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Fridge/Freezer not in house  RSS feed

 
Posts: 231
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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[If this fits elsewhere, moving it is okay with me.]

Most people buy refrigerators to put in the kitchen.  Which has fairly narrow environments.  Freezers might go into slightly larger sets of environments.

Nearly all refrigerators you can buy, have been engineered to the point where they assume that the exterior environment of the refrigerator is something like a minimum of 60F and a maximum of something like 100F, and that a single sensor can be used to set the cool compartment and the cold compartment.

If the environment the refrigerator finds itself in, does not require cooling, the refrigerator can mess up on doing tis job.  I recently found my garage refrigerator (which is due for some cold stratification work) to be significantly warmer inside than desired.  And I hope the hibernating mason orchard bees that were in the fridge come out okay when spring arrives.

There are apparently a couple of paths one might follow.  Whether people who make/drink beer are the only group, I don't know.  But there are people who replace the OEM controller circuitry in a refrigerator with a fewer assumptions generic controller, such as from Inkbird.  I suspect that what this gets a person, is a fridge that keeps the internal temperature at the set point, for external (to the refrigerator) temperatures as low as a few degrees Celsius.   To keep the "cool" part of the refrigerator at the set point, and the freezer part frozen for temperatures lower than that, actually means providing heat to the "cool" part.  Not having looked at the specifics of one yet, I don't know if there is a heater there or not.  The standard refrigerator typically does not have a heat pump function, where heat could be pumped from the freezer part to the "cool" part, and possibly from there to th external environment.

Another solution to this problem, is to put the refrigerator in a room, that is kept in the proper temperature range.  The room need not be very big.  It could be just slightly larger than the refrigerator is.  The room in question needs to be insulated and/or heated, as the bigger room (such as the garage) was not adequately insulted or heated to allow the refrigerator to operate as it should.

In normal operation, if the refrigerator goes to remove N Joules of heat from inside the refrigerator, to puts more than N Joules in the outside environment.  It may be that just placing the refrigerator inside an insulated room (or box), is enough to get the refrigerator to work properly.  If it happens that the environment where the refrigerator has been placed can also get very warm for part of the year, the heat and/or insulation of this special room can pose a problem.  A solution to that is to cool the special room.  Maybe this is just adding ventilation.  If it leads to adding a formal cooling circuit, you are probably better off seeking some other solution.

While lots of people have noted the problem exists, I have seen few recommendations with respect to building a solution.  This note if an endeavor to help.  I need a solution, as I have the bees and I am supposed to start cold stratifying a bunch of seeds soon.

I am going to build a fairly flimsy room (box) for my refrigerator.  I am making it from 1x3's and styrofoam.  The wood frame is on the inside.  Each panel is similar to a dustframe for a piece of furniture, except that foam insulation is applied to the outside.  This leaves a "well", which is empty to the thickness of a 1x3 (0.75 inch).  This well should be filled, and drywall has a fair amount of thermal mass and some useful other properties.  A layer of 1/2 inch and a layer of 1/4 inch should approximately fill the well to the thickness of the 1x3 perimeter.  If a person needs more thermal mass, you could place another layer of drywall over top of both the drywall filled well, and the wood perimeter.  This could be 1/2 inch firewall, or it could be 5/8 fire rated drywall.

Once you get five of the necessary six sides built, it is time to put the refrigerator in the box.  If you lack clearance, this will be a problem.  I am looking at 3 inches front, back and to both side, and 5 inches above.  This should allow normal heat from refrigerator operation to go pretty much everywhere inside the box.  But, maybe it won't.  Experiments need to be done.  (Or, just monitor things looking for problems.  If nothing else, this gives you a place to store your soil thermometer when not putting it in the soil to measure soil temperatures.)  But, we still need a "door".  Building a door which can swing open, means some careful cutting and measuring.  If you just build a plug, it is more time consuming to remove the plug than open a door to get into the refrigerator.  Some way to keep the door or plug closed needs to be added as well.

The more of all this you can do with the help of duct tape, means that you will be a better handyman in the eyes of Red Green.

