Best Non-Electric Refrigeration System? (As low cost as possible)

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by mommykood, Jan 12, 2005.

  1. mommykood

    mommykood Active Member

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    Hello! :)

    We are looking for options and opinions on non-electric refrigeration systems. We have a family of 6 (and the family will be expanding in the future), and our basic refrigeration needs must be met.

    I am considering things like yogurt, cheese, meat, juice, ketchup/mustard/sald dressing/mayo/syrup, and maybe liquid milk - we may use dry milk instead. Any other pertinent things? I checked my fridge and couldn't find anything else worth saving... LOL :)

    If the cost is too prohibitive, we may just end up with personal sizes of items from Sam's Club (like catsup/mustard/mayo/salad dressing) for a nomimal price.

    What is the most low-cost way to set up refrigeration? We would consider coolers (someone else mentioned a "5 day" cooler while rotating ice through it). We would also consider (Kerosene?) gas-powered fridges.

    We are concerned about initial price, price to continue to servicing the system, and size (we don't need anything huge, just a small system).

    Anyone have advice or opinions (coming from experience)?

    Thanks so much! :)

    Jen :)
     
  2. WisJim

    WisJim Well-Known Member Supporter

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    We started out in the mid1970s with no refrigerator, just an ice chest in the root cellar to keep things a bit cooler, then a friend loaned us a small LP gas refrig from a camper, which was big enough to keep "necessities" (not leftovers) cold. We looked for a used LP refrig for awhile, then found a Servel gas refrig that we used for a few years (still have it sitting in the shed). We bought a Sunfrost 12volt super efficient refrigerator when they came along, even though it was very expensive, partly because of concern about the gas exhaust fumes in our super-insulated house, and partly due to the cost of LP over the lifetime of a refrigerator. We figured that a couple of PV panels added to our existing system would provide "free" electricity for the Sunfrost, instead of using about 10 pounds or so of LP each week in the Servel. I thnk that was the right choice. The PV panels are still working, the Sunfrost still runs and keeps food cold, and we have avoided buying quite a bit of propane over the 23+ years.

    As far as things like juice, etc., we can a lot of what we use, and the jars come up out of the root cellar at a reasonable temperature most of the year. Being canned, they don't need refrigeration until after opening and careful planning would help determine the sizes you need to can to ensure they get used up at a meal

    Good luck!

    Jim
     

  3. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    There was a thread no more than 3 weeks ago that discussed building your wn ice house and harvesting lake ice.
     
  4. sisterpine

    sisterpine Goshen Farm Supporter

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    Why not hunt down an old Servel propane frige? I have one that I got at a yard sale for free and it cost me only 40 bucks to get it a new orfice (for my high altitude) and a new door gasket. It has been working great now for the past 5 years! There is a man (Arthur) at Main gas refrigeration that is an expert (only one in country as far as i can tell) who carries parts for these and manuals!
     
  5. BCR

    BCR Well-Known Member

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    We don't drink tons of milk and it always seemed to go bad (lots of sour milk biscuits) before we used it all. I now buy shelf stable Parmalat milk from my local WalMart of all places. You might consider buying it that way. Easy to store and use. Online places sell it if you can't get it local. Here we can get 2% or whole milk.
     
  6. JWH123

    JWH123 Well-Known Member

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    Wisconsin, huh?

    Well, I think you've got your refrigeration needs met for at least 4 months out of the year. Cooler on the porch, out of the sun, to keep the temps somewhat stable.

    Also, your ketchup and mustard do not need to be refrigerated. There are probably some other items in the fridge that don't really need to be in there (I don't know about pickles, but I have a feeling they would be OK at room temp?)

    John
     
  7. katlupe

    katlupe Off-The-Grid Homesteader Supporter

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    We live off the grid and use a Servel also. It is an old one with the little freezer. Probably a new one would be more efficient. But I am kinda attached to this one. I would never go back to a electric one after using a gas one. Even if we could power one with our system in the future (as we build it bigger) I don't want one. Ours doesn't use much propane and I have to get propane for the gas stove anyway.

