How to Cool When the Power is Off?

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Having some birds in hand beats having them in the bush – as the saying goes. Especially when there aren’t any in the store. Or you can’t afford to shop at the store anymore. That’s why I decided to get back into raising chickens and ducks and now have a flock of both.

There’s another benefit, too, that isn’t often talked about but which is important – so I thought I would.  

Live birds don’t require refrigeration. Their eggs, either. At least, not right away. 

Store bought chicken (and duck) has to be cooked and eaten – or refrigerated – right away.  So also store-bought eggs, because these have been washed – per government regulations – which washes away the protective coating eggs have that keeps them fresh for days without refrigeration. A live chicken or duck doesn’t have to be eaten today and requires no refrigeration so long as it’s out pecking around the yard. Thus, if the power goes out – and you don’t have an alternative way to power a ‘fridge (or freezer) your food will not go bad.

Eggs laid by your flock can be collected daily and stored for days at room temperature without them going bad. Collect/cook/eat them on a rolling basis and you may never need to refrigerate them. Two or three eggs per day will provide about 16-18 grams of protein per day, without having to worry about spoilage. Ordinarily, a chicken or duck just processed is put in the ‘fridge or freezer afterward, to be eaten the next day – or whenever. But if there is no power then you can just eat cook and eat the birds as-you-go. 

Of course, it’s nice to have the ‘fridge – and freezer. 

This is why I am learning about back-up solar and specifically, how to set up something at home that is similar to what many people already have – in their RVs. These often come with RV-specific refrigerators that are designed to operate on much less electricity than a home ‘fridge. Many RVs come with or are adapted to work with solar arrays that (along with battery power for overnight) can keep things cool even if you are not connected to the grid.

These RV ‘fridges aren’t generally full-sized but they are big enough to keep important perishables – like meat and milk – cool. Some do not have the usual compressor – which draws a lot of power. Instead they cool using a chemical reaction process, which enables them to work on 12 volt power. You could also use an inverter to step up 12 volt solar power but the point is, it’s possible to have refrigeration without grid electricity and that’s what I’m working on working out. 

The big thing with solar, of course, is that it doesn’t catch rays at night. This means running on stored (battery) power until the sun comes up again. Is this a problem, in terms of keeping things cool?

I guess I’ll find out!

But I think it’ll be ok.  I think so, because when the grid power has gone down in the past, the food in the house ‘fridge stays cold for at least overnight, no problem – and longer, if you keep the doors closed. A smaller, RV-type ‘fridge ought to be just as capable of doing the same and probably better, because it would be connected to the battery bank of a solar system and that would allow it to “cycle” overnight. Remember: Refrigerators draw the most power getting cool – not maintaining it.

I haven’t worked out the details – the math – yet but it’s in process and I will let everyone know what I’ve done, once I have. In general, I intend to get 2-4 panels (200-400 watts) and mount these on the roof of my shed, which gets a lot of sunlight during the day. These will be wired up to a charge controller/battery array – I’m not sure whether to use heavy-duty lead acid/AGM or lithium; cost will be a factor – and this will serve as the power bank for a small RV-type ‘fridge as well as for my battery-powered tools. 

It’s my first foray into the world of off-grid electricity, so if anyone out there knows more and is willing to offer up their advice/experience, I would be grateful. 

In the meanwhile, it looks like the next batch of ducks will arrive sometime over the next two weeks or so. These ought to be an interesting and motley crew of birds  as there has been some “fraternizing” between the Muscovys, the Rouens and the Cayugas. 

We actually have more birds – and eggs – than we can use. Which is a good thing, in that it means having extra to trade for other things. 

That’s the kind of “inflation” I like!

. . .

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  1. Buy a used RV with 3 fueled fridge freezer and a generator. Solar and batteries work but they are too expensive in the long run. A RV is at least a duel use tool.

    Short of a Mad Max world power will only be down locally for a few weeks, with a generator you can keep your indoor fridge and freezer working long enough to finally get to that ham you bought three years ago.

  2. I wonder if many others thought of Operation Gladio…

    …while reading about this recent news bit:

    ‘Fires and Explosions Destroy 20+ Food Processing Plants Moments After Biden Warns of Food Shortages’

    … “Yet… the news doesn’t seem to care.