Keep your stick on the ice. 
 
pollinator
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I turned a freezer into a fridge and it worked well on my texas back porch. It was actually an ice cream freezer you see at convenience stores. With a clear sliding lid.

I got a temp controller from amazon. You plug the controller in the outlet, plug the freezer into the controller, put the temp sender in the freezer, set the desired temperature and you're done. It turns the freezer on/off to maintain temps.

I would suspect freezers have more insulation. Either way it can chill better than a fridge since its designed to go sub zero.

Oh, my wife's solitary bees came in today.
 
gardener
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Location: Northern WI (zone 4)
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If I understand the original problem and Wayne's proposal, I think he's got something there.

I had a fridge/freezer in a cabin.  In the fall and winter when the interior cabin temps got down to refrigerator temperatures, the freezer never came on and the stuff in it thawed.  It was an overly simple fridge/freezer that cooled both chambers at a predetermined ratio when the fridge needed cold.

Instead of building a box for the fridge/freezer to keep it warmer, why not just go with two of Wayne's freezers?  One set to fridge temps and one set to freezer temps?  Simple and easy to control.

Maybe I'm missing the original issue though...
 
Gordon Haverland
Posts: 231
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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I have no doubt that Wayne's idea works, as it sounds similar to the "beer keg cooler" type idea I had read about elsewhere.  Sounds like the controller he found (Inkbird does sell on AMazon) is similar.

I agree freezers likely have more insulation, I don't think it would be a lot more.  Maybe 50%?  A significant difference between a refrigerator and a freezer is access.  A refrigerator is designed more for "random access" than a freezer.

One of the best insulations, of a type that could be used in a refrigerator or freezer, is polyurethane foam.  When new, you can get some thing like R7 or R8 per inch.  The insulation ages, and loses about R1 per inch in again.  Which still leaves it as a good insulation.  The best air filled insulation I've run across is eirogel, it is about R10 per inch.  Evacuated aerogels can be significantly better.  But, it they lose the vacuum, they would fall to R10 per inch (possibly more).

For those who have the time and money to experiment, I think Case Western Reserve had a Ph.D. thesis on using a aerogel derived from a smectic clay for insulation.
 
Gordon Haverland
Posts: 231
Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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If your insulated room (or box) gets too warm in summer, ventilation may be needed.

I think the best starting point for ventilation for a "box" type solution (right rectangular parallel-piped) is an inlet in a lower corner and the exhaust in the corner on the body diagonal.  Rooms would fall into this as well.

It is possible to use the top corner on a face diagonal work for a box, if you add baffles to that air cannot just "short circuit" and flow across the face and exit.  You can't really put a baffle on the side of the refrigerator which has the radiator, which probably reduces you to using the face parallel to the side of a refrigerator.

----

It may be that this idea of a room within a room works for root cellars?  I gather you want to keep condensation from falling onto food stored in them.  But, I don't know enough about root cellars at this point.
 
pollinator
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio,Price Hill 45205
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  As to the door, I would build the room around the fridge and have the front of the fridge stick through one wall.
No need to enclose the front.
In fact, do you need to enclose anything beyond the  condenser and coils?
Instead of a framed room, maybe glue insulation to the sides and top of the fridge.
Leave each peice long so they form a cavity at the rear of the fridge. Close that cavity with a 4th peice of insulation.
Add vents, one with a  thermostatically controlled fan,the other with a a spring loaded flap.
Exhaust excess heat into your garage house,greenhouse, coldframe or henhouse.
 
Gordon Haverland
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Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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I think it is possible that at least some kinds of refrigerators may only need the very back face (radiator and so on) insulated.  Putting the entire refrigerator in a box, should work for all.  It might be interesting to find out just how much any given refrigerator needs insulating, in order to work in these reduced temperatures.

I plan to "store" my soil temperature probe in the wall of my box, so I can monitor for the need to ventilate.  I have a few computer case fans of various sizes, in case I need to add the ventilation.

 
wayne fajkus
pollinator
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I would think a top opening box would be much more efficient than a front door type. Every time you open the door, all the cold falls out. This may be a key to why my chest freezer did do well as a fridge.
 
