Chest Freezer Fridge Conversion – An Off Grid Cabin Upgrade

Technology has come into my little off grid cabin.  I cannot say I do not have electricity any longer.  It is created by renewable energy though . . . and, it is a little scary.  You know how some of these things go.  I get a taste of convenience and pretty soon I will have 20 more solar panels and a big screen TV.  OMG!  That is a frightening thought!

So, after four years of ice and a cooler, I now have a chest freezer that has been converted into a refrigerator.  Friends of mine introduced me to this magic about a year ago.  My friend said one solar panel would run it.  I was sold on that, and I bought two 360 watt solar panels so I could add some lights . . . and possibly watch a movie on my laptop.  Now that is living large.

I like starting with no power and building up.  That way I know what the solar panels and batteries are powering.  Mind you, I don’t have a very good understanding of load to number of solar panels to the number of batteries.  There are eight 6-volt golf cart batteries that the solar panels charge, which was installed back at the beginning of October.  Along the way, I will get a better understanding of how the ratio of panels to batteries work with load.

Along this journey, I have found out this chest freezer to fridge conversion is nothing new.  Countless people I have talked to have done the same thing and most live off grid.  I didn’t want to get a fridge and power it with propane, and some of the very energy efficient refrigerators on solar are expensive.  This chest freezer was about $200.  My friend gave me their old gadget that the freezer plugs into that enables it to be changed to a temperature of a fridge.  Nice.

I purchased it from Backwoods Solar.  The guys there have been great.  One of them said I could have done it with only four batteries but I like the extra cushion of eight.  In addition to the solar system, I did buy a battery charger for the cloudy days in the winter when the solar panels don’t get enough sun. 

It is definitely a learning thing.  Actually, the installation was the biggest challenge.  After a few roadblocks with a few local installers, I realized that this installation was on me.  I asked a friend of mine who cleans out my stove pipe and has done some solar installations to help me.  I didn’t really do much of the installation except find out how it all goes together.  That was enough.  It may be a piece of cake for the guys where I purchased it but it was Greek to me. 

I dug a trench for the PVC with the wiring from the solar panels to the batteries, along with building a wooden enclosure for the batteries.  The fact that the batteries are explosive made me nervous.  But, it is all installed and working fine.  Eventually I will need to check the batteries to add water to them, which I am not looking forward to because they are lead acid batteries.  For now, I will just enjoy this moment of calm.

My new fridge is so nice.  I can’t believe I went four years on a cooler.  Some new kitchen lights and two in the living room have been added.  The lights are LED and each one is about 4 watts each to run.  I am going to admit that I bought some LED Christmas lights, too.  I do feel like a stepped over a line though . . . back into the familiar world of light switches and total convenience.

Have no fear . . . no way am I caving and getting some big screen TV.

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