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Refrigerator that doesn't use power - could we build this?

 
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Location: Pukemiro New Zealand
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Hi
I read about a air refrigerant cooler that used a vertical shaft salvanious type wind mill to drive a compressor that was buried underground in the coolth of the earth . The compressor was made from a 60litre oil drum (12 imp gal) sorry dont know the US gal equiv, The piston was just a sheet of heavy plywood  and the crank from the windmill was arranged so it had a adjustable stroke. The idea was that the large volume of air that was compressed went into a buried receiver then up to the fridge cabinet where it released into a expansion phase that caused the cooling. The guy was operating it as a fridge at 4 psi and he was working on getting a little more power from the windmill and fixing some of the inefficiencies in the piston seal ect and he hoped to get it to 8 psi which he had shown with a mechanical driven compressor would give him a freezer . Its one of the things i am going to try when i get some time, My thoughts are to use the windmill to drive a horizontally opposed 2 diaphragms pump to overcome the leakages of the piston seal and build a more sophisticated copper condenser equiv to take all of the heat of compression out of the air before it is released in the fridge cabinet. I think it was on one of the Yahoo groups
 
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My ante  Had an in ground ice house she used up to 80 years ago.  She filled it up with ice slabs cut from the Susquehanna River in January and it held till January the next year.  She went outside to the ice well and lifted a lid of the food chambers and grabbed fresh what ever.  There was a thriving ice cutting business that sold ice-house ice every January.  Price of ice was dictated by river ice thickness for the given year.
 
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I regularly use a gas powered fridge that was probably built in 1953. As far as I know it has never been repaired beyond cleaning and maybe a new burner.   It has a little flame that burns all the time regulated by a thermostat.  Running this with a rocket stove would be a full time job.

The basic request was about refrigeration without power.  However, if it was rephrased as refrigeration without grid power then systems like a sundanzer might be useful.  Boat refrigeration uses eutectic mixtures to store coolth when power is available and then melt to keep things cold when power isn't available.  You can buy the bits to make these.  Propane powered fridges can use a lot of gas.  If you go that way enquire from people who use the particular model you are looking at.  They will also like the cooling fins kept clean so make sure you can access the back of the machine.   If you go with kerosene then try to ensure you have spare wicks and chimneys and an understanding of how to control temperature.  The thermostat system can be erratic.  They will probably need adjusting to suit the ambient temperature.  It is possible you can find an absorption refrigerator that just needs a new burner.

I also use an energy efficient electric fridge on an off grid system that provides mains quality power to run the rest of the house.  Works fine, is a normal kitchen refrigerator with a freezer section, single biggest user of electricity.

If you are just starting out then I would look at camping systems.  Some photovoltaic panels, with or without(see sundanzer) a battery, and a good quality portable electric refrigerator with a compressor (not an absorption one) that can make ice.  Maybe a solar regulator.  The most problematic piece is the refrigerator and I would take a lot of advice in looking at one, asking about reliability and efficiency.  This should get you a refrigerator that will keep perishables like milk and meat cold and either the ice or the battery would keep it cold overnight.  It is likely to be a little small compared to your average fridge.  It has inbuilt temperature control and does not need constant attention to burners or refurbishing ancient equipment.

Clyde
 
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Location: Zone 3b/4a Temperate Humid, rocky thin topsoil on Cdn Shield Haliburton, Ontario, Canada
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People have already mentioned our 2 solutions for energy free refrigeration. One we have actually done (root cellar) & one is still only half complete (insulated box cooled by well water).

Root cellar - was built as an experiment in the fall of 2019. We bought an 8'x14' insulated aluminum box off an old refrigerator truck from a junk yard. Total actual outlay of $ for this project was less than $500 (for aluminum box [$200 CAD], new foil backed foam insulation [~$200], & wood, spikes & propane/oxygen). We kept our costs down by half of our team being a consummate scrounger (aluminum I-beams retrieved from a cottage reno, aluminum shelving salvaged from renovation of the local hardware, old metal shed repurposed as an entrance, salvaged jackposts, etc) and by having our own big equipment (backhoe, dump truck, etc.).

