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Freezer Economics
Sun 21-Aug-11
12:09 pm
Glen
Northumberland

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I figured since most of us need long term food storage I'd put some questions as to what people think about this major and common storage method.

 

We have a fridge/freezer combination, but I have long been considering a chest freezer so we can start getting a whole lamb etc for economy like my family always did when I was a kid. Freezers are always said  to be one of the big electricity users in homes which have them (I mean chest freezers for example).  I had a couple of ideas on that score:

1.   To me it would seem sensible to put my chest freezer in an outside cold building so it works less hard to keep the internal temperature down. I was considering making a bespoke brick or insulated board compartment outside (waterproof of course) for the freezer to go in to maximise this (at the side of my house where it is shaded all year around due to a canopy I have over a work area. I had a small uninsulated one once for beer and wine and that kept it surprisingly cool all year round.   But I read somewhere once that this is not a good idea as below a certain temperature in winter the freezer has to work harder. This makes no sense to me at all and seems illogical, and I wondered if anyone else has a view or knows more technical detail about that might be true (or if indeed it's absolute nonsense!).

 

2. If the freezer was to go in an outside cold building, would it be feasibly economical to give it it's own power supply?  I'm thinking solar panel onto 12v battery and inverter as a simple method " but given the price of even small panels here in the UK would this be a false economy? " I've just calculated a years running of an A+ rated 230L chest freezer using the manufacturers yearly energy consumption figures (which presumably are a best-case scenario of a full freezer in a cool room) at  £20 which if it's true would make buying a solar panel, battery & inverter highly uneconomical.  Has anyone here monitored the real consumption of their chest freezer?

  Meus terra erro est frigus
Sun 21-Aug-11
12:28 pm
Sooliz
Somerset

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Hi Glen

At our previous house we had a detached garage (not heated at all), in which we kept a second fridge freezer.  In the depths of winter the freezer would stop freezing and parts of it would actually start to defrost (not all of the shelves though, for some reason which is probably technical and therefore makes no sense to me at all big_laughembarassed). 

We now have a 2nd freezer (the original spare fridge freezer was left at our last house, as it was old and wouldn't have survived a move) which we keep in our utility room/larder.  This small room is also unheated, but is directly attached to our house, thus I suppose it stays a bit warmer during the winter than a detached garage.

I do recall being told at the time when we first noticed our garage freezer was, well, not! (by someone rather more technically minded than me - which isn't hard whistle - or my husband), that it was common for freezers to fail when kept in very cold temperatures.  I can't remember the explanation, though, sorry.

learning to love veg…..except celery :-O
Sun 21-Aug-11
3:07 pm
kayerunrig
lincolnshire

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The cost only racks up if the freezer is less than full , they work more efficiently full, plastic bottles of water to fill gaps works well

Sun 21-Aug-11
3:13 pm
danast
Argyll, Scotland

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wave  I keep a chest freezer in my shed and have experienced no problems at all.  It is usually fairly full.

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Sun 21-Aug-11
5:05 pm
Hattie
Bucks/Oxon Border

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When I bought my present freezer ( a fairly large frost-free upright) my local electrical supplier asked me specifically where it was going to be placed as the one I had chosen would not work in an unheated garage or shed in winter. He did give an extensive explanation for this but I , of course, have forgotten it as it was a couple of years ago....!! Mine is in my kitchen so it was irrelevant to my case. 

 

"The beautiful is as useful as the useful...perhaps more so."

from Les Miserables

Sun 21-Aug-11
8:23 pm
JoannaS
Latvia

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This might explain it, more a problem with frost-free fridge freezers. I think the general consensus of opinion is keep it dry and safe. I do know that in America a guy commented that in the winter they switched their freezers off because the temperatures were so cold they didn't need them running anyway. whistle

Mon 22-Aug-11
12:03 am
Glen
Northumberland

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I've done some further research and learned some interesting stuff about freezers that I didn't know. 

Apparently they have "Climate Classes" which specify the upper and lower temperatures they can work in.

An article from "Which" (WHICH Magazine) website explains that manufacturers report lots of domestic freezers breaking down which turn out to be installed in¦¦. garages  and as these get too cold for the Climate Class (the one they don't tell you about " something that Which also points out) they can refuse to repair them under warranty!

Apparently somewhere on freezers is marked a code giving the Climate Class " but they may not prefix it with the words Climate Class either! So the poor consumer would see some letters and have no idea that they are of any relevance.

I also checked with some major retailers online sites and looked at the freezers they were selling " not one mentions Climate Class.  I even rang one at a large shopping centre that was open this afternoon and spoke to a salesman at a very large seller you will all be familiar with and asked him what Climate Class one of their freezers was " he had no idea what I was talking about! what_the_heck

 (your local supplier deserves a pat on the back Hattie).

 

Here are the codes:  Remember that on some brands there might only be the letter/s showing somewhere and not the words "Climate Class".

 

Climate  Class Minimum Temp Maximum Temp
N 16 Deg C 32 Deg C
SN 10 Deg C 32 Deg C
ST 18 Deg C 38 Deg C
T 18 Deg C 43 Deg C

 

So even the very lowest is only desgined to work down to +10 degrees C " now thats quite surprising as I think that's not very cold at all. Indeed, for us in Northumberland that's a summers day. Geordies are still out in Tee shirts well below that temperature! laugh 

They say that your freezer may work perfectly fine lower of course, and lots do - but if under guarantee and it fails when being used somewhere colder than the climate codes states, the manufacturer can refuse to mend/replace it for free as you've used it "outside what it is designed for". This would be a cheek when it seems as if they are almost hiding this information from the public when it's not even quoted when you look to buy one.  

