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broken fridge/freezer - do i really need one?

 
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Dear all,

Today our fridge and freezer are slowly getting warmer. I think it is broken.
I could buy a new one and get it delivered in one or two days.

But... do I really need a fridge (and freezer)?

The temperature outside is 30 Celsius / 86 Fahrenheit, so storing outside is not an option right now.
What are other options or techniques to cool stuff down and preserve food?

Who has experience with:
- wet towels?
- wet terracotta?
- other ideas?

How does it work?
Can you keep your milk cool this way?
Can you preserve leftovers till the next day?

I looked for older threads about this subject and couldn't find it. But if anyone can find it for me, I'd be just as glad with a link to that thread.



 
master steward
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As a kid, we lived in a lot of rented houses.  If the house can with a fridge then we had a fridge.  If not ...

Mom used an ice chest. She would buy blocks of ice which keep everything good.

In the winter, she set the milk and other items on the outside window sill.

My suggestion is if there is a possibility that your family can do without a fridge then go for it. If at a later date you find that the fridge is missed buy one.

 
master gardener
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I admit I eat better with a fridge and freezer. It allows me to pre-prepare foods so if I come in tired I'm less inclined to just grab something quick. It allows me to cook larger batches of something and have "planned overs". I actually find that more true if you're only feeding one or two people. If I was feeding 6 people at every meal, I think I'd be better at budgeting the time and energy to do so. I cooked a chicken the other night, and there's no way Hubby and I would have wanted to finish it in one meal - I enjoy and need meat in my diet, but I on a cubed inch basis, the veggies on my plate normally out-volume the meat by a fair amount.

That said, there are alternatives. My mom grew up with an "icebox" and no freezer! I've read of people who were able to use a spring to replace their fridge. A well-designed root cellar or "cold house" can go a long way in the right climate. If you can mostly eat direct from your garden, are prepared to can surplus for when it's needed, like and are experienced with fermenting foods/salting foods for storage, our ancestors managed to live that way, so there's maybe no excuse for us modern folk!
 
pollinator
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We can argue that everyone can do without a fridge, since humanity has lived for so long without fridges. So it comes to convenience: maybe you can make without, but you don't have to. Without a fridge you'll have to buy fresh things more often. More trips to the market, probably less meat, hot beer, less dairies, no icecreams at home, Is it ok with you?

If you are worried about the cost of a fridge, a vertical loading fridge is a good option. Even without electricity, it keeps cool air inside.

Root cellars are a good alternative to refrigerators if you have room for it. I remember my grandmother had a cupboard dark room next to the kitchen, protected from the heat of the stoves and the sun, where she stored pretty much every food not for immediate use. That was standard housing back then.
 
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Jay Angler wrote:... our ancestors managed to live that way, so there's maybe no excuse for us modern folk!


But think of the time required by the more primitive ways. And lord help you if you became incapacitated in any way. Refrigeration removes many dietary limitations and better preserves nutrients. It's a modern marvel worthy of gratitude. I'm reminded of the blessing of running water to people in poor villages when they no longer have to carry water.

My wife and I tried it when we lived without electricity. We wouldn't choose it again.
 
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It's possible that the defrost heater unit has gone bad or the timer that controls the heater is bad. The timer may be behind the grill below the door or behind the fridge. The one on my fridge had two curved ramps (so you can't turn it backwards). Turn it until you hear it click and wait an hour for it to defrost. Turn it again until the compressor starts and see if it freezes. The problem is that the evaporator coils get covered with ice and air cannot cool well enough for the unit to function properly.
 
pollinator
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Abraham Palma wrote:If you are worried about the cost of a fridge, a vertical loading fridge is a good option. Even without electricity, it keeps cool air inside.


What is a vertical loading fridge?  I've heard of top loading, but never vertical loading.  

Thanks.
 
Lif Strand
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I have been using ancient propane fridges for years, getting them fixed when that's possible or replacing with another (hopefully less ancient) one as needed.  They're getting tougher to find, of course, and IMO the modern ones that are electric/propane convertible, are a ripoff (I've never had one last for much longer than the warranty).  So when my last ancient one died (actually, some of the gas part simply fell off) and I couldn't find any replacement part, nor could I find anyone I trusted with propane to try to invent something, I decided to go without a refrigerator.

