Refrigerator Options When Living Off-Grid

by Off Grid Blog Team

When you are off the grid, you are not relying on a utility to provide you with your electricity. Off-grid refrigerators are designed with this in mind, and either run without any electricity or with significantly reduced power consumption.

These refrigerators use alternative power sources or highly efficient cooling methods to help you keep your food cold without consuming large amounts of energy.

Factors to Consider

There is much to consider when choosing what type of off-grid refrigerator to choose from, such as what the climate is like, how much space you need, and how much you are willing to invest. Perhaps the most important consideration is how much energy you have available to power it.

1. How Much Power Do You Have Available?

Determining how much available power you have is essential in choosing the right off-grid refrigerator. The more energy you can use, the better your options will be.

For instance, if you have a solar system with battery storage, you may be able to use a traditional high-efficiency refrigerator. If you do not have access to any electricity, you will be a lot more limited in what you can use.

To put this into perspective, the average household refrigerator consumes 500 to 750 watts while running but can take up to 2000 watts just to get started.

2. Size

You must also consider how much space you have for an off-grid refrigerator, and how much food you need to keep cold. There are many options available depending on the size you need, from a small, dorm-sized fridge to a large freezer.

Durability and Maintenance Requirements

If you live in a very remote area and will be relying on your off-grid refrigerator, you want to ensure that the one you choose is durable and easy to maintain. This will help you avoid major downtimes while waiting for a repair tech to come to fix your refrigerator.

3. Price

Price is another factor to consider when choosing an off-grid refrigerator. They can range anywhere from $50 to over $2,000 depending on your needs!

Refrigerator Options

An average refrigerator will not work if you are living off the grid. These consume way too much electricity, so you must consider other options. Here are a few of the top off-grid refrigerators.

1. Ice Boxes

An icebox or a cooler is the lowest cost option available for off-grid refrigeration. They can cost as little as $50, but different sizes and brands can vary in price. If you are looking for a high-quality cooler like a Yeti, you could pay up to $1,300 for the largest size.

A cooler is a good option for a short-term trip – they are readily available and there is no assembly required. There are a few disadvantages, however, including needing to refill it with ice and the fact that it may get your food wet. Similarly, a cooler can keep food fresh for a few days but will not keep anything frozen.

2. Thermoelectric Refrigerators

A thermoelectric refrigerator is a unique option that does not use a compressor. This means they have no moving parts and are very durable and easy to maintain. Normally thermoelectric refrigerators are quite small, as they lose efficiency as the size increases.

They refrigerate using the Peltier effect and therefore use relatively low amounts of energy. These fridges run electricity between two distinct conductive materials, causing a temperature difference. They require about 2,500 kW per month to operate.

A thermoelectric fridge costs between $50 and $200, depending on the size. You will also have to consider the cost associated with powering it.

The biggest issue with using a thermoelectric refrigerator for your off-grid home is that they can only keep food about 30 degrees colder than the outside temperature – meaning if it’s hot outside, you may not be able to keep food at safe storage temperatures. This also means that you will not be able to freeze anything.
Likewise, because they are generally small, you will probably not be able to store all of the food you need in them.

3. Propane Fridges

A propane refrigerator is powered by propane and can keep food cold and frozen but may require additional maintenance and venting. These are common in off-grid homes, as some also give you the option to power them with electricity.

Installing a propane refrigerator will cost anywhere from $500 to over $2,000 depending on the size and model you choose. They come in a wide variety of sizes and give you the choice of just a fridge or one that also includes a freezer.
Propane fridges are very energy efficient and only use about 50 to 100 gallons per year, which equates to an average of $150. The benefit of these off-grid refrigerators is that they are not reliant on things like solar or wind power to work – as long as you have a propane tank it will run.

The downside to these is that they do not work as well in colder temperatures and require a significant upfront cost. You also have to factor in propane storage, which can add additional complications.

4. Solar-Powered Refrigerators

Another off-grid refrigerator option is a solar-powered fridge. As you may have guessed, these use solar power to operate and are very energy efficient – you only need about 5kW per month.

They come in a full range of sizes and you can find one that offers both refrigerating and freezing capabilities.

Solar-powered refrigerators can become very expensive though and have a price range between $1,000 and $2,500. While these may cost you more upfront, they are very cost-efficient moving forward.

If you choose this option, it is recommended that you have a comprehensive solar system installed with a battery back up – and, of course, plenty of sunlight!

The main drawback to using a fridge that is reliant on solar power is that if the sun doesn’t shine, your food won’t be kept cold. Similarly, maintenance can be complicated and expensive.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, you have many options to choose from when it comes to off-grid refrigeration. When deciding which option is right for you, be sure to consider how much food you need to store, and the amount and type of energy that you have available to power it.

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