Solar Refrigerator

The concept of a solar refrigerator seems rather contrary at first glance. It doesn't seem logical that by placing a refrigerated box in full sunlight, the contents inside the box will be kept cold!

Research proves that this very concept really does work and that's why solar refrigeration is slowly becoming recognized as a viable means for several purposes.

Benefits of Refrigerators Powered by Solar Energy

One of the most important purposes of a solar fridge is in developing countries who have no electricity to keep food and vaccines at the proper cold temperature. Many times what happens is that the vaccines the people in developing countries require to get and stay healthy aren't any good unless they are kept refrigerated.

Once the vaccine spoils, it's worthless and people suffer with health conditions that cannot be treated any other way. A solar refrigerator is a viable solution to this problem.

Another benefit of solar refrigeration is that they don't contribute to the depletion of the ozone layer. A refrigerator powered by conventional methods uses substances that are harmful to the ozone layer and the overall environment. Solar powered refrigerators use the sun's energy instead, which has no negative side effects on the environment.

Rural areas of the world depend on solar refrigeration to keep their meat and dairy products cold and safe for eating. People who enjoy a vacation home or cabin in remote areas are also going to love the convenience and size of these refrigerators.

Whether you're off the grid by choice or not, these refrigerators can make a big difference for you in remote areas!

Manufacturers are designing these refrigerators with drain holes in the bottom, so they're extremely easy to defrost and clean when needed.

How Does a Solar Frig Work?

Traditional refrigeration units use electricity to power a motor that compresses Freon or other refrigerant, turning it from a vapor into a liquid. The liquid then evaporates, heat is absorbed, and the result is the temperature inside the refrigerator decreases.

The difference with a solar frig is that there is no compressor or electric motor. The heat from the sun is the catalyst that transforms the vaporized refrigerant into a liquid, which then lowers the temperature inside the refrigerator.

Challenges of Using a Solar Refrigerator

One of the biggest challenges facing this technology is that the sun isn't always shining from day to day. Sometimes the weather is cloudy or rainy for days on end, which means there is no heat source to keep the contents of the solar frig safely cold enough.

The answer is to provide another heat source - batteries or a controlled fire - to close the gap on those days when the sun isn't shining consistently.

Some countries have the luxury of a backup generator, which can help keep the vaccines or food in the frig cold until the sun returns.

The other challenge of solar refrigeration is that it's very difficult to monitor the temperature inside the box. Why is this important? Vaccines are tricky - they must be kept at just the right temperature in order to be effective. Some refrigerators powered by solar energy can actually get so cold that everything inside the frig freezes, rendering the vaccines useless.

Those in the Western part of the world who want to utilize this technology are faced with community opposition to placing anything on the roof necessary for powering a solar frig. Commercial applications for this technology are more often used in the Western world at present.

Types of Solar Refrigerators

  • Chest style refrigerators

  • Upright style

  • Battery free style

  • Vaccine style refrigerators

Refrigerator styles are somewhat limited when it comes to the solar powered ones, but they're built to be energy efficient, quiet, and environmentally friendly. Some are as large as a traditional refrigerator, but most are significantly smaller at just over 3 feet in height.

They all feature excellent polyurethane insulation - at least 4 inches on all sides - which is a key component to keeping the contents cold.

Solar refrigeration units designed specifically for vaccines only are smaller and are constructed to be very sturdy. Considering these types of refrigerators are transported to remote areas of the world via boat, plane, and donkey, they need to be built to last.

Most Energy Efficient Solar Refrigerators

  • SunDanzer 8 cubic feet Battery Powered Refrigerator - motor compressor operates on a mere 12 VDC or 24 VDC. Consumes very little energy, but is highly efficient despite the small PV system required for it to operate. Price range is $1,100 to $1,044.

  • Sun Frost RF-16 - energy efficient full size refrigerator featuring two systems for cooling that operate independently of each other and temperature controls. Price is on the high side at $2,800.

  • Norcold DE-61T - full size refrigerator/freezer combination priced at around $1,200

It is possible to shop around a bit for a lower price on these refrigerators, so be sure to check from retailer to retailer. Keep in mind that the larger the unit, the more expensive it will be. Shipping fees can also have a big impact on the total cost - sometimes as much as a few hundred dollars so include that in your budget as well.

Charitable Uses for a Solar Refrigerator

We've already mentioned how humanitarian organizations are using these refrigerators to keep vaccines safely stored in developing and remote countries of the world.

Missionaries also use this technology to keep food and vaccines at the right temperature, especially when they are ministering to remote tribes and peoples of the world.

Remote medical clinics also use this technology for safe vaccine and medication storage.

Emergency crews can use these during disaster relief for keeping medications, food, drinks, and vaccines safe and useable.

Solar Technology - It's Here to Stay!

As you can see, solar refrigeration is definitely the answer for many people in remote areas, both for survival and for recreational purposes. Solar technology is here to stay!

We know this because there are more and more ideas coming to fruition in the way of actual gadgets, appliances, and tools that utilize the power of the sun to better our lives and protect the environment. A solar fridge just might be the next solar technology for you to try!

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