    Look, whenever there’s an apartment fire in a major city like New York City, nearly every news network covers it.

    Because of safety standards and improved safety materials, it’s rare for a large fire to happen.

    So whenever a massive fire happens in a commercial setting, industrial setting, or in a city skyscraper, it’s national news.

    Yet this has happened at over 20+ food plants and no one in the media (except FOX… and us) are asking this question!” …

  3. Inverter failure

    Tesla Recalls 127,785 Vehicles In China Due To Possible Inverter Failure

    The tsunami of Tesla recalls that started months ago shows no signs of stopping. The most recent recall was announced this morning, when it was reported that 34,207 imported and 93,578 China-made vehicles were being recalled.

    The recall is due to a possible inverter failure, according to Bloomberg, who cited a statement from State Administration for Market Regulation.

    The vehicles in question were produced between January 11, 2019 and January 25, 2022.

    Gordon Johnson of GLJ Research said in a Thursday morning note to clients: “This does not sound like an over-the-air update (i.e., these cars will likely have to be fixed, manually), and seems (very) important/critical (i.e., losing power while moving)…”

  4. Eric- These ought to be an interesting and motley crew of birds as there has been some “fraternizing” between the Muscovys, the Rouens and the Cayugas.

    Please post some pictures once their mature, thanks.

  5. Seriously looking into solar/wind as a backup in addition to the propane gen-set we have. The up front cost of generator and 1000 gallons of propane (before Petroleum jumped ) was far less than even a small Solar/wind setup with inverters and batteries. As someone commented the inverter is simply another point of possible failure so a DC setup be another layer of hedge.

    You can also store eggs in water and masons lime for up to 2 years at room temp.

    I’ve yet to try it personally yet We generally eat, give away or bury in the raised beds the eggs we don’t eat. Awesome fertilizer, every bed we fertilized with cracked or unwanted eggs produced substantially better than those without.

  6. It’s a misconception that opening the freezer door “let’s the cold out.” The “cold” is not “stored” in the air but rather in the food. Air has negligible specific heat capacity compared to water (and most food is mostly water). This means the air does not hold much thermal energy but the food does. Even if you UNPLUG the freezer and then leave the door open 5 minutes, the original air temperature inside freezer will be restored within 5 minutes of shutting the door again, assuming your freezer was full of completely frozen food.

    tl;dr it’s ok to space out staring into the freezer for 5 minutes

    • Mostly agreed, I fill the empty space of the fridge/freezer with jugs of cold well water. This helps normalize the temperature and prolong the time my food stays cold when I need to change over to a new propane tank.
      Chest freezers are more efficient though as the least insulated part, the door seal, is located at the top. It’s also much easier to add extra insulation to a chest freezer if desired.

  7. Eric,

    I’m sure you’ll get and have gotten a load of good advice here, but here’s my 2 cents:

    A 12V RV fridge actually runs off of propane. The 12V just runs the electronics and ignition system. This most certainly also works for power-grid failure situations.

    The good thing is, even a good standard size refrigerator only uses a few hundred watts when running the compressor. You’ll need some storage batteries as a buffer in a system, anyway, so you can get a couple of deep cycle batteries that allow the fridge to kick on a couple times at night.

    I’d recommend a couple of 250W panels, and you should be golden with with your existing fridge. Then you simply need a charge controller, an inverter, and the cabling. If you source it well, your system may only be $500-600 or less, if you can find cheap panels like I did.

    Good luck, and nice to have you aboard the off-grid revolution! I’ve been running things off-grid at my land for years, but I’ll be up-scaling by an order of magnitude soon, when I move out there.

    • most are either/or.
      propane wont work without electric, but they can run electric only.

      they are severely efficient, but do take about 24 – 48 hours to get really cold. I usually turn mine on a day before I pack it with food.

      fun fact – they run off a very old refrigeration technology supposedly dreamed up by Ben Franklin.

  8. Some component considerations:
    Solar panels- monocrystalline vs polycrystalline:
    mono panels perform better on cloudy days than poly but they’re slightly more expensive. Amorphous panels have the lowest output and should be avoided.
    Buy name brand ridgid panels (lg, bosch, renogy etc). Stay away from no-name or flexible panels.

