Chest freezer for cold (but not frozen!) storage
July 19, 2021 10:28 PM   Subscribe

I replaced my much-hated chest freezer with a glorious new glass-shelved upright. Now I'm wondering if I can unplug the chest freezer and use it as a kind of root cellar. It lives in my unheated detached garage. Winters usually go down to -10F. What do you think? Would apples freeze? Would there be too little ventilation?
posted by HotToddy to Home & Garden (11 answers total)
I think if it was in an unheated space and the temperature was below freezing for more than a day it would freeze inside. You could put a light inside on those days, but that would require a certain amount of vigilance.
Bear in mind that an unused freezer should be plugged in ever so often so the compressor stays in good shape. I think three or four times a year would be okay, but I'm not a freezer technician.
If it were mine I think I'd sell it (Kijiji or something similar) for whatever I could get. A used freezer is worth something, a dead one has to be disposed of.
posted by AugustusCrunch at 11:24 PM on July 19 [1 favorite]

In a freezing climate root cellars rely on being dug down into the earth below the local frost line. The earth actually heats your produce from below enough to keep it from freezing.

Even a well insulated box will approach the sub-freezing air temperature over some days, like a freezer loses cold in a power outage.

You could put a little heat source in it but it seems like a hassle and a waste of some functional refrigerating apparatus.
posted by away for regrooving at 11:33 PM on July 19 [3 favorites]

I'd hold on to it for a year, forget about the roots, and follow AugustusCrunch's advice to keep it functional.

Refrigeration appliances aren't as reliable as they used to be (a Sub Zero tech recently told a frustrated friend of mine that a service call every nine months is about average), and if you have problems with your new one in the first year, you might be very thankful to have such an easy way of saving the contents of your new freezer while it gets repaired or replaced.
posted by jamjam at 11:55 PM on July 19 [3 favorites]

You can put a lightbulb (or better, a mat used for heating seedlings) in there along with a temperature controller. It’s commonly done by home brewers, and you can buy all the bits readymade. Total cost about $60-80.
posted by Jobst at 5:41 AM on July 20 [1 favorite]

Yeah, homebrewers take a freezer and add plumbing through the sides, plus a temperature sensor & controller, and then plop kegs of beer in there. They call it a keezer -- so if you search for that online, you will find MANY examples & instructions.

You don't need to do all of that, but an Inkbird controller that's wired to the freezer's electrical plug and to a bare lightbulb would offer low-level heating & cooling. (I have wired up an Inkbird to an aquarium pump, to make a small circulating heater bath for brewing, and I am an id10t. So iIf I can do it, anyone can!)
posted by wenestvedt at 6:39 AM on July 20 [4 favorites]

I know an old guy that had one that didn't work anymore burred in the ground to use as roots storage. The main deal is you need to go deep enough you are past the part of the ground that freezes in winter but will remain cool. Your garage temps will vary way too much to store food unfrozen without significantly altering the way the freezer works.
posted by wwax at 6:49 AM on July 20

I use a cheap ink bird controller in an old mini fridge to do a very similar thing to what you’re describing.
posted by furnace.heart at 9:06 AM on July 20 [2 favorites]

furnace.heart, that's a good choice!
posted by wenestvedt at 10:15 AM on July 20

You may also need to figure out a way to control humidity as well, if you plan to use it as a root cellar.
posted by Aleyn at 2:14 PM on July 20 [2 favorites]

A root cellar needs some ventilation; door can be propped open. Freezer in a garage can be a danger to a child who can climb in but not get out, can suffocate. The insulation will slow the process of cooling or warming, but it will get as cold or warm as ambient temps.
posted by theora55 at 2:59 PM on July 20 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Wow, this is great. And thanks to checking out these links I’ve learned about tons of other uses for chest freezers! Thanks all!
posted by HotToddy at 10:25 AM on July 21

« Older Internet access woes for online ASL course in...   |   To get a cat or not to get a cat? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments