There was just a most excellent article on converting your chest freezer to a refrigerator:
Now, this is nothing new. If I’m not mistaken Rawles covered this years ago when an Oz dweller came up with the idea ( I might be fuzzy on the details- please refrain from rude comments ). But that was one of those home hacked systems in its infancy. The above article points you to a simple plug in $50 part that does all the conversion for you- it’s plug and play! That’s what is new and exciting. I don’t necessarily advocate such a system, as it is a luxury rather than a necessity. I still think you are much better off with an actual ice box. I’ll compare the two systems, but the main thing to keep in mind is that if you are trying to get the wife to move out to the boonies this might very well be one of those necessities you must splurge on. Kind of like spending a grand on a factory built composting system instead of the $4 bucket one. If you have some spare lumber and a window, composting toilets are one bucket and one black plastic lined hole away. But the “ick” factory must be considered. If you have to spend a little more to get the missus out to the country, it still saves you big bucks in the end.
Okay, bare minimum for the electric fridge is going to be $600. This is usually cheaper than a propane fridge, not counting in fuel. But say you got the propane unit for free. In two years you’ve spent $720 in propane fuel, at current $3 a gallon cost. Solar compares very favorably. A new freezer is give or take-it’s been a few years since I’ve priced them-$150 ( no sense in going cheap and getting a used one, not since you’ll be spending so much on the rest of the system ). A 250 watt mono solar panel is $350. I’d prefer a lot more watts to make sure the power drain on the battery is never serious, but you can futz by on this. $50 for the conversion unit and $50 in tax or another battery or whatever. Now, compare that $600 to an ice chest. The freezer, not needing to be functional-you are using it for an insulated box- is best used. Free to $20 for a scraped unit. A new dorm size fridge is $80 ( you need the compressor and parts from the back, not the box ). $20 for the book “Sunshine To Dollars” for the instructions. A 50 watt panel is $130 ( you are making ice at about 90 watts, which takes about two hours on a hot day ). $230 total, close to one third the cost ( you will need salt in this process, but I count it as a negligible cost ). Also, beware. Neither system is long term post-apocalypse ready. This is for off grid modern living. The batteries needed are your weak link.
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