Living without Electricity: How to do without a Refrigerator Off the Grid!


Outside of air conditioning in warmer climates your refrigerator uses up more electricity than any other appliance in your home. It is my opinion to be truly independent when going off-grid one should be able to survive without using any electricity at all if needs be. Civilization has survived for thousands of years without refrigerators and without electricity at all but due to dependence on the grid and corporations for every whim and need we have lost the knowledge of how to live without electricity or refrigerators. Here is how it's done!

First of all, let me say right here that it is a lot easier to go without electricity or a refrigerator in cooler climates. For that reason alone I think the northern states are more conducive to off-grid living. However, people have gone without electricity and without refrigerators in warm climates for..well forever. It just takes more of an effort in warmer climates IMHO.

Windmills, Hydroelectric Systems and Solar Panels

Secondly, I'm all for setting up windmills, hydroelectric systems and solar panels. However, not everyone can afford these systems. Moreover, you cannot depend on these systems 100%. The sun goes down, the wind stops blowing and water systems can dry up or freeze. To be truly independent one needs to know how to get by without any electricity at all. Then should you be able to have some electricity it will be a boon instead of a necessity.

So..how does one go without a refrigerator? At first glance it might seem preposterous to even consider the thought. I know it did to me. However, when boiled down it's really not as difficult as it might first appear.

Cellars

The very first thing you should consider is buying or building a home with a cellar. Cellars also known as root cellars have temperatures much lower than main floors and considerably lower than outside temperatures. Just having a workable root cellar can preserve many food items for a very long time at a cost of...well nothing after it's built!

Additionally, many people with Cob homes have built within the walls a “cooler”. Items wrapped in water and towels and put in the cooler will last for days as well because the cob walls will stay cool even though the temperature outside is high. These are located where a typical energy guzzling refrigerator might be in the kitchen.


Utilizing Fresh Foods

One of the advantages to living off the grid is having fresh food. In order to do without a refrigerator it is important to pick crops at the height of their nutritional value. So if you have more than you need you can either dry them, can them, sell them or feed them to your pigs! The same goes for meat. Meat that is not eaten right away can also be dried, canned, smoked or sold. Canning food is key when going without a refrigerator. Canned food can last for years without refrigeration if they are canned properly. In addition, drying food can also prolong food. Having a solar dehydrator is key and these can be bought or made without too much trouble.

Now, if you do live in a cold climate you actually have your own freezer in the winter as you can set food items out to freeze (weather permitting) just be sure that they are in a place where wild animals don't have access to them! Items such as milk should be used within hours after coming out of the cow, however you can make butter, cheese and other milk products for the left over milk (as well as feed your livestock) and those products can stay at room temperature for days or in the cellar for weeks. One person I know of uses clarified ghee instead of butter. Apparently clarified ghee doesn't require any refrigeration. However, I have no idea what clarified ghee is so I cannot vouch for the taste of it. Additionally, firmer cheeses like Parmesan and Romano can stay fresh for weeks without refrigeration. Eggs will last for about a week at room temperature, however if you DON'T wash them and keep them cool in a cellar they can last for a month. After that..bake a cake!

Fresh fruit and vegetables will stay fresh longer if set them in water as well. Food should be kept with roots left on (they will keep longer), wrapped in paper towels or newspaper, changing them each day. Many items like lettuce or cilantro will last for 3 days this way. You will have to do some experimentation. However, the best thing to do with green leafy vegetables is to just not pick them until you want to eat them. Some items, like grapes, will keep very well in wet sand. If they do start to disintegrate you can make jam, raisins or stews and/or can them.


Preserving Food without Refrigeration

Items can also be preserved by leaving them on your wood stove until the next morning. Keeping them warm to hot can provide a meal for the very next day. However you might not want to use this method for more than one day.

Sprouting items like beans, seeds, grains and nuts, not only prolongs the food item but is a very nutritious thing to eat. After sprouting, one can grind them and then dehydrate them, making crackers for later or use them in salads or stir-fry’s. The whole process can take days, thereby forestalling the degenerating process.

Items like mayonnaise and salad dressing should just be made in small quantities and used fresh.

In the past our great grandmothers knew recipes that could use stale bread, bit's of cooked meat and turnip tops as well as other items. I would encourage you to buy one of the depression era cookbooks or a cookbook that shows how to use these products rather than waste them. I have included some from amazon.com on this page.

There are instances when you absolutely must have refrigeration. For example if you have a dairy farm you must refrigerate your milk and milk products. In these instances if you still wish to remain "off-the-grid" you can buy a propane refrigerator. There are also refrigerators that run off of wood. The other alternative is to add more solar panels to carry the additional load required by a refrigerator. It goes without saying (but I'll say it now :) that the newer refrigerators are much more efficient than older models, so pay attention to energy efficiency when purchasing a fridge if you can't live without one.

Much of the Off Grid lifestyle comes by thinking outside the box. Most of us grew up never having to do without electricity except for the occasional camping trips and power outages. We have never even thought to turn off the fridge permanently! However, when you really sit down to think about doing without electricity or something like a refrigerator it is not as difficult as it first sounds. Knowledge is key and freedom is the goal!

Happy Homesteading!

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Comments 94 comments

u01dtj6 5 years ago

Wow I never thought I could live without a fridge in my kitchen, but after reading this, I am certain I could. Thanks for sharing your tips.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Yeah..me too. It's amazing what we can do if we just think about it a little! Thanks for commenting; please repost of facebook if you like it.


Deborah-Diane profile image

Deborah-Diane 5 years ago from Orange County, California

Incredible! It would never have occurred to me to live without a refrigerator but, of course, people did live without them for thousands of years!


Nan Mynatt profile image

Nan Mynatt 5 years ago from Illinois

Brie, this is a great article. There are people around the world that do not have electricity as we do. My grand parents lived in the rural south and didn't have a refrigerator. The had special lamps that burned some kind of fluid, (kersone)and they managed. They went to an ice place that gave a large piece of ice,(50 lbs.) and put it in a special icebox. When I saw this as a child I was amazed. You can survive and you need to know how to survive. Wnen my lights went off during a storm, I went to a gas station and bought ice cubes and put them in our freezer box to keep the meat cold until my lights came on again. We all need to know how to survive. Tornadoes can wipe you out and you need to have a plan. Canning is also good, I put my stuff in freezer bags. However if there is no freezor you can't do this. You can also salt your ham or chicken and smoke the parts and it will keep longer without a refrigerator. I marked you up on this one. I know you live in New York, and you seem to know about rural areas.


Mochan profile image

Mochan 5 years ago from Texas

Wow. This is pretty amazing! Sometimes it takes an outside view to really see how to live without what we're used to on a daily basis. My solution is usually solar panels, but like you said, we can't really afford that yet, so it's good to know there are other options!


dan-1 profile image

dan-1 5 years ago from Tampa, FL

When I was in Iraq there were no bases yet so we slept outside for a couple months in ditches and on rooftops and learned to live without the amenities of modern life.

I also observed the people as they lived without electric, tv, fridges, runing water, and most premade foods. They did have stoves and ovens that used propane.

The experience was quite humbling and then to return to America and see people complain about the most petty things because they take everything for granted was really upsetting.


Eve Foss profile image

Eve Foss 5 years ago from Florida

Very informative and food for thought!


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Yes Deborah: Every time I come across a problem with going off the grid I think to myself..what did people do 100 years ago. The answer is always there. Thanks for commenting.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

That's right Nan, I forgot about smoking the meat...I should add that to the article. Thanks for commenting.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Mochan: Yeah, solar panels can be very expensive and if TSHF you might not be able to get replacement parts..so it's good to know how to live without them just in case.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Yes, Dan, we are a spoiled, soft ignorant bunch (in general) but it is nice to see other people on this site that are interested in becoming free. Thanks for commenting.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks Eva


cherrycrime26 profile image

cherrycrime26 5 years ago from NY, Now Living in Atlanta Ga

Interesting Info, must try, voted up


Druid Dude profile image

Druid Dude 5 years ago from West Coast

Brie, are u off-gridding in the Big"A"?


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks Cherrycrime26

No Druid Dude, I haven't gone off the grid yet..just underground :)


techygran profile image

techygran 5 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

Great little think-piece, Brie. I grew up without electricity (we did have a propane washing machine)and am not terribly sentimental about it, but I would like to get off the grid and I do realize that dryers and ovens are the BIG energy hogs...we have a neighbor that is going to stick a couple of wind turbines on his roof and he is currently actively harvesting rain water, growing a LOT of food, etc. He is willing to show other neighbors what to do. Pedal-power is really attractive to me for powering up one's laptop, for example lol. But so far I haven't moved on that one... I WILL keep this vision alive though... voting you up! ~Cynthia


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks for writing Techygran: I think today there are so many innovative ideas that it would not be nearly as bad as it was way back when. Regarding the washing machine. There is an invention shown on this hub:

http://hubpages.com/money/How-much-money-does-it-t...

That washes clothes by using a bike. I've also seen hand cranked washers. I've been washing my own clothes by hand for two years now, but it's just me so it's not so bad.