Gordon Haverland
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Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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Well, I got the box finished.  Very lightweight frame made from minimal number of 1x3 to which I glued 1 inch foam insulation.  The door has no hingers, it is a "plug"  that has 2 handles so you can insert it into its mating hole in the front, held in place by a wire on each side.  It should be close to R5 for insulation.

I've had the refrigerator running in it for 3/4 of a day.  I took my soil thermometer, and carefully inserted it into the airspace surrounding the fridge inside the box.  The soil thermometer is showing about 50F, and if I take the front panel off and feel the temperature inside the fridge or the freezer unit, they are still not running properly.

The box is about 6 inches wider than the outside of the fridge, and the fridge is set close to the box wall on the hinge side of the door.  So there is a gap of about 5 inches on the handle side.

I am thinking that a possible problem is that there is not enough thermal mass inside the box.  So, I am going to start putting some 4x8x16 concrete blocks inside the box, to add thermal mass.

It's possible that the refrigerator won't work properly any more.
 
Gordon Haverland
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Location: Dawson Creek, BC, Canada
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The place in town that sells concrete blocks is trying to shutdown (owner retiring), and is seldom open.  So, no blocks.

I picked up four 3 litre water containers, and so I set 12 litres of quite warm water inside the box.  The box temperature came up to 60F.  I will see if it can maintain that temperature overnight.  If it can, it is likely the fridge is back to working.

 
pollinator
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Perhaps some refrigerators work that way, but modern fridges don't, at least none that I've seen.

Modern refrigerator/freezers don't even have any refrigeration coils in the fridge part.  The pump, coils, etc. are only used to cool the freezer (with it's own temperature sensor)
The fridge part keeps cool by using a fan (controlled by a different sensor) to blow cold air from the freezer into the fridge, the warmer air from the fridge is then returned to the freezer.  The outside temperature has no effect on either part, except that the unit might not be able to keep up if the outside temp is really hot.

Well, I uppose it's possible that if the fridge is in a really cold place (temp colder than the freezer) that it might turn on the defrost circuitry to warm up the freezer to it's set point but I doubt that is a common feature, if it's even offered.

Anyway, if the freezer is working but the fridge is too warm, check and see if the fan is working, this is a fairly common problem.
 
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A "simple" solution is rarely cheep or universally applicable, here's mine.  I built my own top-opening refrigerator and freezer.  They are solar powered, between them they consume about 40amp-hr/day, 12v, in Florida.  OK, my application is different than in an 'earth berm', mine is on a sailboat.  Both fridge and freezer are low volume, fridge about 3 cuft, freezer 1.8 cuft.  They have been running non stop (despite 5 hurricanes) for about 10 years.  Claim to fame ... 'I have never been without ice or cold beer', that works for me.  The secret, "Engle, swing motor 12 volt compressors".  I use one for the fridge and another for the freezer for built-in redundancy and better control.  This  system and the rest of the boat is powered with 500 watts of Kyocerra solar panels and 1000 amp-hr battery bank.  It has worked flawlessly for 10 years.  The power system also provides lights, fans, instruments, radio, SSB communication and occasional 'movie nights' with an inverter.  I'll stop bragging and get back to the point; efficient refrigeration is achievable with a few sheets of petrochemical foam insulation and some kind of manufactured compressor/cold-plate.  My fridg is insulated to about R-30 (5 inches of polyiso), the freezer to R-50 (7 inches of polyiso).  So the walls are thick, the outside volume large and the inside volume small but it's been essentially free refrigeration for 10 years.  And you can do this!

