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Anyone understand electricity?

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Prime Posted: Tue, Jul 24 2012 7:26 PM

My goal is to come up with a way to preserve food using a freezer when things go south. Is it possible to hook a standard sized deep freeze up to solar panels? How much energy are we talking and what kind of solar panels would do the job? Is this even remotely possible? Hopefully some of the engineers on here may know the answers to some of these questions. Thanks in advance!

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Wheylous replied on Tue, Jul 24 2012 7:27 PM

I also would recommend asking engineering forums.

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I think its quite possible. If you have enough solar panels you can do it.

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Purchase a high capacity uninterruptible power supply (UPS). All you need to do is plug it into the wall and plug the freezer into the UPS. It will give you around 4 hours worth of power. Pretty simple stuff.

Other than that, hook up you panels to a PV-DC battery charger, install a swtich and have your battery bank connected to an inverter. This set up will cost you a few thousand dollars.

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The solution to your woes depends on the answer to the following question. When you say 'go south', do you mean like when the oil runs out, the land gets swallowed up by the sea, and Mel Gibson starts galavanting around bare-chested in the newly formed baron wastelands of LA? Or are you talking about in the event you forget to pay the bills?

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Prime replied on Tue, Jul 24 2012 8:42 PM

I'm more referring to economic collapse and every man for himself type of scenario. In other words, electricity won't be readily available. I'm thinking along the lines of a deep freeze buried in the ground or in a root cellar, with the only energy source availabel consisiting of a few solar panels. Just enough engery to power the freezer and only the freezer.

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Mel Gibson it is then. I think your best bet is to dig a big hole in which to bury a load of canned food. Solar panels will just attract this guy to your location:

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The only way things will go south is if you keep wasting money on frivolous precautions.

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Prime replied on Wed, Jul 25 2012 9:10 AM

There must be fallout shelters all across Europe then, right Friedmanite?

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xahrx replied on Wed, Jul 25 2012 9:33 AM

"I'm more referring to economic collapse and every man for himself type of scenario. In other words, electricity won't be readily available." - Prime

You might want to consinder the real worth of doing so.  If the world goes to hell and there is no electrical grid worth speaking of, your freezer will run out of food pretty quickly and given just in time inventory practices, you'll have a harder and harder time retocking it.  So, why even have it?  The electricity you get would likely be better used elsewhere unless you expect an eventualy recovery within the time frame dictated by your freezer's storage capacity for food.  But, if you really do expect the world to go to hell long term, you're much better off prepping with what can sustain you long term, like the ability to grow and scavange food, hunt with and without a rifle, purify water, make and carry a shelter, etc.

It always amazes me how suicidal some prepper types are.  They stock their basements and bunkers with enough supplies to go down there and spend the rest of their lives, or at least a few years, underground.  Yippee.  Or they plan to farm and self sustain in or around major population centers where I seriously doubt the hordes of starving would give much of a crap about property rights.  Sounds like a recipe for success...

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Autolykos replied on Wed, Jul 25 2012 10:13 AM

Not to throw a red herring your way or anything, Xahrx, but what do you suggest "preppers" do instead?

Nevermind, I see you already answered this question. cheeky

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David B replied on Wed, Jul 25 2012 12:32 PM

I'd follow on with what others have said.  Freezing is the least efficient way to store food.  We can only get away with it because we have enough excess electricity production to run freezers full time and rapid heating makes it convenient to prepare.  It's also easier to do in terms of labor than to can, smoke, salt, or otherwise preserve meat and vegetables.

Running lights and power tools air filtration on a shelter, etc are more reasonable uses of a solar power generation system.  So personally, I think it's a wasted effort, that would be better spent on other infrastructure that doesn't have the high technical overhead and a low overall return.  You can't make the freezer bigger.  The solar panels are like flying a flag that says, "Come take my stuff, cause I have stuff."

It would be more cost effective to invest in books for learning canning your own food, growing your own food, and storing in root cellars that could be constructed relatively cheaply with a low, visual footprint.

However, to do what you've described you have to match the size of the freezer (and it's power requirements) to a bank of batteries with enough overcapacity (some percentage of power more than you need to power the freezer through the periods when you don't have sunlight) and a bank of solar panels that can charge these batteries to full capacity during your shortest day of the year during maybe 30% of full sunlight, to account for a week of overcast skies....  Otherwise you're in a pickle.  If the stuff inside starts to melt, it will destroy your foodstore rapidly, and that's a huge tragedy.

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David B replied on Wed, Jul 25 2012 12:50 PM

Also, I could probably look up parts and construct a solution based on how much food you want to store.  

But I'd be disingenuous if I didn't tell you it's a bad idea.  There is so much error built into the freezer system, that's compensated for by our economic system, high availability of food and electricity, which mitigates those risks at the personal level.  If things go to hell, you have to provide all of that extra redundancy yourself.  I'm not completely sure how the condenser in a freezer works, but if there are any exotic materials (coolants) involved which I suspect there are, it's not an easy replacement.  That's just the technological parts for the freezer itself.  If a freezer goes down you better have a backup or the food will thaw, and you're in a bind.  Secondly, solar panels only generate a steady (not really steady) stream of direct current at specific voltages.  You have to store the excess to create a buffer which and then pass that through a DC/AC converter which will regulate the output to meet the constant requirements of the freezer itself.  Now you won't get full capacity out of the solar panels at all times.  You will have clouds, you will have shorter days during certain periods of the year.  You will need sufficient excess battery capacity, to mitigate the "bad days".  You net power consumption over any period (1 day, 1 week, 1 month) had better be enough to not run you down to 0 battery storage, before you get more into the system.  Now it's possible to construct such a system, but the question is what are the maintenance costs?  

I'm all for having a self-sufficient power system.  Tie them to non-essential, or less power hungry systems.  Tie them to system which give a benefit to use, but don't cost you much if you lose them, because you have alternatives.  Like a power drill, backed up by a hand drill.  Electric lights backed up  by candles.  A Hotplate or microwave, backed up by a camp fire.  Canning, smoking, salting, root cellar should be your first line.  etc., etc.  But tying food and or water requirements to a system which has to remain on in order to keep food from going bad is very risky. 

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