We are off grid. We have a small solar system that is big enough to run our internet and phone. The idea I'm working with now is that I've just ordered a 4000 watt generator and am planning on using it for a couple hours every evening to power devices and also a small chest freezer. I would like to freeze ice in the freezer and then transfer it to a refrigerator that we'll be using as an "ice box". Does this sound like a feasible idea?
It is doable, but there are a lot of drawbacks to consider. Using an ice box would be a great way of making it work, but I wouldn't repurpose a conventional refrigerator for the job. Their insulation is woefully inadequate. The same really goes for the chest freezer as well, but at least in that situation the cold air doesn't spill out when you open the door. It would probably be best to build your own ice box. I would use no less than 4" of insulation all around in a chest configuration. It would be advisable to have a table, stand, cabinet or similar to get it off the floor and save your back. This will make it easier to get in and out of quickly which would help things stay cool longer. Perhaps even 2 smaller chests side by side that you can keep more ice in one for 'more perishable' items and less ice for things that merely need to be kept cool.
If you keep the ice out of the melting water it will last a lot longer. I have heard of modified picnic coolers that have held ice for over a week, so I am certain a well insulated ice box can be made to work. It will probably work better with one or two responsible adults using it as opposed to guests/children/elderly or other people known to not be completely reliable about things like keeping it closed and well loaded with ice.
Using a generator daily for ice seems like a recipe for disaster. I have heard of smaller ice machines that are supposedly faster and more efficient at making ice than a chest freezer. If you were planning to store perishable things in the freezer and not just ice then it would require Herculean willpower to avoid a disaster. The cost of constantly fuelling plus one ruined freezer load of food would probably come close to the cost of going DIY solar for your refrigeration. If you get sick, injured, have some sort of crisis, or simply want to stay out for a night or go on vacation then it would require multiple contingency plans to keep things operational. Perhaps if you were using some sort of battery setup with an automatic system to start the generator then maybe it would be different, but that seems about as complex and expensive as going solar.
As I mentioned before, chest freezers also have pretty bad insulation. You may be able to find some videos on making a chest freezer more efficient. At the very least you can add some styrofoam to the bottom of the freezer and add insulation to the lid/door on top. If you can locate your refrigeration in a building that is kept as cool as is reasonable then that would help. Perhaps an earthen structure or thick walls with adobe, earthbags, or some other thick thermal mass shaded from the sun would be ideal. This would reduce the temperature difference between the inside and outside of your freezer and icebox which means less energy to keep things cool. I wouldn't just walk into any house and try to implement this system in their existing kitchen because chances are it would be more of a hassle than it is worth.
It can be done. I did it for a while. It takes a lot more fuel and time than you think. I used 4-5 gallons a day with a 4000 genny and I had everything set up to work at the same time-make ice, recharge batteries, do laundry.
If I had to do it again, I would get a small efficient icemaker and enough solar to run it all day. Gas was under a dollar a gallon when I set mine up, and solar was four times more expensive as today.
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Elisa; As the others have told you ... it can be done but you wont like it....Think about a propane refrigerator... An excellent brand is "Diamond" made by the Amish and sold on line . They are as large as any electric fridge and make ice just fine, will keep ice cream frozen (an old servel will not). Bulk propane is any off grid homes best friend. Currently costing 1.30 a gal delivered here . You will want it to cook on, bake with, heat your water, run your fridge/freezer. Maybe even a small backup heater .... Is your new generator gasoline ? If so I would recommend switching it over to propane. this kit is what I used " http://www.motorsnorkel.com/motor-snorkel-tri-fuel-natural-gas-propane-and-gasoline-conversion-kit-3406.html#!" Generator runs way better and as it is hooked into our 250 gal bulk tank ... it never needs filling ! My remote start works fine, no choke needed! starts easily below freezing. I wish I had changed my genny over years ago !
A deep freeze is easily run on even a small solar set up. the one I have pulls under 100 watts and if you keep them full they wont run long at all. 200 watts around 260 dollars worth of panels a charge controller around 40 dollars, a cheap 100 dollar inverter and four 6 volt golf cart batteries around 500 dollarss andd you would have a very robust system for makingg all the ice you could ever want
Thanks everyone for the input, I really appreciate the time and thought put into your replies. After doing the research here and in other places it looks like our solar system, batteries and running the generator to suppliment our solar we should be able to support everything we are hoping to power.
Hey Eric ; What size deep freeze are you running ? Chest ? How old is it ? I'm working towards bringing my deep freeze home from the neighbors, I pay them $100.00 a year, I would like to keep that $ for other things. You said you are using 4 golf cart batterys, Trojan t-105 size? Does this run just your freezer or are you supplying other outlets ? My chest freezer is big & old , at least 25 years ... works flawlessly! Holds an elk a pig and 2 deer with room for veggys , I am hoping to not have to replace it...the newer ones seem to not last like the old ones.
My deep freeze is the smallest most inefficient one you can buy at sears that I used when I first started playing with solar. My system is much larger now. I'm going to sell it and buy a much bigger freezer. I was looking at big ones at menards and they were only around 150 watts.
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