"Engle" https://www.engelcoolers.com/ is an Australian company and only maker of the "swing motor" compressor, a particularly efficient little unit, uses about 3 amps at 12v when running.  I used two "icebox conversion kits", with separate thermostats.  These units can be located up to 8 feet from the box itself or installed underneath.  My compressors are remote mounted but I have installed units under the insulated box too.  (Disclaimer: I am a dealer for Engle, it got me better prices, no other affiliation)

 
Chris Carl
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Chris Carl wrote:A "simple" solution is rarely cheep or universally applicable, here's mine.  I built my own top-opening refrigerator and freezer.  They are solar powered, between them they consume about 40amp-hr/day, 12v, in Florida.  OK, my application is different than in an 'earth berm', mine is on a sailboat.  Both fridge and freezer are low volume, fridge about 3 cuft, freezer 1.8 cuft.  They have been running non stop (despite 5 hurricanes) for about 10 years.  Claim to fame ... 'I have never been without ice or cold beer', that works for me.  The secret, "Engle, swing motor 12 volt compressors".  I use one for the fridge and another for the freezer for built-in redundancy and better control.  This  system and the rest of the boat is powered with 500 watts of Kyocerra solar panels and 1000 amp-hr battery bank.  It has worked flawlessly for 10 years.  The power system also provides lights, fans, instruments, radio, SSB communication and occasional 'movie nights' with an inverter.  I'll stop bragging and get back to the point; efficient refrigeration is achievable with a few sheets of petrochemical foam insulation and some kind of manufactured compressor/cold-plate.  My fridg is insulated to about R-30 (5 inches of polyiso), the freezer to R-50 (7 inches of polyiso).  So the walls are thick, the outside volume large and the inside volume small but it's been essentially free refrigeration.  And you can do this!

"Engle" https://www.engelcoolers.com/ is an Australian company and only maker of the "swing motor" compressor, a particularly efficient little unit, uses about 3 amps at 12v when running.  I used two "icebox conversion kits", with separate thermostats.  These units can be located up to 8 feet from the box itself or installed underneath.  My compressors are remote mounted but I have installed units under the insulated box too.  (Disclaimer: I am a dealer for Engle, it got me better prices, no other affiliation)

Favorite from Albert Einstein, "The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits"
 
wayne fajkus
pollinator
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Thats good info carl. Thanks for sharing. Engle is a great brand. I use their dryboxes as a cooler chest on my kayaks. Interior volume is critical when catching 26" long fish.  The thinner wall allows more volume. Same size yeti style boxes would not hold the fish.

Another keeps chicken feed next to a chicken tractor with no entry by raccoons.

My kayak box comes home full of seawater and if it topples over nothing leaks out.

Great stuff.

 
Posts: 6
Location: Portland, OR
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This is the problem with modern refrigerator/freezer combos.  They are supposed to maintain two different temperature cabinets with one compressor and one evaporator coil.  Some of the new fancy junk actually has multiple coils and switching valves to cool any compartment that calls for cooling.  The simple fact is, these two functions should be handled separately, and anyone interested in a sustainable lifestyle (short of re-evaluating refrigeration altogether), should seek separate refrigerators and freezers. 

Peter is right about the fridge design.  Most of the modern ones I've seen have an evaporator coil in the freezer, with a fan to circulate the air.  The freezer thermostat actually adjusts the temperature the compressor kicks on at.  The refrigerator knob adjusts a dampener that allows air to circulate into the refrigerator cabinet.  I could have this backward, but I think the freezer is the main controlling factor.

Variations in ambient temperature can seriously influence the balance between the heat budget on the refrigerator and the heat budget on the freezer.  If the compressor doesn't run often, less air will actively circulate between the two compartments.

If it were me, I would find the end of the thermostat sensing tube, and locate it so that the cabinet of interest is maintained at the desired temperature.  If you just need a refrigerator, lower power consumption by cutting some holes between the two compartments to allow better air circulation, higher freezer cabinet temperatures (less compressor work), and essentially no need for a defrost heater.  I would even unplug the heater and see how it goes.

Or just install an aftermarket thermostat, and play around with sensor position and dampener settings.

And yeah, these are engineered to work in a certain ambient operating range.  Not only can the temperatures in the cabinets get a little goofy, but the vapor compression system can run very poorly.  Usually they can still keep up, albeit with less than desirable balance between the two compartments.

Good luck!
 
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