That wasn't a real tough choice at first, since the fridge died at the end of October.  I live at 7000' altitude so nights at that time of year are usually around -- if not below -- freezing.  I could freeze plastic bottles or at least get them really cold and then put them in the fridge with the food.  That worked quite nicely for most foods.  Note that I don't cook meat so that was never an issue.

Warmer weather was another issue, of course.  I tried the wet cloth method, which works pretty well in my arid climate.  It wasn't so good for keeping some cheeses cold enough and not at all with things like milk that goes bad quickly, but for any fresh produce, it was mostly fine.  When nighttime temps in the summer only got down to 70° nothing worked well, even after I collected a bunch of cold packs from friends to use rather than bottles of water.  I'd say my method for all but the warmest nights were as good as using a root cellar or spring box.

Note that old fridges are pretty good for keeping food cool if you have something like ice or can chill cold packs, but cooler chests work fine, too.  During covid isolation I was ordering boxes of veggies and fruits from an online source that offered organic, and those boxes turn out to be very well insulated -- I kept them and use them if my fridge gets too full, because that's another issue with my method.

All those bottles or cold packs take up space from food storage.  Depending on the time of year and how cold I can get the cold packs, I can lose 2/3 of my storage space in my dead propane fridge, which is a big deal because it doesn't have that large a capacity to begin with.

Now, after three years of this, I've decided to just get an electric fridge.  I've trained myself to not need a huge one -- a small dorm fridge, a little larger than you'd find in a motel room -- can be handled by my new solar system that's being installed as I type this!  This little fridge didn't cost as much as a "real" refrigerator and if I get greedy I can get a second one to double the capacity.  The beauty of that is that I can unplug one when I don't need it.

So there's my experience with no fridge, for what it's worth.  It can be done, but it means that every morning I have to exchange all the cold packs from the fridge with the ones that have been put outside overnight to get cold.  I have to get to those cold packs as soon after dawn as I can or they'll start warming up.  I can't go away without emptying the fridge unless it's for a short time and I've obtained block ice.  

But then, all homesteading takes time and attention.  That's the fair price of it, I feel.  If I wanted grid power and lots of electric appliances I could get a job and buy all that.  But that's not me.  Hasn't been for 30 years now.
 
Abraham Palma
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Lif Strand wrote:

Abraham Palma wrote:If you are worried about the cost of a fridge, a vertical loading fridge is a good option. Even without electricity, it keeps cool air inside.


What is a vertical loading fridge?  I've heard of top loading, but never vertical loading.  

Thanks.



That's my bad English. What else?
 
Lif Strand
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Abraham Palma wrote:

Lif Strand wrote:

Abraham Palma wrote:If you are worried about the cost of a fridge, a vertical loading fridge is a good option. Even without electricity, it keeps cool air inside.


What is a vertical loading fridge?  I've heard of top loading, but never vertical loading.  
Thanks.


That's my bad English. What else?


Oh, sorry, I didn't look to see where you are from.  
A top-loading fridge (or fridge/freezer combination, or a freezer) is one built like a chest or a drawer, a box with a door that lifts up.  
What you're calling a vertical loading fridge I call an upright fridge.  
Sorry for the confusion!
 
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Several years ago I stopped using refrigerator/freezers because I was going off grid and refrigeration was a problem I didn't want to solve.  Doing this required some minor changes in how I use food, but not really much sacrifice.  I've adjusted my diet so I use very few refrigerated items and I'm careful not to create leftovers.

I only use meat on the days that I buy it and ice cream is a treat left for when I'm in town.  Eggs and butter are used within a couple weeks of purchase.  Eggs don't need refrigeration over such a short period and butter is kept in "butter bells" to maintain freshness.  The only milk I use is for cooking and I mix what I need, as needed, from powder.  I do have a small counter-top ice maker that I use on occasion for cold drinks in the summer, and also to fill a small ice chest once in a while to store perishables for a day or two beyond their purchase date or when I can't resist making leftovers.
 
