Super fridge

It’s a given that the second you open your refrigerator door the cold air spills out and the cooling process has to begin again.

Sharon Labchuk with her converted freezer — $5 a year to operate.

Sharon Labchuk with her converted freezer — $5 a year to operate.

MILLVALE, P.E.I. — It’s a given that the second you open your refrigerator door the cold air spills out and the cooling process has to begin again.

But what if there was a fridge that not only retained that cold air with remarkably efficiency but also cost a mere $5 a year to run, compared to about $70 for a 20-some-cubic-foot EnerGuide model.

Environmental advocate Sharon Labchuk of Millvale, northwest of Charlottetown, has discovered that all you need is an ordinary chest freezer and a little external plug-in manual thermostat control device that regulates the interior to standard fridge temperature.

“The cold air is heavier than warm air (so) it stays put,” Labchuk says.

“That’s why this is so energy-efficient. The lid opens up like any chest freezer does so that the cold air stays put. When you open a fridge with a door it’s the least energy-efficient way of refrigeration that you could imagine because all the cold air (spills) out and immediately it’s replaced with warm air that the fridge has to start cooling again.”

Labchuk discovered this interesting twist to the typical kitchen appliance when the energy-efficient refrigerator she purchased in 1993 started going downhill.

Wanting to reduce her electricity consumption, she checked out some of the new super-efficient fridges that are designed to be powered by wind or solar power, but they were extremely expensive. Then she happened upon the website of an Australian scientist who took a regular chest freezer and converted it to a refrigerator. He provided the plans online.

Labchuk was confident she could do it.

“But then one thing led to another and I found that there was already a device that you could buy that did just that. The way these things work is they override the thermostat in your freezer and you can adjust it so that you can change the temperature to whatever you prefer. So you can change it to a refrigerator temperature.”

The plug-in thermostat control, which cost less than $60, is often used by home brewers to convert freezers into fridges for beer kegs.

“It’s all external so it doesn’t affect the warranty (of the freezer). It doesn’t affect the functioning except it changes the setting on the thermostat to a higher setting,” she says.

The device does not come with a precise temperature setting, so Labchuk tucked a thermometer inside her chest freezer and just adjusted the external device until the interior reached normal fridge temperature.

Fortunately for Labchuk, her kitchen was configured so that she could tuck the chest freezer into the spot where her refrigerator once sat.

“(But) even if people don’t have the room in their kitchen to do something like this, many people have extra fridges in their basements or cottages that are old and they’re consuming tons of energy. (They) could certainly replace it with a converted freezer,” she says.

One advantage to having a chest freezer is their lifespan is a lot longer than a refrigerator, she adds.

The disadvantage is that there is no separate compartment for freezer space, but Labchuk already has a large freezer in which she stores her garden harvest.

“This is perfect for me because I grow pretty much all my own vegetables. I don’t buy vegetables anymore. And so in the fall I have a huge glut of things I have to deal with; I have to freeze them or dry them or do something with them,” she says of her freezer fridge.

“(So) I was always trying to ram these big garbage bags full of stuff in my fridge and now I can just heave it in here and deal with it when I get time.”

Labchuk has organized her freezer fridge for ease of access. The things she uses most often are tucked in to the unit’s two sliding baskets and on the shelf, which houses the motor. The rest is put in the bottom.

The cost savings of about $65 annually in electricity is great but not the main reason she has gone this route.

