When the woodstove is up to temperature, a cup of coffee takes less than two minutes to prepare. We bought two of them for $12 each. About the cost of a cheap electric coffee machine that takes as much power as we would use for all our computer setups in a full day. You can’t swing a dead cat in here without hitting several computers. (Or a dead baby seal, or a dead bunny, you get the idea…)