As far as ovens, I have my eye on a fabulous wood stove that also heats water, they sell them at this Amish hardware store, they are expensive though. But, they will heat your whole house as well and they last forever...and I think they are cute :)

Thanks for voting me up..post it on your facebook too if you like. Thanks again for your comments.


zippot 5 years ago

brilliant and timely im researching this at the moment for our offgridding we hope to buy in Portugal in october.This is the hardest to overcome in a hotter climate. by the way clarified ghee is used alot in indian cooking and makes the food taste great very fatty though.another great article brie.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks Zippot..make sure to watch the videos because they will help even in warmer climates. Thanks also for the tip on clarified ghee (I must say ..they need to name that something else because it doesn't sound very appetizing). One of these days I'll give it a try. I hope you take a look at all my other off-grid articles and please post them on facebook if you like them.

Thanks again.


Druid Dude profile image

Druid Dude 5 years ago from West Coast

Brie, back again. One of the best authoriyies of off-grid I've found so far is "Survivorman" Les Stroud. He has a number of books on the subject which might interest you. Just stopped by to tell you that. Bye :)


Sharyn's Slant profile image

Sharyn's Slant 5 years ago from Northeast Ohio USA

This is a great informative article Brie! I remember living without a stove/oven for many months back in the early 80's. The landlord in my first rental refused to fix the broken one. And we didn't have a microwave then. We used a hibachi grill in the kitchen. We made it without. Although thinking about no electricity at all sounds great, smart, and possible - I quickly remember a couple weeks ago when the electricity went out for about 7 hours during a storm. I eventually freaked because it was SO hot. And I do not currently own a car, so I couldn't even take a "cool" ride. But I'm sure I'd feel different about living off the grid if given an adjustment period and a cooler climate.

Great piece of work here!

Sharyn


Elnav 5 years ago

Guess its a Manhaten thing Brie, but you sound like you just discovered these things. Great Grandmother using stale bread?? That was among my favourite desserts my mother made in post war reconstruction Europe. My North American born wife was born and raised on an off grid farm. Sailors in the sixties and even in the seventiies used to store two or three months of food on board without refrigeration. Eggs will last 60 daya when coated in vaseline.

My neighbor only got electricity in 1965. So those long ago days is not so long ago or forgotten by many people west of the Missippi


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks Druid, I'll look into him.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Yes Sharyn: I definitely COULD NOT live in a warm climate without electricity...I'm really just a baby! So in order to counter that I think a colder climate would be better...at least for me.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Well Elnav, it's not really Manhattan. Some things I write for others who are younger and have not heard of such things as bread pudding....You'd be surprised at the ignorance out there. The book mentioned above called Forgotten Skills talks about a culinary student who was going to throw out cream that was supposed to be whipped cream because she whipped it too much and didn't know that it had become butter! So you see, I have to help everyone!


The Frog Prince profile image

The Frog Prince 5 years ago from Arlington, TX

Voted up and useful.


sierra mackenzie 5 years ago

When we lived off the gird we had a propane refrigerator, it was made by Kelvinator. When I was growing up everyone had ice boxes, and I think people could revert to using ice boxes again if they want to buy blocks of ice every two days. Back then it was delivered by the ice man, and we kids would follow the truck down the street, and the ice man would chip off ice for us to chew.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Yes, I know that some people use propane and that is an option but I wanted to show how to get by with nothing if needs be.


Wesman Todd Shaw profile image

Wesman Todd Shaw 5 years ago from Kaufman, Texas

Awesome Info, Ms. Hoffman - I'm always impressed. I wish I could just memorize your hub pages.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Hey if it's any consolation I have to refer back to certain articles for information because I forget what I wrote!


Lyn.Stewart profile image

Lyn.Stewart 5 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

Thanks brie this is fabulous information and I will definitely be letting people know where to come to find it.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks Lyn.Stewart post it on your facebook if you like. To tell you the truth I really enjoyed researching this because it makes me feel like it is really possible to live a great life without having all these bills. It's not impossible, it's not like camping...it's perfectly civilized and possible and even (at least to me) preferable.


Lyn.Stewart profile image

Lyn.Stewart 5 years ago from Auckland, New Zealand

I agree with you Brie. I would love to be able to live off the grid.


aslanlight profile image

aslanlight 5 years ago from England

I've been living without a fridge and freezer for a while and I don't miss them at all! I've been salting meat and fish but I'd like to use the Zeer pots. Trouble is I think they only work in hot temperatures and I'm in the UK.

