The Forthcoming Freezers

SUBHEAD: Our ability to refrigerate and freeze food reliably off-grid requires converting to chest units only.

By Juan Wilson on 25 August 2018 for Island Breath -

Image above: Our current 16cuft fridge next the front door. The new 10.6 cuft freezer will turned be transformed into a refrigerator (set at 33 fahrenheit with a GE thermostatic switch. Note the microwave on top of the fridge is used only for storing open bags of chips and crackers. It's not plugged in because it will trip the PV inverter if turned on. Photo by Juan Wilson.

[IB Publisher's note: We are facing a problem with our 16 cubic foot refrigerator - it's not efficient enough to run on the the batteries charged by our solar PV system. We are looking to convert a 10 cubic foot freezer into a refrigeration unit and live with the inconvenience of organizing and searching the bin for its contents. We'll let you know how that goes.]

We have been off the power grid long enough to have learned a few things. Perhaps the toughest lesson was finding it really difficult to keep refrigeration going 24/7/365. A lot of things that require power can be episodic. That includes wi-fi internet access, electric lighting, and entertainment systems.

We have moved up from 8 120 amp-hour 12 volt deep cycle marine batteries to 8 405 amp-hour 6 volt AGM batteries. That's the same size array of batteries that run all out power outlets and switched lighting. After struggling through several seasons of darker than summer days we realized we could not run conventional refrigeration. That being an upright unit with a front door. The unit simply loses most of its cold air every time you open the door merely to see what's inside.

We had to go to a chest refrigerator. We also needed a bigger freezer to store all the food we process and store (like a year's worth of macadamia nuts, and packages of pre-cooked and seasoned cassava, taro and breadfruit.

We read about this solution in Kendra's post "Convert Freezer into Fridge" (, from New Life on a Homestead on 7/21/18.

Since July we have taken steps to rid ourselves of and upright refrigerator and expand our capacity to freeze for for long term storage.  The plan included purchasing two 10.6 cubic foot freezers. One would be converted to a refrigerator using the technique in the referenced article linked above.  The other would be a straight up freezer.

We purchased the freezers from Home Depot.  They are General Electric model FCM11PH Chest Freezer (garage ready) with an Energy Guide estimate of $26 estimated yearly energy cost. Of course that $26 is totally unrelated to the actual energy cost from Kauai's KIUC power company opr the fact that we will be running them off batteries charged from solar panels.

What the $26 does indicate is that this freezer is in a sweet spot being less energy costly than any of the smaller freezers we considered. Of course, we'll see what find out the actual consumption only when we are up and running.

We were notified yesterday that the two freezers had arrived on Kauai and would be delivered on August 31. So we are beginning now to execute changes we'll need to accommodate the switch over. Will have Home Depot remove the 4 cubic foot freezer in our garage the 16 cubic foot refrigerator.

One of the new freezers (the one we'll user as a fridge) will be placed in our kitchen/dining area where the old fridge was. It will be wider, lower and a bit less deep and requires some storage changes - like no storage on top of the fridge like now.

The other freezer will be on our lanai, just outside the the kitchen/dining area. That means no more trecking down and outside to get to the garage and our current freezer.

More on the installation and use of these units as we go.

On re-reading the specs again I realized that these new freezers have built in lighting. That is great, in that I won't have to install additional lighting on each unit that would be foot operated (or something).

More on this effort when the freezers arrive.

Image above: Our current 4 cu ft freezer is closer to the weather than the lanai location we intend for its replacement. Note rust at front right corner closest to the outside of our open "garage" (washroom, shop, storeroom, etc). Photo by Juan Wilson.

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