The 'Super Fridge' (upright freezer conversion)
I'm one for trying out different things, and I like to see what we can get away with before committing to something bigger and 'better'. Fridges and freezers are one of the biggest energy consumers in the household - usually behind heating / cooling and hot water systems.
|Our upright freezer to fridge conversion in action
We've trialed a number of fridge systems here before settling on the upright freezer conversion.
- First we used an old 150lt bar fridge that used around 670Wh per day
- Then we bought a 150lt chest freezer (using around 466Wh per day) for preserving bulk food - with the idea of a possible conversion.
- Our bar fridge died two weeks later so we used ice from our freezer to create a 'ice box bar fridge'
- We then tried a smaller old Engel fridge (about 50lt) that I had in the Kombi that used about 420Wh per day.
The things that I like about the upright are that they take up less floorspace and its much easier to access / stack goods. There are elements (if that's what they are called) on each shelf, so the air is cooled evenly throughout. The drawers are clear, and hold the cold air, even when the door is open. But they do come with drawbacks: they are less efficient that a chest design, water condenses on the elements and drips into the drawers - more of an issue in the top two shelves, so food should be stored in containers. They don't have a drainage plug, so the probe needs to break the door seal, and water removed manually. The plastic drawers are clunky, could break and be difficult to replace.
I didn't want to spend a lot of money on the freezer, as I wasn't sure that the system would work well. Not long ago Aldi had a 190lt upright freezer on offer for $299 and I jumped at the chance. Getting to the store on opening there was a crowd already lined up. I managed to get one of the four on offer, finding a large trolley in store to take it to the checkout. Thanks to the fella that gave me a hand with it! It's a bit of a mission taking a freezer through the checkout - and then getting it home.
The freezer I got is only a 2.5 star rated one, not great - but I figured that it would be fine for it's purpose. When used as a freezer it's expected to use 334 kWh per year - 915 Wh per day.
The Control BoxNOTE: I can't recommend that you attempt this yourself as there are high voltages involved in the conversion.
I asked a friend of mine, John - an electrical engineer, about the conversion. He had trialed one in the past and made a programmable controller for the purpose, that he kindly loaned to me. He suggested that I buy a digital thermostat controller on eBay, around $15 delivered - much cheaper than he could make one up for - and make the controller up myself (being the DIY kinda guy that I am).
The basic idea of it is that the temperature probe determines the range at which power is supplied to the freezer, so that it turns on at say 7º and turns off at 3º (these are the settings that I am currently using). I did have it set lower, but found that the temperature sensor has a delay, and so the air space continues to get colder after the power is shut off. You can also set a delay, which allows for fluctuations as the door is opened and closed - I set mine at 2 minutes.
I wanted to wire it up to a power point so that I could plug the freezer in, rather than cut the cable on it. It also means that you could use it for other devices easily. I ran my old bar fridge power cable to the controller (see wiring diagram), and then onto the power point (earth running directly). This was all fitted into a plastic box to keep everything together and looking neat. I extended the wire for the probe so that I could run it up the back of the freezer, along the top and into the back of the freezer compartment. I used white electrical tape to fix it, and used tape to reduce the air gap at the entry point where the wire breaks the door seal. I did this at the top of the door to reduce potential losses through the breaking of the seal.
|Digital Temperature Controller - programmable and very flexible device.
|Wiring diagram - the wire on the right (to #4) is negative, left (to #3) is positive - it wasn't clear here.
|Controller fitted into a box with a power point, so not having to modify the freezer wiring.
|Wire for probe extended and fed through top of freezer to be fitted at the back - see water condensing on 'elements'.
The ResultsWe've been running the 'super fridge' for a bit over a month now and here are the results from my testing:
- 19/3/13 1:30pm began testing
- first 29 hours 330 Wh = 273 Wh per day
- 28/3/13 8:30pm (9 days 7 hours / 223 hours) 1.89 kWh = average 203 Wh per day
- 12/4/13 10:00pm (24 days 8.5 hours / 584.5 hours) 4.39 kWh = average 180 Wh per day
- 25/4/13 10:30am (approx 37 days) 6.12 kWh = average 165 Wh per day
28/3 - 12/4 (approx 15 days) 2.5 kWh = 167 Wh per day
12/4 - 25/4 (approx 12.5 days) 1.73 kWh = 138 Wh per day
More testing with a better quality device would ensure more accurate results - but these results indicate some great savings. It's not uncommon for similar size fridges to use five times more electricity. The 'super fridge' uses around 165Wh per day, as compared to the same unit used as a freezer which was rated at 915 Wh per day, about 80% less power.
As a side note - I think that cool cupboards should be built into every new home, which helps to reduce the size of the fridge needed - but more research really needs to be done on how to design them well. I am looking at fitting a fan inside ours with a digital temperature controller to help it draw air through when needed - to help regulate temperature. More later...
UPDATE: See the 5 year update post to see how it performed over time.