DIY Off-Grid Refrigeration

diy-refrigerationThere are so many things that we take for granted in our everyday life. We rely on these things to make our lives as easy as possible while we do what we have to do.

Storing food and certain medicines is something I feel is very easy to take for granted. I am not talking about storing your groceries in your pantries or kitchen cabinets, I am talking about prepared food, dairy products, insulin, etc., that we want to store for later on. It is so easy to just put these things into the refrigerator and forget about them until you need them.

If the power goes out and the fridge doesn’t keep things cool anymore – what other options do we have? If you are trying to live off grid and have no power source – how can you keep food and certain medicines cool and usable for longer?

Here are a few refrigeration options for you to consider:

Zeer Pot (pot-in-pot refrigeration)

A zeer pot is simply a small pot inside a bigger pot with an insulating layer of wet sand between the two. It helps keep food cool zeer-potthrough evaporation of the moisture inside keeping the smaller, inner pot cool. A zeer pot can keep vegetables usable for up to 20 days so this is a very effective method.

To make your own zeer pot you will need:

  • Two clay pots – 1 needs to fit inside the other with at least one centimeter of space between the pots
  • Coarse sand
  • Water
  • A cloth that fits completely over the top of the smaller pot

How to make a zeer pot:

  • Take the two pots and fill in any holes at the bottom they may have. You can use pebbles, clay, duct tape etc
  • Fill the base of the larger pot with one inch of the sand. The smaller pot should sit level with the height of the bigger pot.
  • With the smaller pot inside the larger one, fill the gap between the pots with more sand. Leave a small space at the top to give the sand room to expand when water is added.
  • Pour water into the sand – make sure you do this slowly to allow the sand to absorb all the water. Continue to pour the water in until the sand cannot hold any more.
  • Place your food into the inner pot
  • Cover the inner pot with a wet cloth – hessian works well for this.

Make sure you keep your zeer pot in a dry, well-ventilated area to allow effective evaporation to keep your food cool.

Root Cellar

A root cellar is a storage and refrigeration method that has been used around the world for centuries.  The cellar is partially or fully buried underground. A root cellar will keep food stored inside cool in summer but prevent it from freezing in winter. To build a root cellar there are a few options:

  • You can dig a hole deep enough to build a shed or small building inside before burying. An entrance would need to be built in the form of a trap door on the top of the cellar.
  • You could use the driest part of your basement and convert this into a root cellar. A concrete wall with a sealed entrance could be constructed. A cellar built outside the house walls for food storage also works well.
  • Building a small building and then covering all sides and the top with rocks, earth and soil is also effective.
  • The easiest way would be to dig into the side of a hill – this method allows for good water drainage

Providing adequate ventilation, humidity and temperatures are maintained in the cellar. Food can potentially be stored for a few months before starting to go bad.

Evaporative Cooler Fridge

  • Assemble a shelving unit (you can pick one of these up cheaply at any DIY store).  When it comes to putting the top shelf onto the unit – attach it upside down so it will be able to hold water.
  • Cut some burlap to size so it will be able to fit over and around the shelving unit.
  • Soak your burlap in water and place it around the unit – fix it in place so it will not fall off.
  • Fill your inverted shelf with water
  • Leave an extra amount of burlap folded over on the top soaking in the water.

Evaporative-RefrigeratorAs the water wicks down the burlap, it causes ae cooling effect on anything that you have placed on the shelving unit.   This will need to be kept in the shade to make it as effective as possible.



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