Blog Update!
For those of you not following me on Facebook, as of the Summer of 2019 I've moved to Central WA, to a tiny mountain town of less than 1,000 people.

I will be covering my exploits here in the Cascades, as I try to further reduce my impact on the environment. With the same attitude, just at a higher altitude!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Going fridge free

Well, after an illustrious 6 years, our GE Profile fridge finally kicked the bucket. Early last week it started making weird clicking noises in the evening. By the time I woke up the next morning, everything in the freezer compartment was defrosted and the fridge was up to 50 degrees. I went out and bought a few bags of ice and stuffed them in the fridge. Everything in the freezer that could be saved went to the chickens.

The ice kept the fridge compartment at 50 degrees, but wasn't exactly keeping the items in there cold. In the meantime we deliberated what to do. I spent a bit of time researching replacement fridges. I knew I wasn't going to get anything nearly as big or as technologically advanced since getting something more complicated seemed to be the reason for the failures we were experiencing. On the other hand, I wanted to know if we could just have the digital thermometer piece replaced - that maybe that was why it wasn't holding the temperature.

Against my better judgement, I called GE to come in and take a look. They charge $80 just to make the trip regardless of what you have done. As I suspected, the motherboard in the thermostat dealy was toast. The quote to have that replaced (including the trip cost, labor, etc.) was about $500. But, that wasn't the actual problem with the fridge. The real problem was that the relay was out and possibly something else with the compressor.

Since the fridge we were thinking of replacing our current one with wasn't much more than the total quote just for the motherboard (and not the relay and compressor), I stopped the service guy from going any further and decided that, given its current problems on top of all the additional problems we already had with the fridge, it was about time to just cut our losses and start anew. As much as I'd like to repair it, this boat anchor just wasn't worth it.

So, after 4 days of being fridge free, we got a new fridge. This time, we got a smaller contraption with a CEE Tier 3 Energy rating (using 150 kWh less per year than our old fridge) and no extra computer chips, gadgets or whatnot. In other words, we are going old-skool with our fridge. You adjust the temperature in the fridge and freezer with a manual dial. The only thing fancy is an internal ice maker (my husband insisted on this) and a light bulb in the freezer.

One thing I did learn, however, was that (in addition to buying an extended warranty on major appliances) we really do need some sort of fridge. I'd love to think we could do without, but even if we didn't consume as much dairy and cheese, we rely on it too much for storing leftovers and keeping other perishables from going bad overnight.

What about you? Can you live without a fridge?


Robj98168 said...

Hell no I cannot live w/o a fridge. I do have a seperate freezer tho, and can freeze a couple of gallons of water to keep in the cooler for milk and such. I feel your pain- and deepest sympathies for your loss

Hazel said...

I could...but I'd rather not. I've spent plenty of time camping and using a coolbox with ice packs, but until I don't have to work out of the home (I work part time) something has to give, and that's it.

We do only have a small fridge that fits under the counter (about 5 cubic feet)though. There are 5 in the family and we have a separate chest freezer. We did have a big (by UK standards) fridge freezer too, but I switched it off and haven't needed to switch it back on. I've just got to convince DH to sell it now...

Karin said...

We went without one for nearly a month when ours died. The Sears guy can visit only once a week where we live; it took a week to schedule him, then three visits to finally fix the problem (covered under the warranty). It was January, so we kept some things in our detached garage, some in coolers outside, and some in a cooler inside. We have a chest freezer in the basement so would simply rotate our freezer packs and old Nalgene bottles w/water in them. Not too horrible during the cold season, but I can't imagine trying it once the temps warmed.

Belinda said...

I can and have for 6 months while we were deciding if we really needed a fridge. I got to the point that I realised was moving our diet in not great directions to accommodate the choice so I caved.

With more focus on the garden I could probably do it with a little more grace.. but it will be one of the later compromises in this family.

Kind Regards

koolchicken said...

When I lived in New England I think I could have done without a fridge, at least in the winter months. Even now my family back home still uses (the unheated) back hall to store drinks and similar stuff. But here in Hawaii it would be impossible. I've had melons and other fruit start to rot in less than twelve hours when it was left sitting on the counter. Once it's been picked fruit needs to be in the fridge. Otherwise it skips right past the ripening/over ripe stage and heads straight to rot and mold.
YMy fridge is probably the most important appliance in my house. With the store an hour away and everything but canned stuff rotting or molding so quickly, I don't think I could live without it. It's the reason I bought the biggest one I could and then got every available warranty and service available for it. Cause if it died unexpectedly I would be almost completely out of food and it could take months (if I'm lucky) to get a replacement.

Anna M said...