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Lif Strand wrote:A top-loading fridge (or fridge/freezer combination, or a freezer) is one built like a chest or a drawer, a box with a door that lifts up.  
What you're calling a vertical loading fridge I call an upright fridge.  
Sorry for the confusion!



Lif, I think maybe Abraham meant a top loader. An upright fridge loses cold air when the door is opned, a top loader contains it. So that seems to suit his description better.
 
Lif Strand
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Jane Mulberry wrote:Lif, I think maybe Abraham meant a top loader. An upright fridge loses cold air when the door is opned, a top loader contains it. So that seems to suit his description better.



Yes, that much more sense and I agree -- a top loader would keep cold air in better, each time you opened it.
 
Jane Mulberry
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Karlijn, There've been a few posts on living without a fridge:
https://permies.com/t/162815/kitchen/Living-Refrigerator
https://permies.com/t/54640/kitchen/Fridge-Free-Solutions

I haven't attempted it yet, but will need to try, at least part-time, as my shack won't have mains electricity and I don't want to get into trying to run a fridge off solar. I expect not having a fridge will mean needing to make a lot of changes in how I eat.
 
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Historical methods for refrigeration included:

- a shallow cribbed well, where cream/milk and meat could be kept at cooler temperatures and retrieved with a simple windlass (not as cold as a refrigerator, though)

- an ice house, where ice was cut from lakes/rivers or made during the winter and kept under sawdust, under the envelope of an above ground building that would ventilate summer heat

Overall, as others have noted, operating without refrigeration has been done, and it can still be done. You simply substitute the cost of electricity with the time and labour of canning and preserving and dehydrating. A worthy experiment to try, but to my mind a very significant undertaking on a yearly basis.

Note that the wise old-timers who knew and practiced all these skills grabbed freezers with both hands as soon as they became available. Sure, they kept canning and preserving, and salting meats and smoking sausage, but they didn't feel a need to die on some high philosophical hill. There was work to do!
 
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If you have running water in a place that's practical, you might consider a springhouse. Basically, you build a small structure over a stream, and then set your stuff to keep cool in the running water.
 
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When we lived in the Amish house there was no electricity so no refrigerator. We had chest freezers in the basement that were lined with styrofoam for insulation. We would freeze ice cream buckets of water (we rented electricity from a neighbor a mile down the road - just like the Amish did). Putting those in the freezers would give us a cold spot for some refrigerated items. This method worked, but it wasn't the same as a refrigerator and I lost a lot of food. If you aren't trying to use it for long term refrigeration it is a good solution, but it does not act the same as an actual refrigerator.
 
karlijn vonk
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Hi there all of you,

Thank you for your answers!

I like the idea of an ice chest. It could replace our fridge, but I would like a working freezer to produce our own ice. So that is option 1: only a freezer; fridge-stuff in an ice chest. And from November till April (when the night temperatures are low enough), maybe we wouldn't even need ice to keep the food cold. Since it can be built as portable, I could try it out in different places, outside and inside.

The root cellar is also cool (of course, but here I mean it's a cool idea ;o) ). It's more work to build and stays where it is. But it could be really more efficient than the ice chest. That's option 2: build a root cellar, buy a freezer.

And of course: maybe the fridge can do better if we checked it. Thank you for your information about the timer, Jerry. I need to check that.

Thank you, Jane, for the links to the other threads. The Fridge-free-solutions thread is very helpful. I need to read the other one, it seems to answer a lot of my questions.

And of course: the dehydrator. I really want to build one. Thanks for reminding me, Douglas!


I think I have to admit to myself that life is a lot easier with a freezer: Every bit of leftover will be used in a meal some day. Without a freezer, I would have to use it within 2 or 3 days. It's certainly possible and doable, but cooking and not-wasting is very much easier and more flexible with a freezer. I like challenges, but this one doesn't fit in my life right now.

But for the fridge-part of my kitchen routine I see some opportunities. First, I can minimize the space I need in a fridge. I want to try out which vegetables can be stored on the kitchen counter and for how long. May be I need to go shopping more often. Or I should harvest more from our garden.
For other things: I could buy in smaller containers and/or see (or read about) what happens if I don't store it in a fridge.