We get to -40' in the winter here so we were curious about how a root cellar would function in our climate. After 3 winters with a Min/Max thermometer inside, we now know that temperatures range from 35-38'F from Sept cooling weather to June warming weather. Inside humidity runs about 90%+ all the time.

For safety we did the following:
- at the base of the front/back walls, added 6" aluminum I-beams the length of both walls & then prevented each wall from kicking in by constructing a sub-floor webbing/truss between these I-beams.
- to reinforce the 6" aluminum rafters, ran a 4"x4" wooden beam down the center of the ceiling & held it up with 2 jack-posts
- installed 1 passive intake vent in the floor of the shed vestibule under the middle of the front wall.
- installed 2 passive output vents high on the upper rear corners to exhaust warm air from either end.
- ran powerline underground from house for good, hands-free lighting but a good lantern could also do this job. Initially also thought [falsely] we might need the electric light as a supplementary heat source during really cold winter weather. But we've had temps as low as -45'F and no problems with freezing.

Advantages of a 7.5'x13.5' refrigerated room that uses no energy to cool:
- virtually unlimited refrigerator space for 2 people to easily store enough "fresh" root food for the year
- root vegetables store really well in peat moss or sand. We have happily eaten last years crop of potatoes in July of the following year
- also a great place to store pickles/cheese in brine
- store buckets of fresh eggs bathed a slaked lime. These "fresh" eggs have lasted for >15 months.
- lots of cool storage for food canned in Crown jars (no metal) with laser printed plastic rings to help keep the seals tight on the glass lids
- found that fruit (which likes less humid storage) does well in the cellar if kept in airtight coolers, separating each layer of fruit with paper. We've even macgyvered some 1-way airlocks to allow for off-gassing without exposing the fruit to the ambient high humidity  
- have just bought (so haven't yet tried) a set of gamma lids to store buckets of grains.
- used it to store dormant plants that can't yet be planted out (because our ground is still frozen or because we're busy with other projects)
- can help over-winter frost tender plants (ginger, calla lilies, celery root, sweet potatoes, etc. )
- if wanted, lots of room to easily add ice blocks (in sawdust) to extend refrigeration through summer months
- could use as a secure space to hang meat for proper aging
- and, as along as electronics were sealed from the humidity, this huge aluminum box could act as a Faraday Cage
RC-The-Hole.JPG
Sidehill opposite front door excavated to same level as house entrance
Sidehill opposite front door excavated to same level as house entrance
RC-Moving-into-place.JPG
Backhoe lifted aluminum box off the dump truck
Backhoe lifted aluminum box off the dump truck
RC-Leveling.JPG
Allowed just enough space to insulate back wall so only had to minimally backfill
Allowed just enough space to insulate back wall so only had to minimally backfill
RC-Cutting-plate-floor.JPG
Tough job as the plate steel floor was tacked every inch along the crossbeams
Cutting out plate steel floor was a tough job as the floor was tacked every inch along the crossbeams
RC-Cutting-out-cross-beams.JPG
Crossbeams were very corroded where the steel beams met the aluminum walls
Crossbeams were corroded where the steel beams met the aluminum walls
RC-2-inch-foil-backed-styrofoam-insulating-outside-walls-roof.JPG
Totalling 4" of insulation on the walls and ceiling
Insulation (old + new) = 4" on walls and roof
RC-Backfilled-all-but-entrance.JPG
4" of soil on roof followed by 8" of woodchips
4" soil followed by 8" of woodchips on roof; levelled up dirt floor
RC-Shed-vestibule-sheltering-front-door-of-root-cellar.JPG
Keeps snow away from the door, houses the intake vent in the floor & buffers the entrance from sunlight and wind
Recycled shed keeps snow away from the door, houses the intake vent in the floor & buffers the entrance from sunlight and wind
 
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Back in the day, I helped convert a 80,000 square foot apple storage to an REI sewing factory. Every wall was lined with four or more 2" pipes that carried ammonia to cool the four floors of the saw dust  (fine chips) walls of the warehouse.

