Freezer-fridge conversion update

chest freezer fridge conversion
I know, it isn’t pretty, but it works! Someday I’ll sand & paint it… or maybe cover it with fabric

Had to clean out my fridge today, while that’s not such a big deal to most, to me it’s (almost) a pleasure to do because of the kind of fridge I have. Living off-grid, using solar panels and batteries, on limited power, one looks for ways to use as little power as possible, one of the things I found that really ate up my power was my little, tiny dorm sized cube refrigerator, the kind that opened in front, had a tiny tiny tiny freezer, in fact I couldn’t even put a full size ice tray inside it, they make micro-ice cube trays.

Most of the time I didn’t even plug in that cube fridge, we just learned to live without refrigeration for the most part, honestly it just sucked up too much precious photon juice from my system. So on the odd occasion when I brought home a gallon of milk, or some meat that didn’t get used up quickly, I would plug in the darned thing and wonder how much time it was taking from my surfing the internet…

With the cube fridge, it ran 15+ minutes at a time, a couple of times an hour, more if I actually opened the door, think about it, when you open the door on a standard fridge, all the cold air drops out of the box onto your feet, feels good for the moment but the compressor kicks in immediately to compensate for all that lost cold air.

I’ll not go into detail about this because I’ve written about it (in detail) in previous posts here… this is really just a follow up on how well I like (love) my chest freezer-fridge conversion. :)

So a few years ago, I had read about a way to convert a chest freezer into a refrigerator by adding an external thermometer, you set the temp you want to have, drop the bulb/probe into the freezer box, you plug the freezer into the thermostat, then plug that into power. Now you wait, it will run for quite a while, then cycle off, then come back on and go off until it reaches the temp you set. Mine is on 35 degrees F., it cycles a couple of times an hour, but it only runs a few minutes per cycle, even if I open the door.

Now let me tell you about the door, since it’s a lid, a hatch that opens on the top, when you open it the cold air stays inside the box. That coupled with the fact that the freezer box is a million times (slight exaggeration) more insulated than a refrigerator.


Today I cleaned it out, something I have to do every now and again, I should do it at least once a month, OK, I can hear some of you groaning about how I should clean out my fridge once a month or more often, well it’s just not going to happen, alrighty? :)

The 2 main reasons it’s necessary to remove everything from the box and clean it:

#1 Since it’s a box that opens from the top, there are no convenient shelves inside to rest my food upon, I use plastic baskets to store my food, things get buried and forgotten about, sometimes on purpose…


Water in the bottom of the box


#2 Chest freezers ice up, since we aren’t allowing this to come down to freezer temps, instead of forming ice on the walls, the moisture condenses on the walls and pours down into the bottom of the box. Eventually you have to do something about the water in the bottom of the box. I tried keeping a towel in the bottom all the time, but that quickly begins to stink, don’t do that, I just let it accumulate and clean it up regularly… I have gotten all kinds of advice about how to take care of the water, from drilling a hole in the bottom and installing a drain to using a dehumidifier… all good ideas, but honestly, I’m probably going to just keep wiping out the water, I NEED to clean it out fully on at least a monthly basis and if this is what prompts me to do it, then why mess with with a perfect system?



I took some snapshots of the fridge before I started cleaning it, I picked up a few groceries the other day and just dropped the cold stuff in the fridge still in the bags, I knew I was going to clean the fridge today, so there was no point in removing the food from the bags… as you can see, my fridge was FULL, up to the top, once I got everything removed from the fridge, I’d say that about a quarter to a third of the contents of the box needed to go away, from a chicken carcass that I had planned on turning into chicken stock, to (mostly) empty bottles of condiments and a few out of date things I have just plainly forgotten about…





Once the box was empty and the baskets washed, I gave one of the larger baskets to PB and asked him to fashion (for) me a way to keep the 2 baskets stacked without the top basket wanting to nest into the bottom basket. He found a piece of aluminum tubing and cut 2 pieces, in the top of the basket there are a couple of indentation where the tubing fit quite nicely. Now I don’t have to try to find similar sized (height) bottles to keep in the top basket from dropping into the bottom basket.




For the 2 smaller baskets that go in the bottom right side of the box, I decided it was too difficult to get to the bottom basket, that’s where some of the forgotten foods were turning into a science experiment. So I turned the bottom basket over, keeping it empty, it became a platform for the second (smaller) basket. Before putting my food back into the box, I sopped up the water in the bottom of the box, then I sprayed the inner walls with a solution of bleach water, I wiped everything down, now it’s nice and sanitary. I also sprayed the baskets with the bleach water as I cleaned them.

Now my chest freezer-fridge conversion is full of food, all neatly organized and clean. I still love using it, especially when the batteries are low because of having cloudy days, which we have started having, we are in the beginning of our rainy season, hopefully we will actually have one this year, the last few years have been pretty dry for us.

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11 Responses

  1. I really need to do this. Thanks for all the tips and updates. I’ll have to source a thermostat in the UK. I was always told (by mum) that you clean out fridges/freezers with bicarbonate of soda. (And it’s good to use if you are on a septic tank. Mum didn’t tell me that bit).

  2. What about a lift-able shelf that could house the small items, like mayo jars, salad dressings, etc? That way, they are easily accessed and would take up less room.

    1. MarkG, no thanks, I’d rather not have to clean up that mess, it’s easy just to mop up the little bit of water each time I clean the fridge… :)

      Paul, there isn’t that much water.

      Kate, I would be willing to use a vinegar solution to clean the fridge, but wouldn’t want to leave a vinegar soaked towel in there, I don’t think I’d like the vinegar smell and eventually it would also begin to stink…

      I have done OK just letting the small amount of water pool in the bottom and cleaning it out on a regular basis.

  3. I have a better idea for removing the water from the bottom of your chest fridge. use a submersible electric pump. they are made in various sizes and electrical properties. marine ones are 12 Volt DC. small ones for table top fountains are 120 Volt AC. lots easier and no mess, no stress. you could even collect the water for some use.

  4. One way to keep the water from pooling is: For the water if you are going to do it often putting a clean folded bath towel slightly dampened with white vinegar (very slightly on one side) down and letting that soak up the water.. When you clean out the fridge you just bag up the towel and drop it in the washer. Place another towel slightly damp with white vinegar and repeat.

  5. In your now inverted bottom basket you should fill that wasted space with bottles of water. The more thermal mass in your “fridge” the less often it will cycle on so replace wasted space with surplus mass. Also, keeping it generally as full as possible will help. Keep a supply of water bottled nearby so as you remove items you can replace them with nice dense mass.

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