    Inverter- modified sine vs pure sine:
    Pure sine inverters are safe for all electronics and motors but they’re more expensive. Modified sine are cheap but could damage sensitive electronics or motors/compressors. Modified sine can also induce noise in audio equipment.
    Size your inverter accordingly. If it’s too small it’ll trip out on surge loads or overheat/have a shorter life if run near it’s continuous capacity for long periods. Running near capacity will also trigger cooling fans which may be annoying. On the flip side don’t buy a massive inverter for small loads. They all have an idle draw whether theres a load applied or not. For small inverters this can be under 10 watts. For very large inverters this can easily reach 100 watts. Thats a lot of power to suck down all day just so the fridge can kick on once in awhile.
    Buying a DC fridge lets you ditch the inverter entirely or only use one when needed for your computer/tv etc.

    Solar charge controller:
    Mppt vs Pwm
    Pwm chargers are cheap REALLY CHEAP. You could buy several as backups and not blink.
    Mppt controllers will get the most charge out of your panels. Well worth the money. I’ve even had luck with the very cheap makeskyblue/powmr 60amp mppt controller. They only sell for around $100 so it’s possible to buy one and a backup for the price of one name brand unit. For true peace of mind buy an mppt from a known brand like midnight solar or renogy.

    Keep them in a location that won’t freeze or get too hot! Lead acid are cheap but they likely will only last 5 years max and are low performers. LFP/Lifepo4 batteries are very cost competitive now and very safe. Their charge/discharge efficiency is off the charts compared to lead acid (smaller solar array needed or more complete charging on cloudy days). Cycle and age life expectancy make lead acid look like dollar store batteries in comparison.
    Lifepo4 batteries also provide a higher resting voltage and more amperage/less voltage sag which makes equipment run better.
    I just switched from flooded lead to lifepo4 in my rv after 4 years on the lead batteries. The difference is night and day. The ONLY drawbacks of lifepo4 is they will be damaged if charged when frozen so you have to keep them warm or be sure to buy a known brand with true low temperature disconnect. In a cold climate you need to keep them inside in winter or no solar charging for you! View will prowse battery teardowns on youtube to find a good battery. The other drawback is lithium batteries have a Battery Management System installed to prevent damage to the cells. Lead acid don’t need this extra layer of electronics BUT you have to manually balance (overcharge) periodically for wet cells and be sure to never discharge below 50% (around 12v) or the lifespan will be drastically shortened. Lead acid should also be vented to the outdoors which can make keeping them warm in the winter and performing well difficult.

    Personally i’d say buy as much solar and storage as your budget will allow. If you get an 800-1000w solar array mated to a 300+ah lifepo4 battery you’ll easily run any fridge/freezer/small appliance. A system this size can also run a 220v inverter for your deep well pump if grid power gets unreliable and the gas generator costs too much to feed.

    Growatt makes a nice all in one solar charge controller/inverter/AC-DC charger units that will take out a lot of the component mixing and matching headache for larger household systems. I believe they all run off of 24 to 48 volt battery arrangements. There are also all in one luggable units that include a lifepo4 battery, chargers and inverter that you can just plug solar panels into. For a minimalist setup just to run the fridge buy individual components slightly overrated for your load. You’ll never regret buying more solar panels and batteries than you need though. Being your own power company is very liberating.

    I’ll watch this thread or send an email if you have any specific questions. I highly recommend downloading and reading some old issues of home power mag. It’s dated equipment wise but it’ll give you the skinny on how to do the wiring and properly position your panels amongst many other off grid gems.

    Cheers Eric, very happy for you and yours.

    • Copy your sentiments on LiFePO4 batteries, UnPlugged! That’s where I’ll be starting when I upgrade things. I also want to use NiFe batteries, but due to all the shortages, lack of manufacturing and expense, that will be down the road a bit. Though lower performing, NiFe batteries could last forever if you take care of them.