The most challenging items in my fridge are: milk, cheese, butter and lettuce.
Never heard of a butter bell before. I looked it up and I like that! Thank you, Jack.
Lettuce: I could use more from harvest, less from shop
Milk & cheese: left for the ice chest, and it doesn't have to be that big.


Status of our fridge: it's between 7 and 10 Celsius (45-0 Fahrenheit). The freezer should be -18C (0 degrees Fahrenheit) and is about -4C (25F). So I can use it, but I keep in mind that our food wil degrade faster than I was used to. And I also keep in mind that the fridge/freezer could stop working at all in a few days.

So, I have time to overthink alternatives in terms of "practicallity" (I hope you know what I mean), convenience, time spent, food safety, space needed, challenge-factor, fun-factor, ...

Last but not least: a lot of people reminded me that having a freezer/fridge is a good thing. And it may be too big a challenge to go without one.


Thank you all!
 
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Our ancestors who lived without refrigeration had waaayy more fermented foods in their diet. Maybe this switch is a radicle way to improve your health by preserving through fermentation! Many healthy foods were created because of the need to preserve them. Yogurt, cheese, ghee, all forms of fermented veggies...yum
 
karlijn vonk
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Yeah: fermenting! Another good idea. And learning all about it is a fun project.

Thank you, Lynne, for your idea!

I used to make ghee a lot. I can do that again.
And we make our own yoghurt, but we are used to store it in the fridge. Is yoghurt originaly meant to store at a warmer temperature?

Fermenting different veggies would be new to me. So far, I only fermented white cabbage into 'zuurkool' or sauerkraut.
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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A fridge that is dying can reverse from cooling to warming without notice. It happened to me -- I had to toss out a lot of stuff after a 24 hour surprise.

For iceboxes: I know people who really like their portable icemakers. I haven't done the math regarding efficiency compared to a fridge, but they surely do put out a lot of ice cubes in short order.
 
Abraham Palma
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karlijn vonk wrote:Yeah: fermenting! Another good idea. And learning all about it is a fun project.

Thank you, Lynne, for your idea!

I used to make ghee a lot. I can do that again.
And we make our own yoghurt, but we are used to store it in the fridge. Is yoghurt originaly meant to store at a warmer temperature?

Fermenting different veggies would be new to me. So far, I only fermented white cabbage into 'zuurkool' or sauerkraut.



For real yoghurt, you need fresh milk and fresh ferment. A friend who tried to make yoghurt with the yoghurt he previously made, told me that he had the impression that the yeast weakened from batch to batch, so it's best to start with fresh ferment.
Fresh ferment is obtained with rice or bread crumbs in a milk bath.

Making yoghurt extends the life of your fresh milk a couple of days, but more importantly, it's a source of healthy ferments. UHT milk has a shelf life of months, but once you open the bottle, it behaves as fresh milk.

Instead of yoghurt, I've got a few kefir grains. It makes a product very similar to yoghurt, a bit more sour, but it's really easy to make, and even when it fails I can clean and reuse the grains in the next batch and be successful.
Having kefir without a fridge, you can get tired too soon (having it in the fridge is a better option). But if you get tired of it, you can always use a few batches for making cheese.

Next thing you will want is a sheep or a goat for getting your own fresh milk, lol.
 
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For the long term, consider:



I had my fridge loosing its cool a couple of months back.

I freeze bottles of water overnight and one day they didn't ice up.

The fridge was still cool but not cold.

I powered off and on the fridge and heard the compressor running ...... then it goes off.

I did a ton of research which my power meter plug backs up. If the meter reports a
power factor of 1 - this means it is in a defrost cycle. If the power factor is around
0.88 then the compressor motor is running. This in hindsight.

What happened is the repairman took a look and said it was the compressor.

I find this hard to believe since the entire unit is sealed unlike your car
air conditioner which has joints and seals.

I said go ahead but on his next trip, he changed the control board
and this fixed the fridge.