My friend is helping me to build a copper pyramid because they preserve food.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

I would think that they would work anywhere..try it and let me know. Thanks for commenting and thanks for becoming a fan!


aslanlight profile image

aslanlight 5 years ago from England

I thought they work because the heat causes the water to evaporate. If it's not very hot wouldn't it take to long to cool it and perhaps it wouldn't cool enough? I'd love to find out but I've been googling and still don't have the answer.


elnav 5 years ago

Someone mentioned hving to 'buy' ice blocks. Before refrigeration wacommon northern lakes becaame ice block factories. The ice was stored in barns and covered with about 3 feet of saw dust or shavings as insulation Typically this lasted to about August.

With modern insullation, a well insulated root cellar type storage could provide frozeen food storage for a long time. The Zee pot containerr would be the daily storage. Up here in logging country we often find icy snow drifts covered in saw dust a couple of months after the snow has gone everywhere else.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

I don't know Aslanlight, let me know if you find out.

Yea Elnav, I think a root cellar is the way to go...once it's put in it costs nothing!


McWhirt 5 years ago

"...it is really possible to live a great life without having all these bills..."

It is incredible how little the human body needs to be healthy and strong. Minimalists survive for days with only a flask of water and a pocket knife. One could survive very nicely in bustling Manhattan with only a rooftop garden and an occasional vial of fine gin. The problem is having the fortitude to do it. With any luck the London riots will come here and we can put your excellent hubs to work.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Well, I hope that doesn't happen (the riots I mean).


aslanlight profile image

aslanlight 5 years ago from England

The riots are pretty disturbing over here! I hope you don't get them.

Today I ordered a cast iron pizza oven for the garden that can cook anything, and also a Wonder Wash hand crank washing machine. Also a solar shower to heat the water to put in the washer.

Now if there's a power cut I can do everything I'd normally be able to do with power! And I can live without electricity any time.

I spent a fair bit of money but it's an investment and I feel really happy about it! I can rest easy knowing I can take care of myself and my son when the power starts to go. They're talking about rationing it here in the UK!


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Well, I hope so too but I fear that we are right behind you. Good luck..btw I have some other "off-grid" hubs that you might like.


Mojo Elvis 5 years ago

http://www.compactappliance.com/Edgestar-80-Qt-Por...

We've been using this on on our sailboat the last year.. works amazingly well and will run off the cigarette lighter in your car, a 12vdc battery or solar panels.

They make smaller ones as well, but I'm getting ready to buy a big one as the 43 quart is not quite large enough.

seriously though, one 80 watt solar panels and this freezer is all you need in an extended outage.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Great, thanks.


Gregoryy profile image

Gregoryy 5 years ago

Its actualy cheaper to live without a refrigerator/microwave etc. There are foods in nature that you can eat without cooking, these may be the healthiest foods. Certain meats/veggis you could boil on a stove. However if you want to live without appliances you could boil them outside on sticks over a hole with fire in it.

If you want milk you could buy goats which are relativley cheap, and may even keep your grass well mowed.

Also it is possible to live in a warm climate without electricity. However it would be simplier to be a vegatarian. You could eat lots of fruits,nuts,and vegtables since many times you can just pick those off a tree/plant and eat them. You could still drink milk if you drink it right away. infact you could even eat certain meats. The thing is you would have to eat the meat right away, instead of saving it. I would recommend boiling simple meat like eggs since boiled eggs can last longer, and would be simplier to eat right away.

Good Idea!!


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Yes, it's cheaper to live without it but some people feel that they need something so I am happy to pass along alternatives.


aslanlight profile image

aslanlight 5 years ago from England

Gregory my friend and I are currently in the process of making a copper pyramid to store food in. Think of it, pyramids were made to preserve pharoahs and the food they put in the burial chambers with them.

They work on magnetism. Apparently they keep flies and other insects away, energise the food and preserve it for longer. It's worth looking into. When the oil runs out it's going to be chaos and everyone will be looking for electric free ways to live. I'm preparing now!

By the way although I love meat and fish vegetarianism may be worth me thinking about, at least some time in future.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Ok, let me know if it works.


Jalus 5 years ago

I had no electricity for over 6 weeks in the aftermath of a hurricane and it was quite an experience at first. It is amazing to me how much we rely on these "things" - but when you have to get by without them - you get pretty creative. The thing I missed the most, after my A/C, was the fridge!


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

The two things that use the most electricity!


prolix1001 5 years ago

Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life..

Refrigeration Equipment


aslanlight profile image

aslanlight 5 years ago from England

I'm probably being dumb but what's A/C Jalus? Is it an American term for computer or does it just mean electricity?