“For me, it was the savings in electricity itself, not so much the cash, where I’m contributing less to climate change by doing this.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Red Deer College (Contributed photo)
RDC tuitions to go up 7%

Tuition increase the maximum allowed under provincial rules

This unicorn was stolen from the small community of Delia, northeast of Drumheller on Friday and was recovered, with its bronze horn broken off, on Saturday. RCMP are looking for information on the suspects.
(Photo from RCMP)
Unicorn statue stolen from Delia recovered

Statue found with horn broken off in field about 15 km from Delia

(Advocate file photo)
Lacombe man whose manslaughter sentence was rejected by judge has new lawyer

Judge rejected proposed seven-year sentence for manslaughter in connection with 2019 homicide

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a news conference at Rideau cottage in Ottawa, on Friday, March 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Chartrand
Liberals to release federal budget with eye on managing crisis, post-pandemic growth

OTTAWA — The federal government will this afternoon unveil its spending plans… Continue reading

Patches are seen on the arm and shoulder of a corrections officer in the segregation unit at the Fraser Valley Institution for Women during a media tour, in Abbotsford, B.C., on Thursday, Oct. 26, 2017. Correctional Service Canada says three inmates at Fraser Valley Institution recently tested positive for COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Drumheller Institution inmate dies in custody

Inmate’s April 15 death under investigation

A vial of the Medicago vaccine sits on a surface. CARe Clinic, located in Red Deer, has been selected to participate in the third phase of vaccine study. (Photo courtesy
Red Deer clinical research centre participating in plant-based COVID-19 vaccine trial

A Red Deer research centre has been selected to participate in the… Continue reading

In this Feb. 24, 2020, photo, the Olympics rings are reflected on the window of a hotel restaurant as a server with a mask sets up a table, in the Odaiba section of Tokyo. The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with less than 1% vaccinated. This of course is spilling over to concerns about the postponed Tokyo Olympics that open in just over three months.(AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)
Will Japanese Olympians be vaccinated ahead of the public?

TOKYO — The vaccine rollout in Japan has been very slow with… Continue reading

PSG's Kylian Mbappe, right, greets Bayern's Lucas Hernandez at the end of the Champions League, second leg, quarterfinal soccer match between Paris Saint Germain and Bayern Munich at the Parc des Princes stadium, in Paris, France, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. (AP Photo/Francois Mori)
PSG, Bayern the big names missing from Super League plan

DÜSSELDORF, Germany — The plan for the new Super League soccer competition… Continue reading

In this image released by Paramount Pictures, Marion Cotillard, left, and Brad Pitt appear in a scene from "Allied." (Daniel Smith/Paramount Pictures via AP)
Leo Carax’s ‘Annette’ to open Cannes Film Festival

Leo Carax’s “Annette,” starring Marion Cotillard and Adam Driver, will open the… Continue reading

From left, Producer Doug Mitchell, actor Chris Hemsworth and director George Miller attend at a press conference to announce the new "Mad Max" film at Fox Studios Australia in Sydney, Monday, April 19, 2021. (Mick Tsikas/AAP Image via AP)
‘Mad Max’ prequel shot in Outback to be released in 2023

SYDNEY, Australia — A prequel to the “Mad Max” movie franchise starring… Continue reading

In this Feb. 1, 2021 file photo, emissions from a coal-fired power plant are silhouetted against the setting sun in Independence, Mo. President Joe Biden faces a vexing task as he convenes a virtual climate summit on Thursday. He is expected to present a nonbinding but symbolic goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that will have a tangible impact not only on climate change efforts in the U.S. but throughout the world. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)
Biden pressed on emissions goal as climate summit nears

WASHINGTON — When President Joe Biden convenes a virtual climate summit on… Continue reading

Women wearing masks wait near an advertisement ahead of the Auto Shanghai 2021 show in Shanghai on Sunday, April 18, 2021. Automakers from around the world are showcasing their latest products this week in the world's biggest market for auto vehicles. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
VW, Ford unveil SUVs at China auto show under virus controls

SHANGHAI — Volkswagen, Ford and Chinese brands unveiled new SUVs for China… Continue reading

Investigators from the Vancouver Police Department were in Chilliwack Saturday, collecting evidence connected to a double homicide. (file photo)
Police investigate shooting death of man outside downtown Vancouver restaurant

Vancouver police say one man was killed in what they believe was… Continue reading

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
B.C. to start registering people 18 years and older for COVID-19 vaccines

VICTORIA — The British Columbia government says it’s inviting people 18 years… Continue reading

Most Read