Talk about a "run for the hills" thing if one ever broke, while charged.  Fortunately, when I got there, the pipes had been empty for at least ten years.  

SIDE NOTE: A lady who had horses was super happy to get the pipes for building a pen.


D Nikolls wrote:Ammonia is used in many cooling systems, primarily in RVs. It is a less efficient system than a compressor based unit, but has the advantage of being powerable by thermal energy, so you can run it off propane.

I hear they are really miserable when they eventually corrode through and leave RV very malodorous...

 
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This is interesting; I DO know that before refrigeration, dairies were built over naturally cold springs and the milk, butter, etc would be stored in clay or wood containers in the cool water. Spring houses and Well houses also had  access to the cold spring where food would be stored; I know of one place that had a dairy, a Spring house, and several root cellars  all built around the head of a natural cool spring water head that was in use for several generations; the dairy  had to be modernized because they sold the milk; the rest of the produce that was stored in the well house and the root cellars was always well preserved...

The dairy and the farm were sold as the grand children were not interested in  keeping the farm; and it was all bought up by someone at some time....sad that it all is now gone
 
pollinator
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Location: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
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C. Letellier your post of the solar ice maker shows a genius idea (albeit one that requires ammonia), one I am afraid most folks did not "click on" to see the possibilities this offers.  So I am going to play a little cut and paste with YOUR link so that everyone see's what it is all about.  

Perhaps one of the clever minds here can come up with a smaller version for use on off grid homesteads??? No need to cut and store river/lake ice for summer cooling, just "grow your own ice" and use an old fashioned ice box or to chill a summer root cellar to a cool enough temperature.  If this unit costs $7,000 US to build, a unit 1/10th the size should be 1/10th the cost...or $700 - pricey, but a one off cost for continuous, maintenance free, labor free ice production as long as the sun shines!

"An ISAAC produces six blocks of ice each day, weighing ten kilograms each. If an icebox requires five kilograms of ice per day to stay cool, then one ISAAC will be able to supply domestic refrigeration to twelve households. The cost of a standard electric refrigerator, plus the constant requirement of expensive electricity, would be much higher.

The ISAAC Solar Icemaker operates in two modes. During the day, solar energy is used to generate liquid ammonia refrigerant. During the night, the generator is cooled by a thermosyphon and ice is formed in the evaporator compartment as ammonia is reabsorbed to the generator.

The ISAAC Solar Icemaker is an Intermittent Solar Ammonia-water Absorption Cycle. The ISAAC uses a parabolic trough solar collector and a compact and efficient design to produce ice with no fuel or electric input, and with no moving parts.

The daily ice production of the ISAAC is about 5 kg per square meter of collector, per sunny day. The construction of the ISAAC Solar Icemaker involves only welding, piping and sheet metal work, and there are no expensive materials. It is estimated that, when produced in-country where wages are low and transportation costs can be minimized, the 11 square meter ISAAC can be produced for less than $7,000. When produced in-country, the creation of urban employment is an additional advantage of ISAAC technology.    

The ISAAC design was developed by Energy Concepts Company. Over forty systems have been built and twenty installed in seven countries. The ISAAC is on display in Annapolis, Maryland and at Sandia National Lab, Albuquerque, New Mexico. ISAAC is now being distributed and commercialized by Solar Ice Co. "
https://www.energy-concepts.com/_pages/app_isaac_solar_ice_maker.htm


 
pollinator
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Kim Huse wrote:This is interesting; I DO know that before refrigeration, dairies were built over naturally cold springs and the milk, butter, etc would be stored in clay or wood containers in the cool water. Spring houses and Well houses also had  access to the cold spring where food would be stored; I know of one place that had a dairy, a Spring house, and several root cellars  all built around the head of a natural cool spring water head that was in use for several generations; the dairy  had to be modernized because they sold the milk; the rest of the produce that was stored in the well house and the root cellars was always well preserved...