I'm getting pretty inventive myself. I'm even going to look up how to make an underground larder in the garden. I want to find as many ways of doing things as I can.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Air Conditioning


beatenandscarred 5 years ago

Very interesting indeed, Thank you for sharing. One question though, what can be used to store a lot of fridge stuff, like lunch meat, cheese, milk, eggs, mayo, sour cream etc. My fridge is full so need a huge thing to do this with. Thanks you :)


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

You can get a fridge that runs on propane. I'm not sure how much that will cost you though.


aslanlight profile image

aslanlight 5 years ago from England

Eggs don't need refridgerating, they should be kept at room temperature and they last quite a while. Cheese lasts quite well too. I don't use milk or cream but when my son lived here he kept his mayo in a cupboard and it lasted well. I don't think you'd need to refridgerate lunch meat if you eat it within 2 or 3 days.

Use by dates are not accurate as to how long food lasts, it generally lasts much longer than that.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks Aslanlight..I like your name too! I go by Aslanwisdom on another site :)


aslanlight profile image

aslanlight 5 years ago from England

Ah another Lewis fan! Kudos :)


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Yep!


Ryan 5 years ago

You're top-linked from godlikeproductions.com! Nice work Brie!


JStav 5 years ago

Very Cool. Love your blog.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Woo Hoo Thanks Ryan and J Stav!


Nyx.NiteOwl 5 years ago

Great Blog Brie! Y'all don't forget those solar ovens :)


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Oh no, I wont! Thanks for commenting Nyx.NiteOwl.


eye say profile image

eye say 5 years ago from Canada

excellent, and thanks for posting the videos and extra links, it's good to know exactly how to do things. I appreciate all your research


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

All my articles are about things that I am interested in. I just think that if I am interested in them others may be as well and can benefit. Thanks for the comments.


MarloByDesign profile image

MarloByDesign 5 years ago from United States

I really like this Hub, but I really need my fridge although I would love to try your ideas!


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

Maybe you just think you need it? I think that this lifestyle is like anything, you have to try it a little at a time and before you know it you are free.


homesteadpatch profile image

homesteadpatch 5 years ago from Michigan

The skills and knowledge we've lost in the last hundred years is just plain scary. Thanks for reminding of us of some of the things we really can do.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 5 years ago from Manhattan Author

You're welcome, glad you liked it.


Thundermama profile image

Thundermama 4 years ago from Canada

Brie, I dream of living off-grid one day and really enjoyed this Hub. I'm off to read your other hubs. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks Thundermama, feel free to repost them on your facebook!


Steemjammer 4 years ago

Hi Brie, this is a great hub, too. My grandparents used to keep a cold-smoked ham in the cool basement (in a rat proof "cage") of their Appalachian cabin. It never spoiled, and it was made the old-timey way by a farmer my grandfather knew (he bought it from the farmer).

Hot smoking, getting meat above roughly 70 deg. F., makes food that only lasts days or maybe a week w/out refrigeration. Why? Heat ruptures fat cells in the meat. That leads to spoilage.

Cold smoking is done in cool weather, usually with pork. Meat's hung in a shed (smokehouse) and a smouldering, tiny hickory fire is kept going under the meat for days. Oh, the meat is well brined first. The smoking is done for a long time.

You're right, most hard cheeses last in a cool cellar for years.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks Steemjammer..I really need to do some research on smoking meat. I know nothing at all about how to go about it.


Steemjammer 4 years ago

You can fast-smoke in your kitchen if your stove fan is good enough. Otherwise - you may have to vacation where you can make a fire. Ever see how Iron Chefs smoke on a stovetop? But that's only for flavor. You can smoke in a cardboard box in a far off park where you can have a fire. Teeny smouldering "fire" just to make smoke, but it takes days and days to cold smoke. This is one that you kind of have to do living in the country. As I know you will, research it well - for safety - don't die or get sick of food poisoning.

Drying meat is easy in a kitchen. In the wild you'd use the sun. Salt is a huge "must" - I'd buy bags and bags of it for a survival cabin. People will be killing each other for many things in a nightmare scenario: salt will be one of them. Salt is a factor in all food saving/storage techniques I can think of, except freezing and dried fruit. W/out salt, smoking and pickling and jerking and even cheese making - they just son't work so well.

Have been reading up on propane/kerosene freezers. That'd be the "survival bomb." If you're just off grid and civilization exists, you can always buy fuel - as long as you have some kind of income (I need to check your making $ off grid hub - bet you have some good ideas). You can always backpack in kerosene, and if a truck can reach your cabin, you can buy propane.

