Refrigeration and Appliances
Your options for Energy Efficient Appliances
Next to space heating and air conditioning, the largest single energy user in your home is the kitchen refrigerator. A typical AC powered refrigerator uses more than 3500 watt hours per day.
If this refrigerator is run by a solar electric system whose DC power is inverted to AC by an efficient inverter, then the refrigerator/ freezer alone will consume more power than 3 (175 watt) solar electric modules can produce per day. This could be a very expensive way to provide refrigeration.
Three good refrigerator options
However, there are three good refrigerator options available for the off-grid, solar-powered residence; gas powered refrigerators, DC refrigerators and ultra-efficient, AC refrigerators.
Gas powered, absorption, refrigerator/ freezers are the most common solution for off grid refrigeration. In use in thousands of full time homes and vacation cabins, the propane-fueled refrigerator/freezer units are very reliable and efficient - typically using less than three gallons of fuel per week. Since they don't use electricity, your residential solar electric system can be smaller and less costly.
Today's absorption refrigerator/ freezers are very quiet and safe. The only drawback to these units is that they are smaller than a traditional home refrigerator. The average gas refrigerator is 8 cubic ft. - approximately 1.5 cu. ft. of freezer and 6+ cu. ft. of refrigerator. If the doors are reversible (such as on a Norcold) then two units can be placed side by side to provide 16 cu. ft. of refrigerator /freezer space.
Another traditional refrigerator solution is the DC refrigerator. These units are the most efficient, electric powered refrigerator/ freezers available. A 16 cu. ft. unit, in a temperate climate, uses less than 800 watt Hrs. per day. Many energy saving features are built into each DC refrigerator such as extra insulation, compressors located on the top of unit to avoid heating the cabinet if located below, and separate freezer doors.
Refrigerator Conversion Kit
A Complete Conversion Kit so You Can Upgrade Economically
This easy-to-use conversion kit allows you to convert up to a 6-cubic foot insulated ice box into an automatic electric refrigerator.
Off-set by Savings in Renewable Energy System components
These reliable units are more expensive than the other options because they are hand built in small factories. The higher initial cost, however, is off-set by the savings in solar system components and life-time fuel cost.
The final option is a relatively recent alternative; the ultra efficient AC refrigerator. These units, though using more power than DC units, can still be comfortably run by a solar electric system. A typical 16 cubic ft. refrigerator/ freezer uses 1500 watt hrs. per day.
Usually they are very moderately priced and feature amenities not offered in the other alternatives such as: fresh food section located above freezer section, many compartments and shelves, double door layers in freezer section and fast-freeze options.
Ultra efficient AC chest type freezers are also available. These very affordable units only use 500 watt hrs. of electricity per day (roughly the power produced by two or three solar electric modules).
Though requiring a little more forethought than just going down to the local appliance store and picking out a refrigerator/ freezer that matches your kitchen, today's efficient refrigerator options are affordable, reliable, aesthetically pleasing and most importantly, work well with solar electric power.
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