The dairy and the farm were sold as the grand children were not interested in  keeping the farm; and it was all bought up by someone at some time....sad that it all is now gone



My grandfather's farm had an artesian well. Some previous owner built the milkhouse around it in such a way that water flowed into a concrete tank, where they would put metal milk buckets to keep cold. Then it fed into a system of pipes and water troughs to keep the cattle hydrated in all 3 barns. Any extra was channeled out into the irrigation canal, which meandered through several acres of fields, before emptying into the nearest river.

By the time I was old enough to remember anything, he had built a new milkhouse with an electric cooling tank. But, the artesian well is still flowing, and he still used that to water both crops and cattle. His farm was among the few that were unaffected by drought years.

After my grandfather passed away, my cousins and I did a walkthrough of the buildings. The concrete tank that the well first fed into had always seemed really shallow, but this time someone stuck their hand in the water, and we discovered that it was actually really deep. It was just so full of silt by that time that it looked shallow. My cousins and I stirred up the silt to try and see how deep we could go. About 2 feet down, there were jars of canned peaches, labelled with handwriting that none of us recognized. I wish we could have suctioned out the silt. I get the feeling it would have revealed a lot more, because we never did find the bottom of the tank!
 
pioneer
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Ellendra Nauriel wrote:After my grandfather passed away, my cousins and I did a walkthrough of the buildings. The concrete tank that the well first fed into had always seemed really shallow, but this time someone stuck their hand in the water, and we discovered that it was actually really deep. It was just so full of silt by that time that it looked shallow. My cousins and I stirred up the silt to try and see how deep we could go. About 2 feet down, there were jars of canned peaches, labelled with handwriting that none of us recognized. I wish we could have suctioned out the silt. I get the feeling it would have revealed a lot more, because we never did find the bottom of the tank!


Please tell me someone gave those peaches a try, at least a sniff. I volunteered to clean up the root cellar of a co-op house I lived at in Madison which had been out of use for some years. Found a case of mason jars full of grape juice, presumably from the vines growing along a fence in the yard. It tasted somewhere between regular grape juice and wine, seemed barely alcoholic if at all, but turned out to be one of my favorite things I've ever consumed...
 
Ellendra Nauriel
pollinator
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Coydon Wallham wrote:

Ellendra Nauriel wrote:After my grandfather passed away, my cousins and I did a walkthrough of the buildings. The concrete tank that the well first fed into had always seemed really shallow, but this time someone stuck their hand in the water, and we discovered that it was actually really deep. It was just so full of silt by that time that it looked shallow. My cousins and I stirred up the silt to try and see how deep we could go. About 2 feet down, there were jars of canned peaches, labelled with handwriting that none of us recognized. I wish we could have suctioned out the silt. I get the feeling it would have revealed a lot more, because we never did find the bottom of the tank!


Please tell me someone gave those peaches a try, at least a sniff. I volunteered to clean up the root cellar of a co-op house I lived at in Madison which had been out of use for some years. Found a case of mason jars full of grape juice, presumably from the vines growing along a fence in the yard. It tasted somewhere between regular grape juice and wine, seemed barely alcoholic if at all, but turned out to be one of my favorite things I've ever consumed...




Unfortunately, no. At the time, we thought there was a chance they'd been put there recently by a guy who had been renting the barn. We weren't even sure whether or not he was still renting the place, so we were trying to tread lightly.

Thinking back, I am fairly certain they'd been there a long time, because of the design of the jars. But I didn't know that then.
 
pollinator
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Coolgarie food safes
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[Thumbnail for download-22.jpg]
 
Been there. Done that. Went back for more. But this time, I took this tiny ad with me:
Permaculture Inner-circle Elite (PIE)
https://permies.com/wiki/pie
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