CTM 298—Solar Applications Workshop
Joe Costion, Instructor
Assignment: Apply knowledge acquired in workshop into a written assignment.
All About Chillin’
There are times, due to living off the grid for the last fifteen years, that I find myself caught up in negativity. There’s commuting to work, getting my son to school, being totally independent and self-reliant, and dealing with the wind—the God Almighty wind. Sometimes after dark, I find myself looking longingly into brightly-lit yellow geometrical windows as I drive the twenty-five miles back to my place. I try to remember what it was like to simply throw a switch and be, at once, completely illuminated by a dazzling radiance that could keep me working until the wee hours of the morning.
Then, a little thing, a thing like taking a solar applications workshop, can make my way of life suddenly make sense again. In fact, the most encouraging thing happened within the first few minutes of such a workshop, when I learned that there is a 12-volt freezer on the market. Oh, joy, and be still my heart! I must have one of these wonderful inventions, as I am a person who believes in and worships the simplicity of the 12-volt system.
For the first twelve years of living in rural Flagstaff, I used coolers and ice to keep the milk, meat, and other perishable items from spoiling. During the summer, ice can run anywhere from $24 to $30 per month or more. This is the estimate prior to adding the price of transporting the block of ice to my home—far from economical. In winter, the ice might last for weeks, but the same food items subject to spoilage in the heat of summer would often freeze in winter. And, unfortunately, to keep the ice from melting in summer, it was essential to keep the cooler indoors. Such was my life with a cooler. Quite a few years ago, I purchased a used propane refrigerator from a neighbor. At the time of the transaction, I was assured that the appliance was in good working order. The fridge was hooked up and I was so happy upon coming home from work one summer day to find the inside cold. I had a refrigerator! Oh, happy day! The next morning I hurried to the fridge and checked its interior, only to discover it as warm as everything surrounding it. To this day this bulk of a beast sits blocking about one third of my hallway, used solely as a pantry for condiments and sauces. Okay, life off the grid (or LOG, as I call it) goes on.
Approximately three years ago, someone offered me a small camper trailer for a mere $200. The purpose behind this purchase was two fold. One: the poor soul offering it up was down, out, and begging to leave Flagstaff. Two: the camper came with a working propane refrigerator. At this point, honesty forces me to divulge that compassion for another was not the determining factor in my decision. To this day, I have to walk out to the trailer to retrieve anything that requires cold to retard spoilage. I believe this might be a personal penance for my own selfish motivation. In addition, no matter how tightly we cover the vents, sooner or later the pilot blows out. So this latest acquisition costs around $20 per month to run, and run it doesn’t on the days when the God Almighty wind does.
Dreams of owning and operating a freezer have danced through my head throughout the years like sugarplums in the heads of children on Christmas Eve. (Please take note of the unmarked but intended emphasis on “dreams.”) Just think of the possibilities if I should implement the use of a freezer instead of a refrigerator! I could freeze my perishables while freezing my own ice supply. After all, the only problem that I had with the cooler system was economic. With a freezer giving me an endless supply, I would never have to deal with these money matters ever again! I could simply freeze a block every other day and have all the ice a person could use. Regardless of the pros linked to this idea, there remained a haunting question that came to me whenever I considered making this reverie into reality: did I really want to give up the simplicity of my 12-volt system? The answer was always a resoundingly clear “no.”
And then, one fine morning in May of 2006, I waltzed into a solar applications workshop and heard about the Sundanzer freezer from another believer in the 12-volt. Soon after this, I performed an Internet search on Sundanzer. Lo and behold, there it was – a DC freezer. My dreams are no longer dreams. I can have a freezer and the simplicity of 12-volt power. I can freeze my own ice. I can . . . I can . . . I will . . . someday.
The Sundanzer freezer goes for around $900 at present—an expense that is attainable, albeit I will have to save and plan. Once this purchase is made, I estimate that it will pay for itself in about two years. After that, I can relax and laugh at my past trials and errors regarding refrigeration. Now I have hope and can remember that the reason I moved off the grid in the first place was to quit the monthly utility bills, to enjoy the solace of solitude, and to have a good excuse for not working into the wee hours of the morning.
Now if only something can be done about that God Almighty wind.