No, can't do it here. We purchase our raw milk 4 gallons at a time since it's a 50 mile round trip. We could do a smaller frig and probably will at some point but I do like to have leftovers and not worry about safety plus we eat a fair amount of dairy. If there was a cold room/spring room properly built it would be possible but building that would be far more expensive at this point.

Sarah B said...

I have lived without one but we had a cellar. I have read you can turn a deep freeze into a very energy efficient fridge by lowering the temperature. It is efficient because cold air sinks to the bottom so when you open the chest freezer up, the cool air doesn't escape. I wish we could get some of the smaller, efficient European fridges. They don't use Freon. They aren't approved in Canada. I only have a few things that need to be refrigerated but they really need to be!

Q said...

We lived without one for a year. We had no problems with it at all, we only started using it again because of our current landlords freaking out on us for not using the one they supplied us with(long story)

Dogs or Dollars said...

I am not cool enough to live without a fridge. (ha!) Not only do we have 1 fridge, we have an auxiliary dog-food/party fridge and a freezer. I feel more than a little guilty about this, but I honestly can not figure out how we would function with out them. The freezer is the newest addition and was required to hold our 1/4 organic cow purchase.

Im very sorry for your loss Crunchy. I absolutely hate the thought of trashing something that will not trash. What did you do with the old fridge?

Lisa Under the Redwoods said...

I lived without one for 15 months in Honduras. It is doable, but you do have to change the way you cook and eat.

Olivia said...

I suppose I could if I had no choice but it would be one of the last appliances I would willingly abandon. When we bought our last fridge we deliberately picked a small, energy efficient one that has no freezer. We have a chest freezer in the basement and I couldn't see the need for additional freezer space.

Jonalynn said...

I have tried to convince my husband to let me turn off the fridge. He has vetoed the idea repeatedly. Our fridge stopped working properly a few years ago. I transferred the freezer stuff to our separate freezer and put ice in the fridge compartment to keep it cool. It worked well for several days and I could have continued it, but on a whim he plugged the fridge back in and it was working fine and has continued since. Ours is quite old, so when it comes time to replace it, I will definitely go as small as possible.

Anonymous said...

I think I could go much smaller (maybe a largish dorm style or an apartment sized fridge) but I don't think I could get rid of it all together. I think dairy and leftovers are my biggest needs for refrigeration.

Jenipurr said...

No - week nights are really busy so we do a lot of cooking on weekends and then eat a lot of leftovers - and need a place to store them. Plus i rely on the freezer as a place to stash excess garden produce (currently lots of tomatoes) until I have the time to process and can them. I do not want to contemplate life without a fridge!

Julie said...

I suspect many of us (in the temperate regions) could learn to live without a fridge fairly well. Now ask us about the freezer....

Greenpa said...

"I'd love to think we could do without, but even if we didn't consume as much dairy and cheese, we rely on it too much for storing leftovers and keeping other perishables from going bad overnight."

:-) One of these days (in my spare time) I'm going to just show up on your doorstep, and move in with you.

Then unplug your fridge, and just show you how easy it is to do without - once you form the new habits needed.

It's like any change- intimidating, and if you're a normal primate (I think we have abundant evidence you are, in many ways) - your hindbrain will scream at you "I can't do this! It's impossible! Nobody could!"

Ever had that experience? Learning a new skill? I think we all do. Then- you learn, and the new skill is easy.

:-) Anyway- congrats on the new simplified fridge! You're bang on correct in the decisions there.

Now- I want a new CAR - with no freaking computers in it. Someone here looking for a new product to develop? Simple cars. My mechanic is dying for one, too.

Anonymous said...

Everything that Greenpa said!

We have cheese, milk and yogurt in our not-fridge. Five months now with no fridge and I'm honestly loving staying unplugged. ;)

And, I'm with him on the car comment too. My dad was a mechanic. Just more stuff to break. >:(

Natalie said...

Hah, I was waiting for Greenpa to comment! Like others, I need a fridge now, but I do think it's because of the way I cook and what I cook. I definitely rely on the freezer to save leftovers for those days when I don't want to cook, but honestly, I probably don't need the fridge.

I just moved to Vancouver, BC and it's cold here! In Houston I would have freaked if I left food out on the counter all day after cooking, but here I have no qualms about it. It's not really warm enough for bacteria to get too far if you eat it within a day or two. In Houston, however, you need a fridge.

Greenpa said...

Anisa - yay! I need allies around here!

Natalie; "In Houston, however, you need a fridge." sigh. And you were so close. :-) My rebuttal: Vanuatu. The people there have one of highest "happiness" measurements in the world- and like 0.0001% of them have a fridge. And it's warmer than Houston.