      • Yes! I’ve been following off grid power for over 20 years and the nickel iron edison batteries would be fantastic if it weren’t for the cost and charging/self discharge losses. From what I’ve gathered though if you cycle lifepo4 in the 20 to 80% range, keep them cool and keep the C rates low they could easily last decades. Time will tell though being that they’re fairly new tech but Tesla uses them in the model 3 despite being less energy dense due to their long life and increased safety over lithium ion.
        I only run a small 700w/200ah LFP system and it gives me plenty of power for a shallow well pump, lighting, laptop, 30inch tv and solar diversion load hot water. Refrigeration and cooking are both propane for now but I only use a 30lb tank every 1.5 to 2 months. Looking forward to installing a trucker compressor fridge now that these LFP’s can carry one through cloudy spells.

  9. You locate the high spot on the land you occupy, dig the water well, determines where the house is built, you dig a hole for the cistern, another for the root cellar, surround the spot with footings, foundation, build the house, then the barn. You’ll need a workhorse and a plow. A milk cow, a sow and a few pigs, chickens, hatch chicken eggs for chickens.

    You gotta go all Amish or Hutterite.

    The Mennonites are an industrious people, locate near them. You’ll probably be in Canada.

    Galvanized rain gutter and downspout to channel the rainwater from the roof into the cistern. Have a sink with a hand pump to pump water from the cistern. Well water can be brackish which can be undrinkable. Buy hops and malt to make beer. You can do it.

    Cut sod a foot wide, 6 inches thick, stack the sod into walls and make a sod hut to survive while all other work is being done and completed. The sod is cut and removed, the bare ground will be for the garden.

    You won’t need electricity, you need water, not necessarily plumbing.

    On my aunt and uncle’s farm in 1956, the telephone on the wall was a box made of oak wood, there was no dial to use to phone someone, you turned the crank on the phone that rang so many times, the neighbor with the correct number of rings would answer. All of the shared phone lines could listen in.

    There was no tv, a console radio was in the living room. The TV didn’t get there until around 1955, first tv station didn’t begin broadcasting until 1954.

    A return to 1954 will be like back into the Stone Age.

    After 1932 something, after the crash and the banks went broke, my grandfather bought a workhorse from a seller, he wrote a check, it bounced, the bank was broke, didn’t have the money. My grandfather’s account had money, the bank had none. He had another bank account at another bank, he had to write a new check to pay for the workhorse.

    The Bonus Army was camped out in Washington, DC during the spring and summer of 1932. They wanted their bonus early from serving in the First World War and some Civil War vets wanted some bonus money too. Had enough of waiting for the bonus, they wanted it now.

    General MacArthur, Patton and Eisenhower commanded a cavalry and routed the Bonus Army bums in August of 1932. Trudeau must have studied US history. lol

    Hoover and Congress were not happy with MacArthur. Roosevelt won because of the Bonus Army rout.

    Hoover made millions in the metals and mining industry.

    Hydrocarbons make it all happen. The post-modern civilization will collapse with no hydrocarbons available for consumption.

    Nobody is going to go whale hunting for copious amounts of whale oil anymore. Petroleum on a commercial scale solved that problem 170 years ago.

    100,000 whales harvested commercially for a couple of hundred years takes a toll on the whale populations out in the open ocean. It was indeed peak whale oil by 1850. An angry whale stove the Essex, it was a bad day for the sailors on board the whaling vessel Essex. How would you like it if you were hunted down night and day by Hartford whalers? Not fun.

    Whales are still harvested, whale oil is an excellent lubricant. In the final analysis, crude oil is the go to source for usable energy.

    Get Bill, Klaus, George, Nancy, Biden, John Lurch, all of the useless eaters pointing with pride and viewing with alarm, can spend time out in the garden pulling weeds and watering until sundown. Don’t have to be useful idiots all of their miserable lives. They can pay attention for once.

    Keep them well-fed and you’ll finally get some real results from the lazy, good-for-nothing bums. They can be trained and educated, it can be done. har

  10. Unrelated but RIP Becky Akers. Hopefully we won’t be losing any more LRC people this year.


    BTW… I have three chest freezers, one upright dedicated freezer, and a fridge+freezer (upstairs). I have a dual-fuel (propane + gas) generator. If lights went out, I would only duty cycle the freezers and fridge ever few hours (i.e., run a pair at a time for an hour or something like that).

    • I corresponded with her sporadically, and a few of those exchanges became blog posts.