    We did try and did live for over a year with our Servel turned off. But we do appreciate the convenience it offers.
     
  8. mommykood

    mommykood Active Member

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    What kind of propane set-up do you have? Is it "piped" in the house? If not, can you explain a bit? This sounds like what we may be looking for...

    Thanks!

    Jen :)
     
  9. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    Used RV refrigerators are an option too_Ours has a refer/freezer,yes its small,but works very well.I like the servel and sundanzer,esp. the sundanzer.Its a pay now/pay later type thing,with the sundanzer you pay now,serval with propane pay later.

    BooBoo
     
  10. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    Propane must be stored outside so the tank can be refilled easily by the propane company. The gas is piped into the house via iron pipe and/or flexible copper tubing. Using 20# propane tanks (or larger) in the house is a hazard.
     
  11. WisJim

    WisJim Well-Known Member Supporter

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    About Servel refrigerators--if you start looking for an old one, you may hear stories about them being unsafe, causing fires, etc. A few years ago there was a recall program where the successors of the old Servel company were offering a payment if you gave proof of destroying your old style Servel refrigerator. They made it sound like they were a real hazard. In my opinion, it was a case of some one somewhere not doing the necessary maintenance on their Servel (keeping dust out of the burner area, cleaning soot out of the flue, etc.) and after many years the accumulation of dust bunnies and soot could cause problems.
    However, this was not a real problem, but probably the company's reaction to lawsuites or potential lawsuites.
    So, if you hear of this when looking for a Servel, don't worry, these old fridges are safe, and last for decades.

    Jim
     
  12. Lisa in WA

    Lisa in WA Formerly LisainN.Idaho Supporter

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    We have a Danby propane fridge. It runs well, but I would love to have a real full sized fridge again.
     
  13. mommykood

    mommykood Active Member

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    <<So, if you hear of this when looking for a Servel, don't worry, these old fridges are safe, and last for decades.>>

    I was wondering about that - thanks for clearing that up. :)

    <<Propane must be stored outside so the tank can be refilled easily by the propane company. The gas is piped into the house via iron pipe and/or flexible copper tubing. Using 20# propane tanks (or larger) in the house is a hazard.>>

    This type of "piping" isn't what we want right now. A large gas fridge is nixed, then.

    <<We don't drink tons of milk and it always seemed to go bad (lots of sour milk biscuits) before we used it all. I now buy shelf stable Parmalat milk from my local WalMart of all places. You might consider buying it that way. Easy to store and use. Online places sell it if you can't get it local. Here we can get 2% or whole milk.>>

    This is an option I hadn't known about. I will look and see if our local SuperW*lmart has this... Interesting option - very viable for our family. We were just planning on using dry milk, but this sounds like a better option... I will check it out! :)

    <<We started out in the mid1970s with no refrigerator, just an ice chest in the root cellar to keep things a bit cooler, then a friend loaned us a small LP gas refrig from a camper, which was big enough to keep "necessities" (not leftovers) cold. >>

    The "5 day" cooler sounds like one of our best options at this point. We would also consider a small LP gas refrigerator from a used RV place, too. Does that type of LP need to be "piped" in, too, or is the fridge kept outside with the LP tank?? Sorry if it is an elementary question! LOL :)

    ********************************************************

    Thanks, everyone for the advice. Right now, we are just considering the "5 day cooler" or a small RV used refrigerator that runs on LP...

    Thanks again for all the advice and information. These posts help us see all the options that are available, and what may work best for our family! :)

    Jen
     
  14. katlupe

    katlupe Off-The-Grid Homesteader Supporter

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    We also have a 12 volt fridge that we bought at a truckstop and used when my husband drove a over the road truck. It can be hooked up to a car battery but it would drain it down pretty quick.