During my youtube research, here are the common problems with American
refrigerators(Mine is Japanese). The thermostat is faulty. The defrost heater is
open so no defrost and ice envelops the heat exchange coils and you get icy
air - not freezing air. Under normal circumstances, the heat exchange coils
are ice-free and air gets cooled to below freezing. If the coils ice up, you only
get air the temperature of ice. The fan stops working. The relay beside
the compressor is faulty. You have dirt clogging the external heat exchanger.
The heat exchanger fan is not working.

In my case, I suspect the power supply at the main control board was
getting marginal.

The main task of the main control board is to run the compressor until
the desired temperature is met and when it gets warmer it starts the
compressor again. The second
task is to suspend the normal operations (no compressor, no blower) and turn
on the defrost heater for a set time.

I disregard the fancy stuff like the icemaker/dispenser features.

In summary:
01 Is your heat exchanger covered with dirt? (mine runs along the outer chassis
    and does not need a fan so I never need to check for these two items)
02 Is your heat exchanger fan running?
03 Does your compressor run? (run relay, run capacitor, thermostat, main control board, fuse?)
04 Cool but not cold - you need to open the freezer compartment to check
    the blower, resistance through the defrost element, use a meter to test
    the thermostat)
05 Can your defrost water drain away?

01 and 02 need no exceptional skills.
03 04 and 05 need some skills for competency and safety

The big ticket item is the compressor. The main control board is much cheaper.

With my new understanding of how a fridge works. I will probably
hardwire the compressor to a cable which I can plug into a mechanical timer
just to keep things going until a proper repair can be carried out. My compressor
works and the blower blows. The compressor would turn off but would run again
when I power cycled the fridge.

I only got my power-meter plug after this. My earlier unit stopped measuring
and didn't have the power factor measurement. One loss, one win.

If I bother to video the power-meter display with my Nokia 6400 4G candybar
feature phone, I can possible determine the duty cycle of the defrost and
compressor.

But I have other things to repair and we also bought a Hisense fridge which
turned out to just be an icebox. There is no air circulating blower. I am thinking
of wiring in a PC fan and  power it by a used car battery. I shall be using
thin but tough telephone wires.

The fridge only has 5 energy stars but a jaw dropping 17watts average
power consumption. It has no defrost. Defrost makes heat in the fridge.

I live in the tropics with high humidity so passive evaporative fridges aren't
going to work well unless there is forced airflow. One day I may get
around to experiment with this.

Since your fridge is not completely dead, I suggest you get it repaired
or at least rule out some common and easy problems.
 
pollinator
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Karlijn, you asked:" do I really need a fridge (and freezer)?".
Well, we all love the convenience but you seem to be in a bind. Whether you do or don't depends on a few things: What are your shopping habits? Are you in "food desert" and must stock on food and perhaps venture out for a "meat haul" once a week or so?
So your question is both short term and long term. the long term question is hard to answer from here but the short term question is not so difficult.
First, if you are going to get another freezer, do not open this one unless you absolutely have to: Every time you open it, you lose a lot of coolness, and if it is broken, you are hastening disaster. You have a couple of days and when a freezer is built correctly and is pretty much full of frozen stuff, and is large, you can hold a while. If you have room in there for blocks of ice, this might be the best route to go: buy blocks of ice [not ice cubes, which will melt much faster], quickly slip them in your freezer, shut the lid and pile blankets, wet blankets if possible. Unplug the freezer and wait until they deliver the new one. Then make a quick transfer of all food and ice to the new one.
If you give up on owning a freezer, depending on what's available to you, space-wise, the old ice box is the only one I can think of.
You could *build* an ice box. Make it large, and of wood, with a double space so you can spray foam insulation in the double wall. Make sure the lid is double walled too. You might want to get some milk crates: they are much easier to sort and stack your food in and lift it an out of it. The spacing is also easier because you won't have the bulky condenser that takes a lot of room.
Then, you need to get on the iceman's route, [I hope you have that possibility]. When I lived in the south of France, the iceman would come twice a week and deliver 3-4 big blocks of ice. It was [relatively] cheap - electricity was still expensive then- and we fared pretty well. Mom would chastise us about making sure the ice box was sealed and there was a list of everything that was in the freezer so we could know exactly what was in at all times.
There are many things that we refrigerate nowadays because it is more convenient, but eggs, for example really do not need to be kept refrigerated: A hen keeps it very warm under her for 21 days without any trouble: The duds start smelling a couple of days after that.
Otherwise, another solution is to can a lot more stuff: While we crave *fresh* food, herbs can be dehydrated, meats/stews/soups/broths and many preparations can be canned in large batches. It is really convenient to have jars of goodies on hand!
The only things we really need to keep in the fridge is fresh veggies we plan to eat raw.
 
