Cold Steel

Frost on Entry Grate

Down below the entry grate is an air tube that penetrates the concrete slab of our tiny cottage. The pipe allows water to drain out from the under-grate area and is one of the controlled ways that we bring fresh air into the cottage to replace what is burned in the woodstove and then goes up the chimney.

This particular air tube does not travel far underground but rather brings in very fresh air. On the past few days when it has been so cold the incoming air chilled the grate such that I saw a bit of frost, moisture drawn out of the air and condensed on the cold metal. You’ll notice that the firewood right there is also experiencing the same chilling effect.

It is very tempting to put an insulated box there and use it for a refrigerator. Eventually I plan to build a refrigerator and freezer that use this principle, but on a different wall. During the warmer months it will use the coolth of our spring and possibly and ice house up hill of us from whence the cold can flow down. Then with a little boost from solid state devices using the Peltier-Seebeck effect. My hope is to get around the inefficiency by having the boost of the spring and the ice.

Outdoors: 9°F/-17°F Sunny
Farm House: 48°F/42°F
Tiny Cottage: 65°F/59°F

About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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16 Responses to Cold Steel

  1. I am also considering making an insulated 10′ cube in the ground filling it with water in the winter, covering it and using circulating glycol to cool a “Fridge”. Come spring were also going for a two hundred foot trench to bury some pipe to bring in earth warmed air..

  2. Ablom, that’s along the lines I’m thinking of too. The thermal expansion and contraction is an issue.

    Mama, aye, a cheese cave is in our future. Probably not pig cheese, although, Hope has suggested we milk the pigs. :)

  3. Anonymous says:

    I have wondered about this but would you use freon like a fridge or antifreeze or alcohol or water or what for transfering the heat?

  4. Peter says:


    I’ve been discussing this type of refrigeration system with my friends for a few years now…If I owned my own home i would give it more serious consideration, and I think you should go ahead and do it!
    Millions of people who live in our climate (cold winters) are wasting their money on electricity by paying to keep their food cold in their conventional refrigerators.
    We need hybrid-fridges, built against outside walls or having vents that lead to the outside. They would use the winter cold to keep food cold, and when the temperature rises to a certain point, the compressor can kick in.
    I guess the applaince companies and especially the electricity providers would not want this anytime soon…


  5. I’m incline towards salt water. Beware some anti-freeze is highly toxic. Freon’s out for me – expense and other issues. Fresh water is useful only down to 33째F or maybe higher to be safe – so refrigeration only, not freezing.

    Peter, commercial refrigeration is starting to use outdoor air exchange for winter cooling which saves a lot of energy in yours and our climate.

  6. I love your ingenuity. In South Africa we have a saying, a farmer makes a plan. Out of necessity we need to get creative but our climate has very different challenges to yours.

  7. MMP says:

    Sumfin funnies’ go in on round here, I think I’ve seen this afore.

    We have a progressive building. The further you get from our main heat plant, it get’s progressively colder. The building is a typical new england farm design, a main house connected to a barn by the Elle. We have central heat in the Main House but the elle is heated wodfired cookstove. The room between the last warm room and the barn, the trap room (trapazoidal because the house isn’t square with the barn) acts as our walk in cooler from about November until late march. Temps in there stay in the 30s for the most part. The Barn actually shades the trap room and keeps it cooler over the summer. In the barn (now workshp space, no horses) it gets colder as there are no warm walls and few windows to let in sunlight.

    We keep the freezers in the trap room. It also serves for open air storage for other things that preserve well at below 40. Our next refrigeration project is going to be a root cellar because there are a lot of things that want to be around the 50 degree F mark for long term storage.

  8. Pablo says:

    But is coolth a word?

  9. donald says:

    Hey Walter – this has nothing to do with your post but i’d like to take advantage of you being a great resource. I was wondering if you had any suggestions towards starting a breeding program, i.e., number of sows and boars one might consider when starting from ground zero? Thanks and take care

  10. Interesting question, Pablo, yes, apparently ‘coolth’ does appear in the dictionary as well as widely in Google searches (>25,000 hits). It is rather like an imaginary number for heat…

    Donald, we started with four gilt piglets. One turned out to be infertile so she became dinner. Since then we've bought one sow, borrowed two boars and bought one boar. These are the basis of our herd. Always breed the best of the best and eat the rest. In time you gradually improve your herd. Starting small also means you get to make little mistakes instead of big ones – my preferred way!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Walt, I love your idea for winter hybrid fridges. I own a small computer company in NH with a server room filled with 40 servers. This year I installed a thermostatically controlled reversible fan, so when the server room gets warm, 1st it kicks blowing out for 5 minutes, then reverses itself and pulled the nice cold NH winter air into the server room for 10 minutes.. Saved my Electric bill by $100 a month easy, and I help the environment too!

  12. Gill says:

    What a useful tip for farmers to build a new fridge which is also very cheap. I hope all the farmers would follow your way of building a fridge at cheap cost. It was really useful.

  13. No, just frustrated with my web host. I’ve still been working on getting things fixed. They had lost some of my accounts. One for my brother and his wife that I have on our server. The risk of losing posts and worse, comments, makes me hesitant to write much. I’m working on figuring out how to use ZoneEdit to mirror two servers. It’s a bother. One gets through it.

  14. Just try to use an electric log splitter, this will make your wood in a good condition coz it can split the woods in a good way. it will affect the process of burning wood.

  15. Electric Log Splitter you have ow left a number of vaguely related posts on my blog. I'm not sure if they're spam-spim or not. Perhaps you could be more on target and focused and we'll understand each other.

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