The freezer, however, costs $1400 to $2200 new, not incl. tax and shipping. Wow. Used are cheaper - but will it break faster?

They work with zero electricity. An amonia water and hydrogen combination is in a closed loop. Heat (propane or kero. flame) heats the amonia/water combo, and the amonia goes off. Pressure from heat forces it through a narrow spot, where it then expands. I do not understand the role of the hydrogen yet.

Anyway, I understand the basics. When a fluid expands, the molecules must "move around more." They need energy to do that, to move around more, so they pull heat from the environment around them.

I'm guessing the expansion takes place in a specially engineered metal part inside the freezer. There's no electricity, so no fan. So it looks and works different from normal freezers, of course. Anyway, the "heat" from the freezer (of course even if it's 28 deg F in there, there's still heat there - and it needs to be much colder, which is what the amonia expansion does - drops it to 20 or colder) goes into the molecules of amonia, which go back into the water - to recirculate again - and somehow the hydrogen recirculates, too.

I've yet to find a good explanation of how a thermostat works on such a freezer. Am very curious (they are expensive alone, the thermostat).

In a survival situation, stockpiled kerosene (which lasts a long time) could keep such a freezer going a long time. I wonder if - did you see the movie "Mosquito Coast?" The ice maker in that movie is real. The basic tech. is, anyway. You could convert "wood fire" into ice - but maintaining a freezer...it'd be hard. I wonder if a kerosene freezer would burn on other oils, like peanut oil that you can grow? Maybe w/ adaptation. Or alcohol.

A reliable freezer would be huge. I wouldn't go for a solar-electric freezer and/or a wind electric freezer. A period of enough cloudy-low wind days would = meltdown and loss of all stored food.

That said, even a freezer w/ 100 gallons of kerosene stored away could fail, break. Or someone could steal your kerosene. Layers of backups would be what you need. Lots of dried beans/peas/grain hidden in good spots. You can leave many root crops in the ground, and they tend to last in winter (carrots and so on). But a freezer, as long as it kept working, would be amazing.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

If you were located near a good rushing stream you could use that electricity for your freezer. I've already started looking into smoking and how to do it..and yes you are right bags and bags of salt. I think salt would be the best back up.


Steemjammer 4 years ago

I'm having trouble figuring out how much electricity a micro hydro really produces. So many variables. Are you damming a creek and going old school? Or are you using the filtered-intake hose down to in-creek generator device? Those are easier to install but don't make much electricity unless head is really good, from what I've read. You'd need several to many of these, possibly - and that'd be pricey (plus a lot of other stuff). That said, it is doable - and this in-creek design does NOT block water flow off your property and should not break any laws (not that this matters in a true survival situation, when laws fall apart - unless downstream neighbors are armed - always something - still it is doable).

Head (drop) and flow (gallons per minute) combine to produce power. But low head & high flow is hard to harness. You want big head (a lot of drop in feet or meters), especially using the easy hose-in-creek type, or so it seems. With sufficient drop on your property, you can possibly run some lights and a few small, high efficiency appliances. You'd be surprised though: many micro hydro situations seem to only power some lights - not even one major appliance.

Well, that's what people said - others say they can run appliances. So much depends on the quality of the micro hydro device, the numbers of them - the head and so on. Again, I've found it hard to find really good info, but I'll keep looking. But it's kind of an apples and oranges - and apples and pineapples comparison sometimes. People on the different sights tend to give general information, too general to be useful (or maybe I need to learn to find better key search words).

What do these people mean by "major appliance?" A/C, dishwasher, TV? All not necessary. They're not really clear, and it gets even more complicated because some set-ups go generator to dc batteries to ac converter to house. If your freezer compressor runs only, say six hours a day (or four - I don't know how often they run) - it's conceivable that batteries could actually run a freezer with a wimpy micro hydro - because the freezer only runs x hours a day!

Micro hydro has another issue - if batteries fill and there's no grid to spill over to - problems could happen. I've read this part over a year ago - fuzzy in my memory - but when I was studying this, I was impressed that micro hydro wasn't so "easy." There were tactics for dealing with excess current generation - so it's not a dead end for micro hydro - but you can't drop the ball on it. This is something to be researched and understood. Sorry my memory is bad.

Other issues: if creek freezes you get no power. If, however, it's that cold - good news - just roll your freezer out of the (presumably wood heated) cabin outside - where it's FREEZING - and nothing will thaw! Hah! But if a frozen creek = damage to your hose and generator - agh, that's a big problem! And what if a drought hits? You could lose all your frozen food. Everything depends on that creek.