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The fridge I'm living with right now is basically in my way.  I have many things in there that would be just fine in a closet (it's 100F right now): kraut, infused soy sauce, salsas, butter, eggs, cheese, and maybe a couple of other things.  The only thing that is in there that would need attention is ground meat.  I could make that last for days at room temperature simply by cooking something and then reheating it every time I went to eat (every 24hrs at least).  It wouldn't have to be the same meal, because I would just add ingredients over time, transforming Mexican into Indian, Indian into Indonesian, etc.  It's basically fast food, except better and healthier.  I'm speaking from experience here.  I've had pots full of cooked meat sitting on the stove for days, salt and fat are preservatives after all.

The reason people think living without a fridge is difficult seems to be directly related to their own limitations or unwillingness to compromise on certain things.  For example, if you wanted (as distinct from needed) fresh milk everyday then yeah, you might have to get a cow or goat.  If you were okay with having milk on day one and then using thinned yogurt for the next several days then you've got more options, and likely a more interesting diet.  Since I've brought up yogurt, there are yogurt cultures that have been kept active for probably centuries in many places around the globe simply by saving a bit back from the previous day.  Yes, day.  The practice, as far as I can tell, was to convert at least some of the fresh milk from that day into yogurt.  If the yogurt began to sour it was easily transformed into marinades, curry, or lebneh.  If the lebneh started piling up underneath the villagers, it would be formed into little balls and marinated in olive oil--thereby  transforming milk into something shelf stable for many months.  If you let the yogurt sour, then you'll have a difficult time trying to get the active (live) cultures thriving again--it has to be maintained, like sourdough or what have you.  

The abundance of fresh ingredients, regardless of what specifically is being considered, seems to have always either been quickly consumed or transformed into something else delicious and frequently more nutritious, e.g. excess pork belly is brined for weeks then smoked to make bacon, bacon is cooked to add even more days to the preservation (pork belly has now lasted two months without refrigeration--not speaking from experience here, yet).  It's the old school method of meal prep, only instead of being a mere consumer you're now a creator, taking part in a timeless tradition.

Only slightly related, "your convenience" is a massive red flag.

 
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Checkout "coolgardie safes"

A wooden frame and burlap/jute. It's pretty basic, but if it worked in Australia, it should work in the West.

You could probably improve on it with modern materials.

Won't freeze, but can keep things cool.
 
pollinator
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Personally I don't think we could do without one for very long.  No reliable streams/springs for a spring house.  Old well is hand drilled, not hand dug, and has a standard casing.  No cellar and living out of an ice chest gets expensive if you can't produce your own ice.  In the winter it wouldn't be as hard as long as temperatures were cool.

In the summer of 2012 (I believe) we had a derecho which took out power for 10 days.  We were staying with the in-laws while doing some repairs to our home and had a freezer full of meat.  One of the fellow vendors at a market I was selling at was from an area with electricity and had access to ice, so I took every cooler I had as I planned to store the thawing meat on ice for another day until I could get a chance to can it.  Imagine my surprise when I came back and found that my mother-in-law had instructed my brother-in-law to open every pack of meat and toss it on the grill even though she knew my plans.   He seasoned nothing and burnt half of it, so essentially we ended up with $200 worth of tasteless shoe soles that we couldn't possibly eat before it spoiled.  That was all the motivation we needed to put our renovations in overdrive move back home.

So if the situation would have played out as anticipated we would have had many many jars of meat and could have opened them as needed.  I also store some powdered milk just in case as we have a small child who loves her milk.  That also came in handy during the first part of the pandemic.  

