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How to make a walk-in fridge

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by Sprinter, Aug 9, 2012.

  1. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    Hmm, my wife wants me to make a small space in the garage for a cold storage, mostly for winter food storage that won't freeze, but that got me thinking. There is an available corner about 4' x 6' x 6'hi that is already framed and could easily be insulated. It would be easy enough to keep above freezing in the winter, but I wonder what kind of cooling device I could install that would keep it at refrigerator temps, around 40F, in the summer. Any ideas? I was thinking about a cheap 5000 BTU window A/C but I don't think they can be set that low (well, maybe one could be modified?)

    I'll be glad to listen to any ideas about walk-ins or above ground cellars, etc. I could do just about anything here as long as it's above ground.

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  2. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Drop by the local college on move out day and give some kid's dad 50 bucks for their dorm fridge.
  3. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    Yeah, I had one of those once. It barely kept itself cold! The freezer compartment actually made it to 32 once, but not often.
  4. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Wife is disabled and I have her room set up with a little kitchen area with two of those fridges. They have been getting it done for ten years now. Defrosting them is a pain in the butt though. I know the freezer part makes it under 32 because they ice up.
  5. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    Yes, I know they can be very useful. I exaggerated a bit. We had one just for drinks and stuff, I put ice cream in it once (only once) and it melted and dripped all over the fridge. What a mess. The freezer was only about 30F. I think it was a Sanyo 4 cf or something.

    Anyway, what I want to do is make a cellar-like room that would double as a cold storage for a winter's worth of garden crops, home-canned food, etc that needs to be cool but not freeze, and also serve as a walk-in fridge for summer. This space is small, but you could squeeze in and it would hold quite a bit of stuff on shelves.
  6. BrotherBart

    BrotherBart Hearth.com LLC Mid-Atlantic Division Staff Member

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    Be interesting to see what you come up with. I would be looking at gutting an old fridge.
  7. MasterMech

    MasterMech Guest

    Might take some legwork but maybe a local Deli or supermarket would be upgrading their coolers and you could snag the refrigeration units (condensor and evap) for next to nothing? Then just re-connect or replumb them together and have them re-charged Might be overkill for the space you describe tho.

    I liked BB's suggestion for gutting an old fridge. Might need to find a big one tho!
  8. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    Basically, what I'm looking at it is insulating the heck out of that space all around and installing a window-type A/C. I don't think it will be quite that easy, though and I need to anticipate potential problem areas. Like, the A/C would have to operate at lower than normal room temps which may cause icing problems in the unit, and the A/C's controller would likely have to be modified or bypassed. I'm also not sure about sealing the room up for condensation issues and all that. I'd sort of like to get some ideas before I just dive in and make a bunch of mistakes like I usually do...
  9. Sprinter

    Sprinter Minister of Fire

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    I did look into the idea of gutting a fridge, but it turns out they just aren't big enough for a job like that. Some home-brew guys talked about that. Too bad, because I already have one I could sacrifice.
  10. MasterMech

    MasterMech Guest

    Doesn't have be just one fridge....
  11. jeff_t

    jeff_t Minister of Fire

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    I know a guy who did it with an a/c unit, but he only uses it in the fall for hanging deer. He said it wouldn't cool enough to use in the summer.
  12. smoke show

    smoke show Guest

  13. MasterMech

    MasterMech Guest

    smoke show likes this.
  14. JDC1

    JDC1 Feeling the Heat

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    You could run a big chest or upright freezer on a Johnson controls temp controller, it would be a lot more efficient than running a window unit.
  15. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

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    I just bought a 5.5 cubic foot chest freezer at sears brand new. The yellow label says $24 per year to run it. It would be hard to beat this trying to build your own. Its pretty easy to rig up a line voltage thermostat to run it at any temp you want. Using a windo air conditioner is a big waste. and it will not work well as room units are designed to circulate into a large space. There is a good chance that you would "frost the coil". I also think it would dry out the stuff inside.

    The problem with building your own is the vapor barriers are critical. Unlike a house up north, the humidity is in the surrounding air and wants to find its way into the cooler, If you dont seal it right, moisture can build up in the insulation and cause mold. If you insist you need a tight vapor barrier on all sides including the floor. There are kits made by Danfoss used for sailboats and RVs whihc consist of a compressor and coils. Once you see the price you will probably buy a freezer.
  16. Bad Wolf

    Bad Wolf Minister of Fire

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    I was thinking about the same thing only I was going to use it to hang deer. I would think if you got an old but working fridge and ripped out the cooling system, basically you have a set of cold coils that would go inside with a fan and the hot coils that you need to keep out side with a fan. All the controls are there the trick would be to separate everything from the fidge box with out ruining anything. I guess you could just take a sawsall to the box and cut the front 3/4's off and build it into the wall of your unit.

    Let me know how you make out.
  17. MasterMech

    MasterMech Guest

    Almost 10,000 units sold. (CoolBots that is) They gotta be doin' something right.

    smoke show likes this.
  18. Bocefus78

    Bocefus78 Minister of Fire

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    I have a friend who made exactly what you are describing with a coolilng unit from a coke machine. He puts deer in it during season. Works like a champ.

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