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The AikiHomestead

Our Lifestyle Blog as We Create a Homestead in Northern Ontario


How To Convert A Chest Freezer To A Chest Refrigerator

Thermostat hanging on the back of the freezerA view of the probe hanging in the freezerAs is pretty obvious, it is much more efficient for refrigerators to be configured in chest form. Why else are so many stores totally willing to run their freezers twenty four/seven without even a lid? The cold air becomes notably heavy and just sits in the bottom of the box.

On the other hand, it’s also pretty obvious that upright orientations are more handy for daily use. Sigh. Well, as in most things when you are off-grid, it seems that efficiency must win out over ease of use. In this particular case, our lack of a fridge for the past two months has made us feel that having a fridge, ANY fridge is worth the small hassle of digging down for items, rather than searching deep into unknown recesses.

When we were first married and purchased our conventional house back in Kitchener, my parents presented us with the wonderful gift of a small deep freeze. It has served us very well over the past number of years, generally stocked with many pounds of cheese and butter, as well as other delicious goodies (and the occasional hard disc – of course you know freezing a dead hard disc is the first line of action in data recovery, right?).

When the time came for us to move here, I was at first of the line of thought that a freezer would not be realistic, at least, not in the near future. But, as a means to store items, I thought it would be okay, so I willingly had it loaded into our moving truck. (As I recall, I was actually too sick to move it, and my father did it amazingly and single-handedly!)

After connecting up our solar power generating station, a fridge was the next logical item to add. It only took a very short time of checking on the prices of high efficiency fridges designed for off-grid use before my mind opened up. A bit of research brought me around to this website where the author had home-built a replacement thermostat for his freezer to turn it into a surprisingly efficient fridge!

I wasn’t sure I wanted to get into all those components though, in spite of the fact that I’m not afraid of a soldering iron. Further research brought me around to many homebrewing websites where the more adventurous individuals had converted their freezers into “kegerators”. These conversions were usually done with a
Johnson Controls model A19AAT-2C (affiliate link). It cost me just north of $100 Canadian to get it shipped from The Beverage Factory.

So far both the thermostat and freezer are working out well. I do need to beef up my power station though – it gradually ran down my batteries, and I had to spend about eight or nine hours listening to the generator yesterday to get them back up to full. I’m hoping that being able to point the solar panel to the sun will help greatly – that’s my next project!

In any case, it worked better than I expected, and having fresh and cold food sure is an awesome thing. This whole lifestyle makes me appreciate the conveniences I’ve always taken for granted much more!

Time to head to town to get (hopefully) the final parts for my solar mount.


So can you include some details on the power consumption (KWH/week) of your freezer (now running as a fridge) under typical use?
  • Jeff Windatt (2012-08-28)
It is quite variable depending on the outside temperature, but generally it runs about five minutes per hour, at 120watts. So 120watts for 2 hours a day, .24KWH per day, or about 1.18KWH per week, unless my math is all screwy. And this is based on my initial wild approximation.
  • Stephen Garstin (2012-08-29)
Your math was mostly correct, but .24KWH/day * 7 days/week is 1.68 KWH/week 🙂
Is your freezer/fridge a 10 cu. ft. size ? Did it have an energuide rating for reference ?
FYI: I have a camp between Sudbury and Parry Sound that I'm thinking of with regards to power and refrigeration potential.
  • Jeff Windatt (2012-08-29)
Oh, I was using the less popular 5 day week, I forgot that most people are on a 7 day week, that's my problem! It is a 7 cubic foot model. The Danby DCF719W, which I think is discontinued. I forget the energuide rating, sorry! Are you at the camp full-time? That's a sweet location!
  • Stephen Garstin (2012-08-30)
I used 7 because I figured it runs every day 🙂
Energuide 2009 shows 276 KWH/year for the DCF719W.
We are at the camp for some long weekends in the summer, and then for 10 days for moose hunting in Oct. The place is wired like a house, and I have an old 1700watt inverter, and a 12v-230ah battery pack, and a small generator + charger. I'm going this weekend.
  • Jeff Windatt (2012-08-30)
I would think your setup would be fine. I'm running a modified sine wave, with twice the AH, but Running just the solar panels for the past month. With a genny that you aren't afraid to use, you'll be fine.
  • Stephen Garstin (2012-08-31)
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