    Our pipe for our fridge isn't that big, 3/4" and goes right through the wall to the tank. We only recently got the propane delivered. Before that we picked up the 20# tanks at the local store. Our propane, we always pay for, when it's delivered - if I'm low on cash I just tell them not to leave any. We never have a ongoing bill for anything but the telephone. Why can't you have it piped in?

    We did live over a year without any refrigeration. What I did was, in the winter I filled two big ice chest with ice from outside (it was hanging off the house). In the summer, I filled the ice chest everyday with cold water from our well (in the morning the water is colder). I had to put some heavy stuff on the lighter things. Some stuff I had to put in little plastic containers, such as butter or it'll get all wet and it floats. It worked. Oh, and I kept it out back close to house, but in the shade. At night, I put heavy rocks on the chests in case of animals getting into it.
     
  15. mommykood

    mommykood Active Member

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    Did the 3/4" pipe connect straight to the 20# tank from the local store? Did you have to build something to protect the 20# tank from weather, etc?

    How many tanks (20# from the local store) did you go through on a regular basis? What size is your fridge? Sorry so many questions - you have peaked my interest in this type of option...

    Also, I like the cooler idea - cheap and easy! LOL :) I appreciate you sharing your experiences and expertise with me! :)

    Thanks,

    Jen :)
     
  16. JustinThyme

    JustinThyme Active Member

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    Google 'solarice.pdf ',it might be just the thing youre looking for .It uses anhydrous ammonia ,deadly stuff if you get even a small leak .Nice thing is once you get it set up its virtually mainenance free ,makes about 20lbs of ice a day .
     
  17. EricG

    EricG Well-Known Member

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    Back before the days of electricity the old side hill dairy farms used to pipe cold spring/brook water into a concrete cistern that held their metal milk cans. That was the way they kept the milk cool. Food for thought.

    Eric
     
  18. puddlehopper

    puddlehopper New Member

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    I am new here but find it wonderful to see how many others there are out there trying to live off the grid. We moved into a small cabin and used a cooler at first. Floating food was frustrating. I was visiting a friend one day and they have had a camper sitting in their back yard for a year and the idea popped in my head. Does that have a fridge in there? We got a nice size propane/electric fridge out of there. It is padded on the front like a couch. Can't use magnets but it is great. We use a 20# propane tank. We have a "t" set up with two tanks and when one gets low we switch it over. Our fridge and the stove use a 20# tank about every 10 days. We tried to pipe it in with copper tubing but it leaked. We use black rubber hose now and it works great.
     
  19. katlupe

    katlupe Off-The-Grid Homesteader Supporter

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    No, my husband put a copper pipe through the wall to connect the stove and fridge to the tanks. We had 3 tanks so that we always filled 2 when we started the last one. Actually, snow fell directly from the roof onto our tanks and we should have protected them but we didn't get around to it. Never had a problem though.

    Our Servel is full size, but not a newer one. We think it could be from the 40's or 50's. We used one 20# tank every two weeks. But we were also using a gas stove that wasn't in good condition. So it was wasting the propane and I couldn't use the oven at all. (I have an oven that goes on top of a wood heat stove) Now with the propane delivered and using a new gas stove, I am paying a little more, but right now we do not have a motor vehicle so it saves us money in the long run.


    My father in-law tells stories about keeping their cold stuff down in their well on a shelf. Only thing is that once his sister knocked over a milk bottle and it spilled in the well and they had to drain it out!! Another idea is that some people used to build a shelf on a window sill and put cloth over it and kept it cold with water somehow. Or the Amish have a regular refrigerator and put ice in the freezer like an old time ice box. But you have to be able to get the ice. It's a challenge, to be sure. But that's what makes homesteading so interesting!! Love it!!!!!



     
  20. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    We had a house in Portland Ore.The kitchen window,north facing,had like an 18-24 inch shelf.Over this was a pair of shutter type doors.Outside a big bush covered the window.During fall/winter the things that handle freezing,like milk ,we put on the shelf,they would half freeze overnite,and thaw during the day.GREAT cold milk.We had a refer too that we used,but the natural refer was sooo nice we used it too.

    BooBoo