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Affordable Energy Efficient Experiment For The Off Grid Prefab House : Refrigerator

Zero Energy Prefab Home, last weekend when it was sunny!

We awoke to rain, chest colds, and the realization that a weekend at the zero energy off grid prefab home was out of the question, unless you wanted to get into environmentally friendly mud bogging. 

Last time I checked, mud bogging was not exactly environmentally friendly...

So, if we're here, and not on the land at the prefab house, then that allows me a day to fly about gathering tools and equipment I will need for our next off grid experiment!
[Off Grid Experiment #1: Solar Cooking]

Here's a tune George passed on; it sets the mood for all this advance planning and scheming:

[Originally by Blind Lemon Jefferson, Mance Lipscomb does Jack of Spades justice playin' it with a blade and bandaged finger!]

Honeychiles, he may be Jack of Spades, but today I'm Jack Of All Trades and fixin' to turn that freezer into an off grid, energy efficient refrigerator for the zero energy prefab house!

I present: The Affordable Off Grid Fridge:
Case Study: There are reputable refrigerators specifically built for off grid / solar power. However, they are quite more expensive than their on grid counterparts. So it is worth it to try this affordable experiment to turn an efficient chest freezer into a low energy, high efficiency fridge.  Ironically, when I originally found that perfect two drawer, top opening freezer last year it was $80 more than what I ended up paying for it when I finally bought it! So my Haier two drawer, 5.1 cu ft freezer ended up being $269 (with free shipping!) vs. about $1,000 for a similarly sized, made for off grid / solar counterpart.

Now the Haier freezer is NOT DC powered. But nothing else is drawing from the AC, and, once we're done with it, we expect the draw to be minimal because chest freezers have much thicker insulation than on grid refrigerators and don't have all the hot coils refrigerators have that you then need more power to then cool down.  Plus utilizing a top opening appliance keeps the cold air in instead of spilling out like a side-opening door!

Converting a chest freezer into a fridge usually has two approaches: 1. an electronic timer, which turns it on every XYZ minutes, or 2. by using a temperature control sensor.  The auto timer is less expensive, but in the end there are two reasons why we're beginning this experiment with temperature control: 1. the chest freezer has dual temperature controls, depending on our energy use once converted it would be nice to see if we could allow that second drawer to remain a freezer and 2. since it already has dual controls built in why not attempt to mess with the already installed thermostat (see hereinstead of buying an exterior secondary control? We shall see. Whyyyyyyyy the heck not, I say? I bet Pat Root is going to have some thoughts on this...

Any-hoo, last weekend, huddled in the prefab home all cozy with the wood cook stove, we feasted on Dutch Oven Ribs With Carrots, Claudia's Lasagne, and a puree o' Curried Butternut Squash Soup.

Now when I made that huge ole pan o' lasagna, I expected it to satisfy a dinner party, to then lazily nibble on  leftovers for days. I did not foresee the childrenz setting on it like Zombies At Apocalypse.
So, today you get another recipe:

Claudia's Lasagna (Makes 2 large pans)
This is from my friend Claudia C., who, with her family, has been finally able thanks to calmer politics to return to her family farm in Colombia. I miss her terribly. As you guess, of course I didn't follow her directions; my notes included. : )
  • 3lb ground beef
  • 3 16oz cans tomatoes (hand crush them)
  • 4 carrots
  • 1-2 onions
  • 2 green peppers
  • 6 chicken breasts
  • 16 oz heavy cream
  • 1 cup parmesean
  • 1/4 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 6 cups shredded mozzarella
  • 1 quart milk
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • fresh parsley
Copeland's notes: I use a whole chicken, and shred it, then make stocks and soups with what remains.
  • In pot: boil chicken, a few carrots, 1/2 onion, salt. 
  • Grate: 2ish carrots, green peppers, 1 onion. Sautee in large skillet with olive oil. 
  • In bowl mix meat with salt & pepper, press in garlic & onions. (Hmmmm I bet I'd just toss the meat & garlic/onions/s&p into the skillet above and start mixing! Yep, that's what I did.)
  • Take chicken out of pot, save broth for soup, eat carrot & onion. 
  • Shred chicken with a fork & knife.
  • Brown all above in the skillet, then add tomato sauce.
  • Grease, then line pans with 1st layer of lasagna noodles
  • Make Beshmael sauce: Think 1-1-1: 1 tablespoon of butter + 1 tablespoon of flour + 1 cup of milk. For this, do 4-4-4. Heat pot, add butter & flour until it is tan, add milk, mix well and let it thicken (about 5 minutes), then lower heat & add salt & pepper.
  • LAYER: 
    • 1st: meat sauce, with whipping cream poured over, then sprinkled with cheese. (Claudia: "LIGHTLY, Copeland, LIGHTLY sprinkle with cheese!" Me: "What?" sprinkle sprinkle sprinkle)
    • [next layer of pasta]
    • 2nd: Beshmael sauce, then sprinkle with cheese
    • [next layer of pasta]
    • 3rd: meat sauce, cream & top with cheese
    • [next layer of pasta]
    • Top lightly with little pats of butter, a little mozzarella, a little Parmesan. (I always dump any remaining sauce on top of the pasta first, then the butter & cheese.)
You can either cook it for 1 hour at 350 (take off pan top ten minutes before finished to make the top crisp & bubbly) or 1/2 hour the night before, then 1/2 hour before serving guests. On an always "on" wood cook stove in winter, that is not a waste!

It is still raining. And freezing. So I will add this chili recipe, which I made last night, then froze, to warm us up in the zero energy prefab house kit next weekend:

Copeland's Chili
  • 2 packages o' ground beef (we get our beef twice a year from Boxwood Farms)
  • Carrots &  garlic, minced; onions, diced; olive oil, salt & pepper to taste
  • Canned tomatoes, hand crushed
  • Cumin & cinnamon
  • Pinto beans - already washed, sorted, warmed to then drain & add into cooking.
Prepare beans (wash, pick out stones, add to boiling water, let sit 2 minutes, then turn off and let sit an hour), drain and wash again via colander. Sautee minced carrots & garlic, diced onions in olive oil, add beef, break apart while it browns. Toss in tomato juice from 3ish canned tomatoes (hand crush the tomatoes), then add to pot. Add beans to mix. Simmer simmer simmer adding broth if necessarily - add in cumin & cinnamon, salt & pepper... when the beans are tender, you're done!

Serve with freshly baked bread from the oven, YUM!
6year old: "I have never had chili ever in my life better than this." Yay!
[Mentally wonders when the child ever had chili...]

While y'all are cooking, enjoy some more music! 

For some strange reason Handsome Husband is *particularly* fond of that song...?
History of Crow Jane.
That's also a good bluegrass blog - nose around the bluegrass and blues posts and enjoy.

An occasional week away is tolerable and allows us to get other things done.
But my beloved prefab house kit, you are forever on my mind.

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At 2/5/11, 3:07 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay, only our Copeland would spell b├ęchamel sauce phonetically in her Southern drawl... I can just hear her now: besh-mael!
Just teasing :)

At 2/5/11, 5:00 PM , Blogger Passive Solar Prefab Homes said...

Hey y'all, it's baaaaaaysh shah may yul.
See, those French people just copied we Southerners in the guttural style, honeychile, and I would type more but I am being stared down by a flock o' chickens at the glass patio door.

At 2/5/11, 5:42 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...



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