      She encouraged me to keep thinking, and to keep writing. She would sometimes ask pointed questions that helped to sharpen up the point of the piece. And she had an incredibly sharp wit.

    • Bill Sardi was killed in a hospital. And Becky, according to the post on LRC, had a fast-moving cancer. I know I’m paranoid, but I recall someone else who was killed by a fast-moving cancer: Jack Ruby, before he could testify at his second trial for the murder of Lee Harvey Oswald. It was speculated he was injected with cancer cells by Dr. Jolly West, a CIA operative. Are dissident voices being deliberately silenced here?

      • I’ve wondered about that, too, SLH –

        Given what we already know these people are capable of, I put nothing out of the realm of possibility…

      • You can kill a person, maybe even commit genocide.

        You cannot kill an idea.

        And, to kill people for what they say/think is to show fear of what is said/thought. It is a sign of weakness, even though it looks like strength.

        It appears that humanity is not yet capable of understanding this. And so, history repeats itself as we speak…

  11. Looks like you’re discovering the real advantage of solar power – small scale use (individual homes, RV’s, specialized applications). Contrary to the powers-that-shouldn’t-be, it doesn’t scale up real well.

    Couple of things – if you want to augment your solar power for uses beyond refrigeration, you might look at some of the smaller, more portable units available from companies like Jackery. I live in an apartment, so something like that would be more practical for me if I went with solar. I found them on Home Depot’s website, but look around if you’re interested.

    You might also want to check on appliances, etc. that truckers use. They only have access to 12v, so they have some possible worthwhile solutions too.

  12. I should have wrote, I have two inverters, one is a backup. I cannot count the number of stories I’ve read online about how guys had their inverter fail on them, sometimes, right out of the box. Most of them were kinda pissed about it.

    If I could, I’d have a whole box of backup inverters.

    I suppose, there’s some good reasons not to go the inverter route.

    One last thought, rather than go with a single propane RV fridge, why not get one or two small propane generators? Seems more utilitarian & flexible.

    • Helot, I’ve looked at the propane gen sets. Some are nice, but they make far too much noise. The last thing one wants in an extended grid down situation is to attract attention. From my experience, fuel cells make much less noise. But they do tend to be more expensive. Using solar and/or wind to charge banks is a relatively simple operation. But it has inherent and obvious limitations. A friend has a micro water turbine setup on a river by his place. Its quite effective, makes very little noise, but obviously requires a stream or river. At this point, those who have listened have already been preparing for years now. There is no saving the rest. Unfortunately, we are in triage stage now. Best of luck to all.

      • RE: “At this point, those who have listened have already been preparing for years now. There is no saving the rest.”

        I wonder the same, quite often.

        Also, there’s tons of videos & such of guys building soundproof enclosures for gen sets.
        I have a Honda suitcase type genny & it is surprisingly quiet. Imho, if noise matters that much, simply being there is the same liability.

        …It’s a horserace.

        4 Generator Quiet Box You Can Buy NOW! (Baffle Box)

        • True, but everyone has to be some place. In the same sense that the perfect is the enemy of the good. I’ve moved to a more secure location, but its not perfect. If I had that much money, I’d have purchased one of the deep bunkers the oligarchs have. 🙂 I really do wish that more people would listen, and make their own preparations. That would not only save more people directly, but also reduce the number who have to be dealt with when they get desperate. Speaking of which, once things start getting ugly, our so called “leaders” are bound to panic, and make things worse. Being a member of the enforcer class isn’t likely to be healthy, as we move forward. Far too many people have been pushed too far, and for too long. That makes for dangerous situations.

  13. Mom grew up in Spokane 1920s, they had a cold room / root cellar that flowed water from a nearby stream thru a series of pipes, no electricity required.

    Visiting daughter #1 in Europe a couple years ago, in Italy shopping for groceries can’t find eggs in any of the coolers. Daughter points to the shelf, “They don’t wash eggs here, they keep for days on the shelf at room temp.” That was a new one on me, too used to The American Way!

  14. Seems it should read, “Eggs laid by your flock can be collected daily and stored for [weeks & months] at room temperature without them going bad.”

    … I’ve been tempted to get an egg washing machine/device but those things are freakin expensive!

