The Low Energy Fridge

Awhile back on the Riot for Austerity on-line, support site, I saw a link to a refrigerator that claimed it only used 0.1Kwh/day. I was really intrigued by this and anxious to give it a try. Although it has not lived up to its extremely low energy use, it is quite a bit lower than the average fridge. Lower than average is what I seem to be about these days so we have stuck with it. Until Thursday.

Thursday was the day Tropical Storm Fay was scheduled to blow through the area. Schools were canceled and I was fed up with my 6.8 cubic foot fridge. So was my husband. Not only is it small, but it is a cube, so you have to layer everything in there and things can hang out at the bottom for weeks unnoticed.

Last year we had your regular fridge, 18 cubic feet, freezer on the top, no frills. I realize this in itself was less than average, since most people I know have larger fridges that tend to be side by side. These use a lot more energy. Our 1999, no frills 18 cu ft energy star fridge was using 1.6 Kwh/day. That is 585 per year. So what we did was buy a 6.8 cuft chest freezer for $200 and a temperature controller for $60. The temp controller allows you to over ride the freezer control so it maintains a temp of 38-42F. You plug the temp controller in the wall socket and the freezer into the controller. The controller turns the freezer on when the temp gets to 42F and then off when it reaches 38F. We have a killawatt meter to measure energy use. It told us that the new fridge was averaging 0.3-0.4kwh/day. Usage fluctuates more here in Florida, with higher energy use in the summer.

One of the main draw backs to doing this is that you no longer have a freezer. Well if you are like us, then you already had a 12 cuft chest freezer to store all your garden produce. So we really did not need that small freezer attached to a stand up fridge. If you are a small family, your needs could be met with two small chest freezers and one controller. Buying everything new might cost less than $400.  Not bad to get more freezer space than a small fridge with freezer would provide.

Our family of four was having trouble using such a small fridge. 6.8 cuft isn’t that small, but doesn’t lend itself to great ease of use. It made it so my kids had to depend on us to get most things out for them, unless it happened to be right on top. The milk never was.

So FINALLY, this past Thursday, I was charged up by the storm, and decided to make a major change. Did we run out and buy a huge fridge to make up for how we had deprived ourselves? No, because we really had not, we just switched the fridge with the freezer. So now we have a 6.8cuft freezer and a 12 cuft fridge. WOW, it was SO easy. Aside from moving everything out, cleaning the inside and switching all the contents, the only thing I had to do was move the temperature controller. I think we will even save energy and money.  You see, keeping a freezer cold, uses more energy than keeping a fridge cold. Since we are keeping less space and stuff frozen. I have not hooked the killawatt up to the “new” appliances yet, but can let you know in the future what the energy use is.  Now maybe you are asking yourself-well where is all the garden produce going now? Well in the past year I have learned to preserve food by canning, lacto-fermenting and drying. I have a hot water bath as well as a pressure canner. So I shouldn’t need as much space. So far I am happy with the new arrangement, until I go digging for something at the bottom of the freezer. Atleast it isn’t a daily occurrence like it has been. Now on to some photographs.

6.8cuft chest freezer in refridgerator space

6.8cuft chest freezer in refridgerator space

We chose the 6.8cuft freezer because it would fit into the space where our refrigerator was. This picture was taken after the swith so the controller is not shown. Now our freezer is in the kitchen and the fridge is in the laundry room. So far, no big deal.
Temperature controller

Temperature controller

Sorry it is blurry. It is a Johnson Controls temperature controller. It was purchased at a brewing supply store for $60. You can get them online if you don’t have a supply store in your area. Notice at the bottom of the picture there is a small wire sticking down next to a large one. The large one is the power cord and the small one is the wire that leads to the temperature sensor that goes into the unit. See next picture.
Temperature sensor inside "fridge"

Temperature sensor inside

 At the end of the wire is a thick piece of metal that measures the temperature inside the unit.

Inside of 12 cuft freezer-now fridge

Inside of 12 cuft freezer-now fridge

This is our 12cuft chest freezer. I have like items organized together. Veggies in the center basket, cheese, sour cream and tofu in the basket on the right. Eggs and miscellaneous on the left. Then there is a lot of room under the baskets.

On the left of the photo you can see the black power cord and the silver temperature controller wire. The wire lays across the top lip of the box and continues in under the left basket. 

I think we will be happy with this new arrangement. Would you be?