Some time ago one of my readers asked how we keeps items refrigerated while living off the grid. It really isn't difficult as long as you have some sort of solar power system. This is one of the mistakes we made in starting out. We too thought it would be impossible to have a refrigerator on our small system. We had been told by many that we would not be able to have a refrigerator unless it was a specialty refrigerator designed for living off grid. These refrigerators cost around $3000! I'm so glad they were wrong!
With the shift in the economy regarding energy consumption and especially with the climate change movement, many companies have started to be more conscience of producing products which are energy conservative. For instance, in Canada all refrigerators, freezers etc. are required to have the energy consumption posted on them so consumers can be more aware of what they are purchasing. Lets face it, even if you don't live off the grid the less energy you use the more money you keep in your wallet.
So, we went shopping and found out that many EnergyStar approved refrigerators would work on our system. Of course it couldn't be a big one as we would still have to watch our consumption, but as we are only two people we weren't too worried. We ended up purchasing one from our local Sears store which has an estimated operating cost of $38/year and has an estimated electricity use of 355 kWh. Not bad! It's not very large at only 15 cu. ft. but certainly larger than we really need and it has a nice freezer on top.
But still with our system there are a few things we do to ensure we use the least amount of power possible. These are things you can easily do at home on the grid as well. We keep it full! Both the freezer and refrigerator. If we don't have enough items in it to ensure it is full we add jugs of water. The more full it is the less it has to run so it only makes sense. I have found in doing this that it will only turn on a few times a day.
Of course there are times when we have less power than normal, especially in the winter. The days here are very short in the winter and especially in December we will often have barely have 6 hours of daylight. Of that daylight we may or may not get an hour or more of sun to fill the battery bank. This isn't a problem as we then utilize the cold outside and move the frozen items to a container outside. We then use the water jugs which we already have on hand. We set them outside and allow them to freeze solid then place them in the refrigerator to keep it cool; exchanging them daily. I also always keep a thermometer in there to monitor the temperature. I have found this works great for us and in monitoring the temperatures have never found it to be above 5 degrees Celsius, in fact most of the time the milk has little ice crystals in it.