One idea which has always amazed me was the icehouse.  It's hard to fathom that ice could be kept for months but history proves that it's possible.   I've wondered if one could set a number of 2-liter bottles out to freeze in winter, pack them in sawdust in an insulated area and then have them available for emergencies?  I know one would have to do their homework on building a sufficient ice house and it would require more than a handful of frozen water bottles, but I think it merits experimentation.

On another note, I find that those Styrofoam coolers that meat or medicine is shipped in are far superior to the average Igloo or Rubbermaid cooler and they can be picked up cheap or for free.  I've never had a Yeti, so don't know how they compare, but if I had the money and was looking at doing without refrigeration, I'd probably invest in one.

 
master pollinator
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We haven't had a fridge for going on seven years. We work in town and both have access to a fridge at work, though. We freeze bottles of water at work and bring a few home two or three times a week to swap out for the thawing ones in the cooler at home.

We used to have a typical cheapo, injection molded cooler. We got a rotomolded cooler a couple years ago, not a yeti, just a store brand version, and it's sooooo much better. Before we got it we used to have to swap ice out just about every day and food didn't last as long as it does in the new cooler. It's also a tank. You can jump up and down on it if you want, although we usually don't go farther than using it for extra seating.

One thing to avoid doing as much as possible is using your cooler to cool things down. It's there to keep already cold things from warming up. So if you have leftovers, package them up and leave them outside overnight to cool or put them in the creek or whatever you have available to you. Then put them in the cooler with the ice.

Having on hand what you need for whatever plant based milk you like is an easy way to deal with the milk issue.  My husband likes oat milk mixed with a bit of canned coconut milk the best, so not entirely home made. I use sunflower seeds mostly, followed by sesame. It's maybe an acquired taste compared to almond or cashew, but if you're using them for cooking you don't notice the flavour much, if at all. And you can always flavour plant milks with fruit, herbs, spices, etc. for drinking or yoghurt making.

I don't particularly miss having a fridge. I do miss having a freezer, though.
 
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I own a small van fridge. but yes I believe it is possible to live without it. Owning a canner is very useful to can cooked meals of any kind, meat, pickled eggs, evaporated milk, and anything else you want. I have personally used a dehydrator for my meat to make jerky, so you do not have to refrigerate your meat, but I am looking into experimenting with pemmican as it seems to be a superior form of meat food compared to jerky.
 
karlijn vonk
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Hi Everyone,

Thanks again for all your replies! I've learned a lot and got some really nice ideas about storing, preparing and saving food in different ways.

Our fridge/freezer is up and running again. Bit emberassing to tell you what the problem was: a lot of dust on the back of it. There was kind of a blanket over the holes, so it definitely couldn't do it's work properly. (To justify a bit: the dust has grown exceptionally last two weeks due to preparing our living room for building a RMH).

The good thing however is that I learned a lot about saving more energy by preserving our food in alternative ways. And I've got time to gradually change some routines. My goal is to need no new fridge when it really stops working.  I'm starting with a lot of hooks and use colanders to store more vegetables outside the fridge, like in this post: permies.com/p/1277585
 
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You might want to check out boat refrigeration. Basically a top loading icebox with a cold plate run by a 12v compressor. They are run 2 to 3 times daily to keep the box cold. Top loading means that you are not losing as much of the cold as you do in a normal refrigerator.

They can also be run off of a relatively small solar system.
 
G.W. Farnum
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Another thought is to get a top opening freezer. They can be converted to a top opening refrigerator by changing the thermostat. Kits are available for this. The cost of the freezer and thermostat will be quite a bit cheaper than a refrigerator.

Less cold is lost in a top opening unit than the conventional refrigerator which makes them more energy efficient.

If I remember correctly Sunmar () Makes a 12v or 24v top loading freezer, but these are quite expensive.
 
Jay Angler
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G.W. Farnum wrote:Another thought is to get a top opening freezer. They can be converted to a top opening refrigerator by changing the thermostat.

Yes - more efficient, but generally less user-friendly. Most of my friends are all wishing they had an upright freezer because it's easier not to loose things at the bottom and I get their point. However, I will suggest that it's not the concept, but the execution.

