Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Freezer to Fridge

I have been looking at converting a freezer to a fridge for a while now.
The extra insulation and top opening mean it uses far less power than a regular fridge (80-90% less) and keeps food at a more stable temperature, which means the food lasts longer.
So when our old fridge
1. Didn't fit in the fridge hole at our new house
2. Stopped working
I finally bit the bullet and convinced Rosie the freezer/fridge was a good idea.

We bought a fairly large Fisher and Paykel chest freezer, mostly on the criteria "Will it fit in the space" and energy efficiency stars. The Fisher and Paykel wasn't great on the efficiency, but was about the right size. Or so we thought. In hindsight, I hadn't really allowed enough space around the freezer, so we had to turn it side on, which is still ok. I also should have gone for the thickest insulated freezer I could find since that impacts it's efficiency more than anything else with this kind of usage.

With the conversion I tried three different approaches.
First, I got a thermometer to monitor the temperature. I found the best place to go for a decent thermometer was a home brew store we found in Albion Park.

I tried to regulate the temperature with a timer that plugged into the electricity at the wall. It was digital one, so I could control the on/off to the minute. Even so, because of the varying outside temperatures, and varied use of the freezer throughout the day, it was really hard to get it to maintain a stable temperature. It was still better than our old fridge, but not really adequate.

So I heard about a thermostat kit from Jaycar electronics that you built yourself. They give you all the parts and you just pop it together, Bingo, freezer conversion. Well, it was a bit more complicated than that. I got all the parts, looked at the instructions, and got a bit scared. "Do I really trust myself with all these wires and electricity?"

So I caved in and bought a pre-made one from a gentleman in Victoria. It works perfectly and keeps the fridge at 2 degrees Celsius. All the time.

What is it like?
At first we thought it would be a real hassle, not having shelves. You do have to be a little more organised about how you put things away (at least I do). I find the baskets at the top more convenient than regular fridge shelves, as you can easily access whatever you want. Ro reckons it is a about the same level of convenience, even at six months pregnancy.
We also buy our milk in bulk, and were able to fit 50 litres of milk in the bottom, which means everything else is stacked a bit higher. (it also helps regulate the temperature inside the fridge).

On the plus side, nothing goes off in this fridge. Ever (well it has only been six weeks, so, maybe it would). The temperature is so stable because the cold air never escapes, so food lasts for ages.
It is also very quiet because the motor is rarely ever on.
The only other downside is the condensation. You need to wipe down the walls and a bit of the floor once a week.

But for 90% less energy use, I think I can live with that.


alison said...

Awesome idea. I had heaps of fun reading this.

And then I got to the part about Rosie being pregnant...!!!!!


Mike W said...

Oh, haven't we kind of announced that.
Yeah. Ro is due in June.

Matthew said...

You have now...Congratulations

byron smith said...

Great idea. Hadn't heard of this before.

Wali said...

Hi Mike!

How's your converted freezer working out for you? I'm ready to pull the trigger on one and wondered if you still like yours after a couple of years.