    Anyway, I chose AGM battery for my back-up sump pump setup because I store the battery in the basement, & from what I gather, there’s no fumes let off from an AGM like there are with typical lead-acid batteries.
    Storing them inside for same reason a car is best stored inside & hopefully the battery will have a longer service life.

    If you got the dough, the Samlex inverters look to be great, I have one, they have pure sine wave output, the cheaper inverters tend to produce square wave output which can shorten the life of certain electrical motors (ones that have capacitors or something, I forget) & can damage appliances which have computer boards.

    I contemplated the RV fridge route & opted to learn to use an All American pressure canner (no gaskets to go bad) instead.
    I’ve read that it is possible to pressure can over a campfire. Idk.

    Another option is to have one or two of the fancy super-insulated coolers on the market & have a stand alone ice maker.
    Probably run the ice maker less often than a fridge?
    Ice might be in demand by others, too?

  15. I know that chest freezers are very efficient due to their design. Top loading means the cold air doesn’t roll out when the door is opened. And they don’t have a defrost cycle (basically a small heater that kicks on periodically) so that helps too. I wonder how difficult it would be to get a grocery store top loading refrigerated case? Might have to MacGyver up an insulated lid but shouldn’t be too hard if you’re not interested in pretty.

    • There’s a company online which sells a circuit board you connect to a chest freezer & it turns it into a refrigerator.
      I’ve read that it’s easy to make the board.
      The weakness is depending upon a thermometer hooked to it, or something? It’s been too long since I read about it. Seemed like a fantastic option, surprised I never got one setup.

      Chest freezers are waayyy more efficient than uprights.

  16. A Winnebago Minnie that I camped in a few weeks ago had a dual-fuel propane/electric fridge with freezer.

    Propane is the priority fuel, with electric (from deep-cycle batteries, rooftop solar panel and inverter) as backup.

    It kept the beer good and cold over the weekend, and the frozen stuff frozen — no nannying required.

    Household dual-fuel units are available too, though costly ($1,500 and up).

    Stay cool, my friend.

    • When my sister and her husband lived in the wilds of Coconino County decades ago, out beyond the power lines, they had kerosene for lighting, wood for heat, and a propane refrigerator for food preservation.

      There was a diesel generator on the ranch, but they seldom ran it, because
      a) diesel fuel costs money
      b) the generator was noisy – they preferred peace and quiet
      c) to start the generator required rotating the enormous (6′-8′ diameter) flywheel by hand, using a loose crank handle which flew off once the engine started. Usually had to break compression at least twice (at least two cycles) before the engine caught, then be sure to stay out of the way of the crank handle when it detached from the flywheel. 🙂

    • 2 and 3 way RV fridges (propane/ac or propane/ac/dc) can be had cheap if you look for them used. People often part out water damaged or wrecked RV’s or simply want to switch to a compressor fridge because they’re hooked to shore power or a massive solar array.
      The upside to a 2 or 3 way fridge is the ability to run off propane with a small 12v demand for the control board. They can also be converted to work on a kerosene burner similar to a hurricane lantern with NO electronic control. The downside is the DC and AC heating elements draw a lot of power to boil the ammonia mixture. Like 300 watts! Compare that to a modern 7 or 10 cube ac fridge that draws well under 100 watts running. DC compressor fridges are even more energy efficient but come with a higher price tag due to being a niche product. Absorbtion RV fridges also need their backsides vented to the outdoors due to the propane/kerosene fumes and heat they give off. Special care has to be taken to also build the enclosure and venting behind the fridge in such a way that convection passively draws cool air over the fins OR you have to rig up a fan to blow air over the cooling fins. If this is neglected cooling and efficiency suffer greatly or the cooling unit could even overheat.

      Overall on a homestead I’d rather have a compressor fridge run from solar and pick up a used propane fridge for conversion to kerosene just in case.

  17. Root cellars are also a possible refrigeration replacement. Though not as cool as a refrigerator can be, they are cool enough to store many fruits and vegetables for long periods of time. Partly also due to their high humidity.

    • Be sure not to store your apples next to your potatoes, or that very pleasant vapor from the apples will cause the potatoes to sprout. Or so I was told by a farmer in Connecticut, long ago.


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