That's why I'd always have multiple fall-back positions. Advanced technology often requires a "civilizaton" and a steady income to support it for a decent period of time. Even if our micro hyrdo runs great, it will break - the freezer will break - it's inevitable. It could be that the best tactic, as some above people suggested, really is to rely on no freezing/refrigeration at all (or again, to certainly have it ready as a fall-back or safety net).


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

Steemjammer, did you look at the links and vids I have with my articles..one of them talks about a hydro-electric-generator. I think it's on the originals "How much does it cost to go Off-the-Grid" article. In any case, if you haven't looked at all of them I suggest you do..lots of good info in them.


Steemjammer 4 years ago

Was going to say yes, cuz I saw the vids w/ the wood water wheel and the pipe spinning the wheel at least - but went back to check - and the Alternatives Ltd (or is it Energy Alternatives LTD) - the Canadian company's site - I'd missed that. Thanks, Brie! THAT is one of the most useful micro hydro sites I've seen yet!

They said two really useful things for me: (1) that there are brush-free generators that last years w/out breaking (needing brush replacement) and (2) they have a whole breakdown on how to guestimate what various water flow types will do for you (like this situation would run lights and a freezer - this would power a small house, appliances and maybe lite power tools - this would power a small village and so on).

I know someone who owns land w/ a spring fed creek, but they don't own the spring - and the drop is very gradual. I get the idea that if they ran some of that creek through a pvc pipe, they'd get enough electricity to run lights and a small appliance. BUT this creek swells to insane flows when it rains hard - the challenge would be how to place the pipes so as not to get ruined in floods.

Finding a water source w/ a big drop in feet - and running a pipe down - that's what you want.

Found another site that said to run a "normal house" (i.e. lights and appliances - maybe heating), you'd need either 10' drop and 100 gal per minute or 200' drop and 5 gal per minute. This means either a decent little stream or a big drop in elevation (like you had a spring way up a valley's side). Depending on where you are in the country, these aren't impossible to find.

I'm intrigued by making my own generator. I've read you can make a good windmill w/ pvc pipe and an old Chevy alternator. You'd have to stockpile brushes and know how to replace (cont. use = brush wears out in 6 mo to 2 yrs). The same might work in micro hydro (but a professionally made generator would be a heckuva lot better).

I'm also still trying to get my head around: do I want dc or ac? DC is easier, maybe. AC is what we're used to. Some micro hydro systems have the generator fill batteries with dc power. You sell excess to the power co. if you're on a grid. If not you need a plan for the excess power (I'll have to look that up, forgot what it is). Then, to get power in your cabin, you convert battery power to ac and just use it.

Why fool with a battery system? An appliance will draw more power than your waterwheel is making at the moment. But you were using almost no power the night before, so your batteries stored it. It gives you the flexibility of being hooked to the grid. But it's all more stuff to maintain/buy/worry about breaking.

Micro hydro is clearly the best if you want comfort and the ability to do awesome stuff off grid. As you've said, I'd look for steam connected property. I'd learn to eyeball good micro hydro creeks - there's tons of variables - but this is doable. If you've picked a really well made micro hydro device, if you can fix it when it wears out, if you've thought out engineering/flood/freeze issues in your stream - you might have a really good deal here.

In the "civ breaks down" scenario, if you owned a decent micro hydro - i.e. one that could drive power tools - you'd have insane bargaining power. You could attract skilled people to live near or with you, mechanics and so on - who can keep machinery going. That'd make you a local power player and would make your survival much more likely. It also might make you a target, except that talented people and resources often get spared.

In 1300 or 1400 Tamerlane the Great (Great? He was a psychotic mass killer) killed countless thousands of people in Central Asia - wiped out city after city. The only people he spared were ARTISANS, whom he sent to his capitol. Enslaved but alive.

In a Mad Max world, if you could convince a war lord that he needed you, because you'd stay on the proptery and keep the micro hydro going - and he and his men could use power tools to fix their stuff when they came by - you'd survive. If he wanted comfort - heat and refrigeration - he'd kick you out of your cabin when he wasn't off raiding - but you'd live. He'd need you to keep it all going. That's better than nothing.

That said, you can't count on such people being sensible. In Africa, when "soldiers" (gangs) take over farms with irrigation - they often rip out the pipes to sell for scrap - so they can buy beer or drugs. Vikings were very destructive at first - only after generations did they come to settle. Guns and brave, allied neighbors - and knowing when to fight - all nec. in such a situation. Men in "beserker mode" = insanity.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

Glad you liked it.


