How to turn a freezer into a refrigerator in two easy steps. Plug freezer into a Johnson Controls A19AAT-2C Freezer Temperature Controller, place the temperature sensor into freezer, and done. In most cases, this would be all that is required unless the entire pantry needs to be reconfigured to handle an upright refrigerator versus a chest refrigerator. We had our chest refrigerator since 2011. It was a Sundanzer DC refrigerator. We have the matching freezer as well. The freezer has never had a problem, but a few months ago, we noticed that our refrigerator was never turning off and would freeze the contents. My wife’s biggest pet peeve about a frozen refrigerator was trying to add frozen creamer to her morning cup of coffee, not to mention the constant freezing and thawing of our produce.
We tried to repair our refrigerator by replacing the thermostat, which should have worked, but it did not. And, that is when we learned Sundanzer’s dirty little secret about their DC refrigerators. Unfortunately, these super efficient refrigerators have a design flaw. The refrigerator gathers moisture at the bottom of the fridge and that moisture can seep into the cooling system and rust the cooling elements sealed into the insulation below. This design flaw is thrust upon the customer to repeatedly clear out the bottom of the refrigerator, wipe the entire bottom of the fridge to prevent the moisture from building up which will leak into the system below, and rust it to ruin. If we had known this, not in our user’s manual, we would have taken better precautions with preventing moisture build up. However, when considering replacing the refrigerator, we decided that we did not think it right to have to spend our already thinly stretched time removing our refrigerator’s contents and wiping the moisture out. I would think that the engineers would have designed the fridge to channel the moisture to a safe drain plug to the bottom of the fridge without ruining the cooling element control system, but I’m not an engineer, but a person who would like to purchase a refrigerator that would last more than five years for the price Sundanzer is asking. In fact, my wife and I have stored on our property our first AC refrigerator from 1998 and for fun I plugged it in last summer to see if our solar system could keep up with it. That Roper brand refrigerator and freezer combo is a real energy hog and maxed out our solar system, but it has lasted over 18 years at almost a quarter of the price of a Sundanzer.
We decided to ask Sundanzer’s distibutor if Sundanzer would assist, lower the price, in purchasing a new refrigerator if we decided to purchase another one. To Sundanzer’s credit, they did agree to give a $100 discount to purchase a new refrigerator, but not worth what we soon discovered. It is very easy to convert a well insulated and efficient freezer into a refrigerator.
We decided to purchase a new Kenmore freezer on sale at our local Sears. The freezer boasts a 318 kWh per year energy use because it is very basic and has a manual defrost. Manual defrost = moisture buildup. Nothing new here. My wife notices wiping up moister is a quick wipe of the top shelf only, without the need to move the fridge’s contents. Our new fridge/freezer cost only $399, and the temperature controller conversion cost $68. The new pantry shelving to make room for the upright cost around $114, which brings the total to around $581, not including sales tax. The Sundanzer cost $1020, not including taxes or shipping. However, the real question is how much power does the new freezer, I mean refrigerator, use on average per day.
I discovered that the freezer conversion is a great idea and many people have tread here before. The thick insulated walls of the freezer keeps the items in the unit cool for longer periods of time. For some reason, the same attention to insulation is not given to refrigerators, thus the need for more power. By converting the freezer to a refrigerator, the power usage is considerably lower than the estimated 318 kWh per year. Our newly converted refrigerator runs for about five minutes at a time and may come on 3 times an hour if not opened. It uses 5 amps-hours, but for every hour the refrigerator only runs 1/4 the time. That means when not accessed, it pulls about 1.25 amp-hours. Multiply that by 24 hours in a day, and it requires about 30 amp-hours a day. That is about 5% of our battery bank each day. I am spending a few more amps-hours than my DC refrigerator, but we have doubled our refrigerator’s size from 5.8cf to 12.8cf.
If you are considering going off grid an don’t mind using AC, then a freezer conversion might be right for you. I would have loved to keep my refrigerator as DC power, but some sacrifices have to be made. I plan on buying a new freezer thermostat for my Sundanzer refrigerator and convert it into a back up freezer since it is so great at freezing food. Plus, I want to purchase a DC temperature controller to make sure the Sundanzer can shut off at the correct temperature to conserve power.