Problem 1. A freezer turned fridge will not be 'self-defrosting'. I find that as our freezer frosts up, the baskets no longer slide and are harder to get in and out. Also, the door gradually fills with ice until it's too heavy to stay open just on its springs, which makes moving the baskets even more awkward.
             Solutions: 1a) Instead of hanging baskets, build a frame inside the freezer to hold custom made baskets for different groups of things - like condiments, fruit, veg, etc.
                               1b) glue a hook on the side of the freezer top and have a rope attached to the wall behind the freezer, so when you want the lid held open fully and still be able to use both hands, you can just hook the lid open.

Problem 2. You've got to reach a long way down to get things - once/every couple of days for a deep freeze is not biggie, but multiple times/day could get old fast.
              Solutions: 2a) see 1a above!   2b) plan where things will go and try to keep it organized so things both go where they belong, and stay where they're put. That might seem like a no-brainer, but I've reorganized a few friend's kitchens before and the results were amazing. They just never thought about movement flow and efficiency.

Can anyone think of any other issues? We *need* to improve our efficiency to decrease our electrical usage for many environmental reasons (eg. fridges move heat from inside them to outside them - ie into your house which you may want cool if you're in the middle of a heat wave which many of us have experienced in the last month/s - the less your fridge runs, the cooler your house will stay). Getting that improvement without feeling like we've reduced our standard of living takes creativity and good planning. We need to make conversions like this work as well as the current fridges work on a day-to-day basis.
 
G.W. Farnum
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Unfortunately everything in life is a compromise. My background is cruising sailboats. You are right that top loaders are inconvenient. Hard on the back also. Creative solutions like you suggest are necessary. You also need long arms.

The reefers on a boat are a lot smaller than a normal refrigerator. Most people keep too much in their refrigerator. Not utilizing leftovers in a timely manner and items that do not need refrigeration are the main culprits. We lived for months at a time on the boat and did not feel deprived by the small refrigerator space.

The big benefit of a boat system in a house is that you can separate the compressor from the cold plate. There are only 2 copper lines between the two. With good planning the compressor can even be placed outside the house. No more extraneous heat in the house.
 
Edward Lye
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Jay Angler wrote: Can anyone think of any other issues? We *need* to improve our efficiency to decrease our electrical usage for many environmental reasons (eg. fridges move heat from inside them to outside them - ie into your house which you may want cool if you're in the middle of a heat wave which many of us have experienced in the last month/s - the less your fridge runs, the cooler your house will stay).  



I have a long winded post above that describes my two refrigerator and "icebox". One has defrost and the other doesnt.
I forgot to mention that there is a fan/blower at the internal heat exchanger that can fail and result in little or no cooling.

The one without defrost can frost badly - so bad that the thermostat knob is locked within ice and the freezer door cannot open. Rescue efforts resulted in a broken hinge pin and even worse ice buildup. I spent gallons of water and a pump water sprayer "drilling" holes into the ice to dislodge it. About 5 gallons worth and plenty of pumping. It is manageable now and the temperature at the second last compartment is just below 4 centigrade. I think the reason it is so efficient is that I measured temperatures all around the house and the patio is the coolest spot and a large Neem tree shades that. It is hidden in plain sight as I have rescues of various bits of stuff people throw away surrounding it. It is not a tall unit.

But I digress.

The take home message is actually this. I mention the powerfactor. When the power factor measures 1, the load is resistive meaning the defrost heater is melting the ice built up over the heat exchanger. I have been told that in extreme cases, a fire can result. My power meter reports 240V and 640 milliAmps. You do the math. Your results may vary.

So you pour heat into a freezer and then run the compressor to redress that. I always imagine me riding a bicycle to generate power for any appliance. Can I afford to do that? So to me that is a s***load of wasted energy.

How about this: You build two ports in the wall of the freezer where you either can cap shut or connect ducts to a dummy fridge next to this. At defrost time, you blow air into the freezer to melt the ice and drive the cold air next door. You can have an ice box for free and better combat AGW. Your icebox can be a top loader if you wish. Winner winner chicken dinner as the Aussies would exclaim.
 
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A new thread was started in Meaningless Drivel for the fun and silly uses of broken freezer/fridges. For silly fun on the topic, look at   Creative uses for Broken Fridge/ Freezer Do you really need one?
 
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