Refrigeration and ac/dehumidification seem to be the biggest energy independence challenges for most people as far as I can tell (If you live far north, a/c probably isn’t an issue). Heating is easy as a wood stove/rocket mass heater easily solves that problem. A solarhot water heater is another easy solution. And a solar system that provides for all of the other basics such as lights, charging devices, running a well pump, etc. is not expensive but add a refrigerator/freezer or a small a/c and your system cost may quadruple. Seems like if we could figure out a/c and refrigeration, energy independence would be a slam dunk.
Obviously a root cellar, canning, dehydrating, drying food instead of having to freeze it is always an option if you have the time & space to do all that stuff. You could opt for a smaller RV fridge since they are built to be much more efficient than a full sized home fridge and integrate well with solar systems. With less space though you may have to pair the RV fridge with a root cellar with only your most perishable item in the freezer.
For hot water I have seen 2-liter bags with a solar panel on them for heated water while camping (like $20-30). Maybe a rotation of inexpensive solar heated bags instead of an expensive water heater could cut costs for a bigger overall solar system.
People around the globe live without AC, and in times of duress the ones that perish are the ones accustomed to unreal temperatures.........
But perhaps the solutions found at Coober Pedy could provide a hot weather solution (and a partial cold weather solution too).
The Tuareg have lived for generations on the Sahara shading themselves with voluminous black clothing. Heat tolerance is an easily lost ability, but to recover ...just fail to turn on the AC any spring.
And the refrigeration is a modern day solution for (remarkably short-lived) freshness. Prior to refrigeration food was dried, canned, mixed with fat and stored in gut casings. But preferably killed fresh and if needed in areas with very little greenery greens salvaged from the entrails.
But refrigeration has only been with us for a few hundred years,
Prior to that the solution was to gorge on any fresh veggies as they were in season and, eat seaweed, and algae in desperation to keep from losing teeth to scurvy.
A modern day solution includes supplementation with pills. Vitamin C,D, at minimum, calcium and magnesium as you get older.
If you must though....chest refrigerators run on a fraction of the energy needed for a stand up fridge.
it seems to me that the most important part of considering energy independence is a proper evaluation of energy wants vs energy needs and a reorganization of priorities to accommodate what energy one can maintain independently.
for the most part we have forgotten how to live within our means. to do so with money leaves one in financial debt. to do it with energy and food, i believe, leaves one in a similar situation of debt.
refrigeration is probably the biggest problem. our entire society has come to depend on it. in the past, my family used to buy eggs and dutifully keep them refrigerated. we have since learned that fresh eggs from one's own chickens last far longer that store bought eggs even without refrigeration. which made me realize just how long it takes to get our food from source to store. meat is similar. fresh meat will keep longer in various ways than store bought meats. the trick is harvesting on an as needed basis, which requires one to know this process. i've learned the process for chickens, my wife does pretty good at processing feral hogs. the processes from there are similar, just the scale of the tools and setup may change depending on size.
all of the methods of self sufficiency from the past are rather limited now. I don't think there is any way we could all revert to old ways without completely rearranging where and how we all live.
I am starting to believe the Industrial Revolution hurt us more in the long run than it helped.
A chest freezer for refridgeration can be accomplished with a very modest solar budget compared to the benefits refridgeration offers. Of course local, seasonal, season extension must play a part but refridgeration is a big deal. I live in the land of cold so I would not put refridgeration and AC in the same league.
Our off-grid solar array is fairly large so we just use it for refrigerator, freezer etc. We always have a glut of power in the spring and summer. We are typically in float by 10:00 or 11:00. While we don't have whole house air conditioning, my daughters house has a mini-split that provides some a/c and I have a portable room a/c, though I don't use it much. Mostly we just open up our houses at night and close them up tight in the morning.
While I utilize many other techniques for food preservation, I wouldn't want to do without refrigeration unless necessary.
I think a lot of it depends on where you live. Where I grew up, we had neither heat or a/c for most of my childhood, and that continued when I raised my kids. Some places just have a lovely climate, too bad that's changing.
Living a life that requires no vacation.
We should throw him a surprise party. It will cheer him up. We can use this tiny ad:
rocket mass heater risers: materials and design eBook