Refrigeration Without Electricity

Nowadays, most people in the USA and other industrialized nations don’t know how to keep food cool without electricity. It’s a skill our grandparents had, and a skill that can be lifesaving in times of emergency.

One approach to reducing your dependence on electric refrigeration is to reduce or eliminate food that requires refrigeration. This is simpler for vegans than for people whose diet includes meat and dairy, but is also do-able for us omnivores.

Another approach is to explore low-tech food-cooling options including root cellars, evaporative cooling, and passively cooled cabinets.

Melliodora permaculture center in Australia has a “cool cupboard for storage of fruit, vegetables, eggs, cheese and flour. A vent at the bottom of the cupboard draws cool air in from under the floor into the insulated cupboard and a roof vent releases warm air. Wire baskets allow the air to flow through. This design feature means that only a small refrigerator is required, saving considerable energy.”

5 Forgotten Ways To Keep Food Cold Without Electricity (article from Off the Grid News) offers brief descriptions of a root cellar, running water, evaporative cooling, Zeer pot, and icebox.

Also, there are commercially produced low-tech products such as the Mitticool clay refrigeratormentioned in this article by Inhabitat which also mentions some pretty futuristic, cutting-edge options including a gel-based cooling device and a futuristic-looking underground fridge designed to mimic a root cellar.

My current “outdoor non-fridge” pictured above, is viable for short periods in cool weather but is not practical in the long run. I’m working on a design for a storage closet made of concrete blocks. I’d put this on the north side of my house just under the drip line of the roof. In our coastal climate we get water dripping off the roof most nights. The evaporation of the water off the concrete would help keep things cool. Sort of an above-ground root cellar. It’s actually similar to the concept of the “Mitticool clay refrigerator” linked above.

Also, my refrigerator, even when it’s not plugged in, is significantly cooler than the surrounding environment. I’m currently storing condiments in there.

At one point I thought of buying a mini fridge, and may still do so, for the few things I ever would need to refrigerate. But if you go this route, you need to check the wattage carefully. I hear that mini fridges can consume almost as much electricity as a full-sized energy-efficient fridge, in which case you might as well stick with that if you have one. (My fridge is large and not energy-efficient.)

If you’d like to read more about my experiments with doing without a fridge, type “Fridgeless” in the search field (right sidebar).

In a future post I’ll be talking about simple, low-tech methods of food preservation. In the meantime, stay cool, everyone!