by Bryan A. Thompson
Last Updated 2/12/2003
Refrigeration during an emergency can be important. Some medicine needs to be refrigerated. I'll cover some methods of keeping things cool in an emergency.
Energy stored in refrigerator and frozen foods - It's possible to survive a short outage by just keeping the refrigerator. I store about 30lbs of Blue Ice in the freezer to create a thermal mass so that I don't have to go out and buy ice every time the power goes out.
Ice - If it's cold out and water is available, it's possible to make ice which can cool things stored in the refrigerator or a cooler. Or you can just store the stuff outside.
Electricity - This is one of the legitimate uses or requirements I see for electricity in a blackout or other emergency situation. They don't require much - I measured mine at 3.5A (or 420W) when operating in steady-state mode. A UPS and large battery should be able to sustain this for quite a while.
Once everything has reached the set temperature, it shouldn't take any energy to maintain, therefore it's 0% efficient. Any energy the refrigerator consumes is either used by the light or is being lost through the sides in the form of heat. You can reduce the energy loss by adding rigid foam insulation to the outside.
Peltier Junction Refrigerators/Heaters
These are solid state devices (no moving parts) that cool stuff inside to 30-40F below ambient room temperature. They're usually small to minimize surface area and really well insulated. They can run from 12V DC power supplies and be converted to heaters just by switching the polarity of the input power supply.
I tested a model made by Oster and it sucked ass. They recommend that you precool everything you put in it. It was 70F in the room. The refrigerator held a 12 pack of Coke that I precooled in my refrigerator to 30F. I put it in the cooler for 2 days, then measured the temperature of the Coke - it was 59F. I took it back and got my hard-earned dollars back. I've heard that Coleman models work better, but I'm not willing to take a chance.
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Conserve electricity for important things like communications, security, and refrigeration.