Steemjammer 4 years ago

Finally found a site that explains the amonia absorption cycle in refrigeration: http://www.dr-fix-it.com/absorption.html

You heat a water/amonia solution. Amonia evaporates out (like distilation process), is cooled to further remove water vapor, then is cooled to liquid form. Liquid amonia flows to a spot where you have gaseous hydrogen under pressure. The amonia evaporates there and, because its molecules need to move around more to be gaseous - they pull heat from the environment there - causing COOLING.

Next the amonia hydrogen mix is pumped to the absorber, which is relatively cool. Amonia is easily absorbed back into the water. The hydrogen is piped back to its chamber, and the cycle starts all over (it runs continually).

What's cool about this is that it seems to require no powered pumps. You just heat it. Therefore, in principle, any heat applied to it should produce cooling.

Also, it just uses amonia, water and hydrogen in a sealed and closed system. No ozone-eating chemicals (though amonia is nasty - I doubt it's anywhere near as bad as Freon and so on).

It seems to me refrigeration, freezing (food storage) and even A/C could be achieved very easily with solar, wood fire, or other forms of heat. This would apply to the world now, without a "collapse" - we could achieve comfort brought from being cool without using so much energy. Of course, if it were that easy, it'd be done. Still, I bet a clever person could crack this nut.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

It's more than I can understand!


Steemjammer 4 years ago

We made a steamboat! Found an instructable for a putt putt boat using coiled copper tubing (3mm dia) and a disposable mini-loaf "tin" or "pan." It worked!

We made a foil "lamp" to hold a teaspoon or two of parafin oil (lantern oil from the hardware store), made a wick from a rag, and lit it under the coil. The tube ends stick in the water.

I *think* it works like this: water in the coil flashes into steam and drives water out the pipes, pushing the boat forward. The vacuum this makes sucks water back into the coil, which flashes and again pushes water out. Though water rushing in might seem to dampen the momentum or energy to go forward, it doesn't. It works!

Have you Googled people who've made steam powered generators? One guy's making enough electricity to power a modern house - i.e. to run modern appliances.

I don't know if he uses a battery system (I bet that's what I would do, if I had the resources and smarts to pull it off). My generator (whatever powers it) would make DC power and fill batteries. If the grid is nearby, excess would be sold to the power company.

My house and shop would run off the batteries. I would probably have to convert to AC to do that (unless I make a DC house, which is possible - just use appliances made for campers). The advantage of a DC house is no loss of power converting to AC. The disadvantages are: fewer appliance options - and you can't use many power tools (made to run on AC). I guess converting toAC is the way to go.

My main hitch with steam is boiler safety - they can blow up! Wish I had more experience with them. Obviously they can be run safely, but only with the right knowledge, discipline and equipment (and respect for the forces involved).


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

Interesting Steemjammer, I'll have to look into it.


LouisAlbert profile image

LouisAlbert 4 years ago from Taipei

Great ideas for fresh produce. Thanks a lot.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks LouisAlbert.


jhenderson 4 years ago

We design into our off-grid systems an 8 cu foot freezer or it can be a fridge that runs on solar and with it's battery backup can go 3 days without seeing any sun. Affordable and reliable.

need more info universalenergy.john@yahoo.com


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

That's great, thanks for the link "jhenderson".


Attila 4 years ago

I'm amazed.

How could you be a survival expert as you are?

And a woman so I'm really surprised.

You presentation is brief and contentful, (matterful, I have checked the dictionary:-))

You are better than Grill Bears

I hope that you wont be hurt by agents of NWO.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

LOL, I have a lot of time on my hands to research these things. I hope I'm not hurt by them either but I think it's all a matter of time. My articles are geared toward giving us all more time. None of us get out of this life alive anyway :) Thanks for commenting "Attila".


monicamelendez profile image

monicamelendez 4 years ago from Salt Lake City

Very interesting stuff Brie. Do you not have a fridge then?


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 4 years ago from Manhattan Author

I do, but I don't pay for it..so as long as that is the case I'll keep it :)


maddy 17 months ago

Good article. I have lived off grid last seven yes on a paid off place....built house from scratch, have solar etc....have lived without a refrigerator for last three years......in winter, I use mother nature to keep things cold outside, but summer has been a challenge.....I have used ice in a camping ice chest...I rotate food items and have to replenish every three days....I have a propane fridge but have resisted using it....yes, one can live without a fridge, but it really takes a bit of effort. Root cellars, eating fresh, and sometimes just eating more vegetarian and less meat in summer are solutions..... Thanks for writing.


Brie Hoffman profile image

Brie Hoffman 17 months ago from Manhattan Author

Thanks for sharing your experiences with us Maddy.

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