I know; you'll say; "but it's REALLY not the same; not comparable" - and my response is- why not? They CAN. You have more resources- and can't?


Lisa Nelsen-Woods said...

I camped relying on a cooler. Mother Nature likes to send me week long blackouts - they build character. Going without a fridge during a winter blackout is easier. I put our food in the garage and even the milk froze. During the summer, I had to pick what meat we wanted to save and stuffed it in coolers. For the rest of the week whenever I looked at the fridge adn thought of the spoiling food, I'd see cartoon dollar signs float out of it. That could be due to hunger. Since we don't eat processed food stuffed full of preservatives, the pickings were slim until the electricity came back on.

I use my freezer to store garden produce, meat, and real food. Not to mention the occasional homemade fruit Popsicle. My husband drinks so much milk I'd park a cow in the garage if I could. I like having a place to keep food from spoiling in the humidity. My home uses 15 Kwh of electricity a day instead of the normal 30 Kwh. I'm not going to apologize for devoting those Kwh to a refrigerator that allows my family to eat real food made from scratch.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Greenpa - I'm not saying we couldn't do it, it just isn't worth it. We spend, what, $20 a year in electricity on it?

How much would be spent in lost food and personal energy in food prep/preservation to avoid refrigeration?

But you are always welcome to show up on my doorstep and move in.

Kay Pere said...

We were without a fridge for a week after hurricane Irene came through. Our 20-year-old really basic refrigerator died on the 4th day we were without power, just hours before our power was finally restored. It didn't like being run on a generator. Took a week for the new one to be delivered.

During that time we used ice blocks in the freezer and top of the refrigerator to keep everything cold. It worked well enough. We ate what we had and wasted very little. Made me more conscious of how much food we keep on hand at any one time.

Using ice to keep our food cool reminded of the stories my grandfather used to tell of cutting ice blocks from a pond in winter (back in the early 1900s) and storing them in straw in their barn to sell during the warmer months for people to use in their "iceboxes."

If it worked then, it certainly could work now.

Read more about insights gained in the days following Hurricane Irene, here:

Anonymous said...

Living off the grid I am forced to use alternatives in summer due to temperatures. I do have a propane fridge for summer use but use a cooler outside in winter. Liquids I keep in sink in case bottle/cases freezes wrapped in a towel to minimize the risk. I say, anyone in right climate can do it.

Greenpa said...

Crunch- I agree, the energy use is cheap at this point.

"How much would be spent in lost food and personal energy in food prep/preservation to avoid refrigeration?"

There's where the discussion gets way too complex for the comments; and also for me right this second; I'm drowning in tree crop harvest time-

But! Quickly - if you do "full accounting", I believe there is a case for dumping the fridge. Stuff like;

a) the actual environmental costs of manufacturing the fridge, steel, mining, transport, insulation; and refrigerant; yes, current refrigerants are better than old, but they are far from problem free.

b) a true comparison of food waste in the two- does stuff get put in the fridge and thrown out? sure. In my experiences in co-op houses; lots and lots. A good chatelaine can help- but- sometimes the fridge encourages careless behavior.

c) this one is an hypothesis- I think there's a really good chance that across the world; the epidemics of obesity follow the advent of household refrigerators. They encourage large purchases- which then are constantly available, and "oh, we need to eat this up so we don't waste it.."

d) and more. out of time...

"But you are always welcome to show up on my doorstep and move in."

If you think I'm laughing that off- you're in trouble! I've actually done just that, in the past- showed up and moved in on a friend. So I could get some work done. Stayed 2 months! Fair warning! :-)

fragmentaerie said...

I have about four things in my parents' fridge, two of them are pyrex bowls full of leftovers. I could do without a fridge, but I'd have to get better at making/picking the correct amount of food.
I might get twitchy without my ice to chew on in the summer.

Crunchy Chicken said...

Greenpa - No, I'm not taking into account full lifecycle. But the same can be said for food - production, transportation, storage, etc. Neither are negligible.

Now, I'm off to go eat leftovers from Sunday's dinner which has been dutifully stored in the fridge since then.

Greenpa said...

Crunch- storage, transport, etc- don't forget I'm completely in FAVOR of refrigeration for food distribution and commercial storage. What I doubt strongly is that the home fridge is actually a positive value, for any part of the system. But the grocery store? Of course. And, we do use a freezer. Makes sense.

And- tonight, we'll be eating the leftovers from a pork loin I bought and cooked 3 days ago. No fridge; just a carefully re-heated and kept closed pot. :-)

Lisa - the Granola Catholic said...

For short term I might be able to go without a fridge. Lets say in a power outage during a snow storm. I think it is great that you were able to get a more efficient fridge though. I do hate that repairs run more than replacing appliances, to me that is not right.