Friday, January 18, 2008

Life without a fridge

our empty fridge
Yep you read that right. It's been 3 months since we unplugged our old beast and to be honest, its been pretty easy. You might be wondering why on earth we'd do such a thing. Well, the main reason was to attempt to cut our electricity use by 90% as per the Riot. But I also just liked the challenge of it. I mean, is it even possible to live without a fridge?

Well so far, the answer for us is yes. Here's how we did it..

First we emptied the fridge and threw away/composted all the contents of the half full bottles and jars of stuff we were never going to eat. Basically we were paying to keep garbage cold.

Then we took just about all our condiments and put them in the cupboard. Because believe it or not, most condiments will survive for years out of the fridge. I'm told even mayo. But we've chosen not to take that risk and don't keep it in the house anymore.

Then we took what was left: milk, cheese, butter, eggs, the remaining condiments (salsa for one - I'm paranoid about tomatoes), and most veggies and put them in this handy cooler:

our cooler

When we first started, in order to keep the cooler cold, we had to make ice (in 2L pop bottles), in our mini chest freezer in the basement. Now I know some folks will have questions about why we would keep a chest freezer and not a fridge. Well part of our 'local eating' strategy requires the use of the freezer to preserve some food for the winter. Also, this mini freezer is new and v. efficient. Unlike our old clunker fridge.

Anyway, now that it's cold outside we don't have to use the freezer at all to make ice. Instead we just put the pop bottles outside, let them freeze and then swap them for the ones in the cooler.

So there you go. Life without a fridge. Please don't hesitate to send along your questions/comments if you have them. I'm sure there must be some!

For those of you who'd like to lessen your impact but aren't up for unplugging your fridge, here are some less drastic things you can do:

1. Keep your fridge at least 2/3 full. Even if that means putting in covered containers of water, or bottles of beer (!). An empty fridge works extra hard to stay cool.
2. If you live in a cold place in the winter, try filling 2L pop bottles or yogurt containers 3/4 full with water and leaving them outside to freeze. Once frozen, put them in your fridge. Your fridge will cycle on a lot less if there is something in there already keeping everything cold.
3.Vacuum those coils at the back a few times a year and
4. Put only cold items in the fridge. If you live in a cool place, cool your food outside before putting in the fridge (we have no choice but to do this with the cooler)

Stay tuned to find out how unplugging our fridge has impacted our bottom line...we are expecting our BullFrog bill any day now!


Nath said...

Really like the idea about using cold vessels from outside to reduce the fridge’s workload.

Turboglacier said...

Say... thinking about following your lead on this this summer. But I'm curious-- is the theor that it's more efficient to use a dedicated freezer to make ice, then use the ice to cool the "fridge" (as opposed to just running a standard fridge/freezer combination)? Would love to know what you know about this...

(Hope you read comments on your old posts...)

Green Grrl said...

It is neat huh? And its surprising how well it works.

So excited that you are thinking of going fridge-free.
As for the theory, this is tough to answer. For us, we had the freezer anyway because we buy our meat locally which means in the fall we get a lot all at once. Since I don't know how to can or dehydrate meat yet, we needed a freezer.

However I do think the freezer could use less electricity than a standard fridge/freezer in certain circumstances (e.g. if the freezer is new and the fridge is old, if the freezer is not too big, if it's a chest freezer - more efficient than an upright freezer). All of the above examples applied to us.

Out of curiosity I did a quick internet search and found a 15 cu ft chest freezer that uses 375 kwh per year.
I also found a 16.5 cu ft fridge/freezer that uses 460kwh per year.
Which was interesting because I thought a fridge would use more than that. But then again, 16.5cu ft is quite small, I think the average fridge these days is 21 cu ft and uses around 550-600kwh per year. (our old fridge was using at least twice that much)

Of course the other thing to consider is the extra work the freezer has to do to make the ice to go in the cooler. With this in mind, I think the summer is when this scenario is least efficient. However this is also when our freezer is most empty and freezers are more efficient when they are more full (e.g. with ice).

Anyway, none of this is terribly scientific, but I have found a big decrease in my electricity consumption so something must be going right! :)

Hope that helps.

Turboglacier said...

Interesting, yes. I suddenly find myself lusting after chest freezers, an appliance I never had an interest in myself.

It seems to me that the electricity use of a freezer would vary dramatically depending on how much un-frozen stuff you put in it, since the freezing process is where most of the heat extraction has to occur. Just keeping a box of air (or already frozen water) cold doesn't take much energy, but turning water into ice does.

But what I'm working on is building up a pile of naturally-made ice in my back yard right now... then I thought when spring comes, I could move it to a freezer in the cellar and use chunks to chill an unplugged fridge in the kitchen. Since the cellar is much cooler than the kitchen in summer, when the ice runs out it might be efficient to keep making more in the freezer & moving it to the fridge. Plus, then I wouldn't have the fridge heating up the kitchen...

Green Grrl said...

I agree! And I'm going to copy your idea if you don't mind. By the end of winter we should have used up enough of our food in the freezer that we'd have room for quite a bit of ice so I'm going to fill that space with ice made outside.

If hubby and I ever realize our dream of moving out of the city and into an off the grid house, we'll have a proper spring house and/or ice house.

Looking forward to hearing how your experiment goes. :)

Robyn said...

I just found your blog post after doing a search about fridge-free living. I've been considering going w/out my fridge for several months now and it all came together when I sold my fridge last week! The new owner will pick it up in a few days, but until then I've decided to launch into this new lifestyle and I'm on day 5 of having it unplugged. Such liberation! I'm looking into foods and recipes that will do well w/ no refrigeration. You may be interested in this blog I found recently - Living without a Fridge
I also published a post on my transition to life without a fridge. Glad to know there are others doing this!

Green Grrl said...

Hi Robyn!
Congrats on selling your fridge! Sorry for my late response - I was on holidays and disconnected. Welcome to the fridge free community.
Since we have a little cooler I don't know that I have any recipes to share for food (I'm assuming you mean leftovers) that will last without any refrigeration. But I have discovered lots of great canning recipes (mostly from other bloggers). The good ones I've blogged about - they're in the food category.
Looking forward to reading your updates on your blog. :)