Looking further on the "Which" web site, in their tests they found one particular brand does work well in colder surrounding temperatures such as a garage, and the manufacturer even specifies they will work down to (minus ) -15c ,  so that brand would be ideal for keeping an outbuilding or garage in most UK winters.  See this article HERE  .    I think I might get one of those specific ones metioned as that seems perfect for what I have in mind. 

  Meus terra erro est frigus
Mon 22-Aug-11
4:32 pm
mrsmortis

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You may want to take into account that if it's stored in a small enclosed insulated space the freezer itself will kick out a fair amount of heat and keep that space warm.

 

We have our second freezer, a chest, in the coal hole (imagine an outside toiled sized cupboard on the outside of the house) and even in the depths of winter it's not that cold in there.

Mon 22-Aug-11
6:03 pm
Glen
Northumberland

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Yes, that's one of the design issues I was thinking about if I make a bespoke outdoor container for it " providing enough venting to allow good convection and prevent excess heat gathering in the unit, but not so much that it gets too cold in winter.  If I get one of those Beko ones that gives me a working freezer at least down to -15c    though, there would not be that many occasions when it would be so cold as to be an issue here in the UK-  and if it did, the ambient temperature would be so cold that it would not defrost anyway.

  Meus terra erro est frigus
Tue 23-Aug-11
8:52 pm
devongarden
Devon, UK

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Kaye, there's a difference between efficiency and cost of running the freezer. As I understand it, if a freezer is full of food, it is more efficient than if it is half full, that is it costs less per kilo of frozen food if full than half-full. But it costs more to run if full than half-full, so there is no point in filling it with other things that don't need to be cold, you just pay for freezing them and the cost per kilo of frozen food is higher than if there was just the food in it because you are freezing bottles of water or paper. 

I hope this makes sense, just been trying 2 year old damson gin, all in the cause of making room for this year's batch of course!

Tue 23-Aug-11
9:30 pm
Glen
Northumberland

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I must admit that I though they were cheaper to run if full too as it meant there was a large mass of already frozen stuff to stabilise the temperature rather than air which does not hold temperautre as well - especially when the freezer was opened and some cold air spills out and warm air gets in if there is empty space , so that's an interesting point you have made .

Presumably once it is completely full and frozen, it kind of maintains it's own temperature as the only loss would be via the insulation (like the old fashoned ice houses that kept ice frozen for months just by being underground and insulated) so as long as the surrounding area was cold the freezer should be working very minimally in such conditions?

 I also read a contrary theory somewhere were someone put empty boxes to fill the unused space - in that case, I think the theory was that they stayed full of cold air when you opened the freezer so that air did not then have to be cooled again once you'd closed the door.  what_the_heck  

It  would be good to find some actual research on this - I'm sure it must have been done (without actual figures of course it might turn out to make £50 or 5p a year difference for all we know - I'm thinking of the old flourescent tube theory for example which is now rubbished, but resulted in hundreds of thousands of lights being left on all night in the 1970's-90's). I guess it could be simply done with an energy meter and half full compared to full (of course variables would also be if the food was bought ready frozen or was food that had to become frozen in the freezer, which would obviously use a lot more energy in the initial process).    In short, I think we could go crackers trying to work all this out!

(especially if it took 40 hours of reasearch to discover we can save 5pence smile)

  Meus terra erro est frigus
Tue 23-Aug-11
9:48 pm
devongarden
Devon, UK

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I suspect that empty boxes that insulated the contents might work, but don't know. I have read that for fridges it takes an hour to chill for every minute you have the door open. eeek  I don't know if that is true for freezers. I do know that my new freezer has been wonderful, and is almost as cheap to run as the fridge which is overchilling and the motor is on most of the time. I don't know whether to spend the money on seeing if it can be repaired or on getting a new one.

Glen, I borrowed a plug in electricity monitor from my local library, so I checked how much electricity most things in the house used. I was horrified by some things, and others took very little. I keep taking the monitor out, everytime I think of something else to check out.  I think that all libraries in Devon have them, don't know if any other counties have them.

Wed 24-Aug-11
10:51 am
Toffeeapple
North Bucks

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I don't have a freezer therefore, I have no angst.  big_laugh

I'll try that again!
Wed 24-Aug-11
11:17 am
mrsmortis

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Because hot air rises and therefore cold air falls a chest freezer is significantly easier to maintain at temperature when opened than one with a door on the front. That's why they tend to have better efficiency ratings. For that reason my outdoor freezer is a chest one. 

That would imply that you have less reason to fill the freezer with empty air if it were a chest one.

Wed 24-Aug-11
12:08 pm
devongarden
Devon, UK

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That's why upright freezers have drawers, or fronts to compartments, to help keep them cold. I don't know the relative economics of having the chest freezer opened longer because you have to root around in it as against shorter opening but basically more expensive, since the length of time the freezer is open has a big impact on cost.

TA, I am delighted you have no angst! big_laugh

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