I’ve been emailing someone about the benefits of making your own walk-in refrigerator/cooler using factory made mechanicals. She said, “I really never did understand why people would spend thousands on refrigerators when the walk ins are so much better. Most high end refrigerators are nothing more than some styrofoam and plastic wrapped in some visually appealing finish. Since I’ll be growing most of my own food, I’ll need the extra space.”
If you’re interested in this idea, one good place to get started is the CoolBot website. The CoolBot is the electronic control system. They explain how to build your own walk-in cooler with a standard window air conditioner. From their website: “The CoolBot turns almost any brand of off-the-shelf, window-type air conditioning unit (purchased separately) into a turbo-charged cooling machine. Transform an insulated room into a walk-in cooler to keep your vegetables, meat, flowers and other products fresh and thermostatically controlled cool down to 35F!” These coolers can be built inside your home, attached to the outside of your home, built as a free standing unit, or even built as a mobile cooler (ex: truck or trailer conversation). Here’s a video by Earth Dance with step-by-step visuals.
So here’s something to think about. Imagine having a tiny house or small house where space is obviously at a premium. You could build a separate cooler – on a trailer, for instance. You could also build your other mechanical systems on a trailer (possibly on the same trailer as the cooler) as we’ve discussed in a previous blog post. At any time, for any reason – such as a dispute over land rights, unfair taxes, natural disaster, etc. you could just pack up and drive away. And, of course, having everything on trailers cuts taxes and skirts onerous building codes.
The CoolBot website has a good photo gallery of coolers people have built. Most are just what you’d expect as you can see in the photo above – a homemade structure with air conditioner, the controller and shelving. But one project – a cooler in Uganda — really stood out for me (obvious to anyone who has been reading this site for a while).
The coolroom in Uganda was conducted by HortCRSP and UC Davis working on a project to help provide cold storage to farmers in Honduras, India and Africa. Being able to keep food cool to prolong its freshness is enormously important in hot climates. These are pictures from construction in Arua, Uganda using two concentric mud brick walls (made with mud mixed with rice hulls) separated by a 30 mm cavity that was filled with plastic bags filled with rice hulls. As their report shows a cooler like this can be built for only 10% of a commercial refrigeration system.