Convert Chest Freezer To Fridge (2023)

If you’re looking for ways to save money on your energy bills, one option is to convert your chest fridge into a freezer. By doing this, you’ll be able to run your fridge less often, which will save you money on your energy bill. Here’s how you can do it.

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Can You Run Appliances on Solar Power?

In the months before purchasing our solar kit, we took measurements of how much power each of our appliances pulls using a Kill A Watt Meter.

After plugging our fridge into the meter for several days, we were able to determine that our upright unit was pulling about 2.25 kWh/day. With a solar system that will only produce 4-6 kW/day (assuming sunny days and clear skies), we had to find a way to reduce the load our fridge required.

I did a lot of research online, reading solar forums to find out what other people were doing for refrigeration off the grid. Many people use propane or gas refrigerators, but we didn’t want to have to depend on buying fuels to keep a fridge running.

Some people recommend solar refrigerators, but with the smallest models starting out at around $700, this option was way out of our price range. A more primitive alternative is using a Zeer Pot, but we really need something more practical than that for our everyday needs.

And then I came across something that sounded too good to be true:

Converting a chest freezer… a regular ol’ chest freezer… into a super energy efficient fridge.

Why You Should Convert to a Chest Fridge If You Use Solar Power

Solar power is a great way to save money on your energy bill and be more environmentally friendly.

But did you know that if you have a chest freezer, you can actually save even more money? That’s right, a chest freezer uses less energy than an upright freezer, so if you’re looking to save even more money on your energy bill, converting to a chest fridge is a great option.

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One of the best things about a chest fridge is that they require just a fraction of the energy an upright model uses.

Think about it. Cold air sinks. So when you open an upright fridge, all of that cold air you’ve paid to produce falls right out of the fridge at your feet, which in turn causes it to run more often.

But with a chest fridge that cold air just sinks back down into the unit, requiring less energy to keep it cool. That’s why grocery stores like to use chest fridges.

Chest fridges run cooler, meaning your food will stay fresher for longer without you having to worry about ice crystals forming on the food.

In some cases, a chest fridge can also be easier to organize since you can just stack everything on top of each other. Depending on the layout of your home, using a chest fridge might save space, too.

So obviously there are a lot of benefits! But our main concern had to do with logistics.

Surely it would be complicated. There would be re-wiring and all sorts of complicated electrical modifications. Right?

Actually, not at all. It’s as simple as an extra plug. But I’ll get to the technical stuff in a minute.

One of the best things about a chest fridge is that they require just a fraction of the energy an upright model uses.

Think about it. Cold air sinks. So when you open an upright fridge, all of that cold air you’ve paid to produce falls right out of the fridge at your feet, which in turn causes it to run more often.

But with a chest fridge that cold air just sinks back down into the unit, requiring less energy to keep it cool. That’s why grocery stores like to use chest fridges.

Even if you don’t have any plans for going off the grid, you might want to consider the benefits of replacing your upright fridge/freezer with chest units simply for the energy savings.

Switching to a chest fridge isn’t for everyone. There are definite drawbacks to a system like this, which we’ll talk about later. But for us, it was a perfect and affordable option to use alongside our solar kit.

Converting a Chest Fridge To a Freezer

By following these simple steps, you’ll be able to store more food and save money in the long run. So let’s get started!

Step One: Finding The Right Freezer

When shopping for a chest freezer to convert to a fridge, find the smallest unit to accommodate your needs. Generally, the smaller the freezer the less energy it will require.

We found a 6.8 cu. ft. Magic Chef freezer for $80 on Craigslist. It’ll fit an 8×13 casserole dish down in the bottom, so there’s plenty of room to store leftovers or make-ahead meals.

Although this unit isn’t Energy Star rated, it was comparable. Before deciding on a purchase, do some research into how much energy it uses compared to other models of equal size.

The amount of watts it uses as a freezer will be different from what it’ll use once converted to a fridge, but by comparing models you can at least get an idea of whether it uses more energy than necessary or if it’s pretty energy efficient from the get-go.

To figure out how many watts a freezer pulls, you’ll need to use the formula: Amps x Volts = Watts. There should be a plate or sticker somewhere on the freezer that tells you how many amps and volts your freezer uses.

Just for reference, our freezer breaks down like this: 2.0 A x 115 V = 230 Watts, or .23 kW (1 kW = 1000 Watts). This tells us approximately how many watts the unit uses per hour.

After converting the freezer to a fridge, our unit was pulling .68 kWh/day. Once we loaded it up with food the chest fridge is now reading about .51 kWh/day. That’s less than a quarter of the energy our upright fridge used!

If you get a used chest freezer, make sure everything is in good working order, and ask about the last time the freon was topped off scratch that, but do make sure there isn’t a leak in the line.

Step Two: Controlling The Temperature

Disclosure: if you visit an external link in this post and make a purchase, I may earn a commission. Read my full earnings disclosure here.

Once you’ve found a chest freezer the next step is to convert it to a fridge. The easiest way to do that is to purchase a Johnson Controls Freezer Temperature Controller. We got ours on Amazon:

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With this device, there is no re-wiring or complicated configuring whatsoever. It’s as simple as a plug.

Here’s how it works…

Plug your freezer into the controller. Plug the controller into the wall outlet. Set the thermostat on the controller to a good temperature for refrigeration (we’ve got ours on 32*).

Place the copper prong in the freezer, feeding the copper wire underneath the lid. The temperature in the box will raise to the new thermostat’s setting, and your unit will automatically go from being a freezer to a fridge. Easy enough?

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Step Three: Mounting the Controller for the Refrigerator

We mounted the controller to the wall behind the chest fridge. You can see the copper wire leading into the fridge from the back side. It just slips right underneath the lid.

My husband also mounted a power strip with timers for our chest fridge and freezer, so we can control how often they come on when our solar is low on power.

Here’s the inside of the fridge before it’s filled. You can see the copper wire and probe in the center of the fridge. We try to keep it hanging around the middle of the fridge to keep the temperature consistent:

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If the probe is closer to the top of the fridge, it may read warmer air causing the unit to cool down unnecessarily.

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I try to keep the prong from touching the wall of the fridge. Not sure if that matters, but it seems like a good idea.

A thermostat helps us make sure it’s staying at the right temperature:

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Getting Used To A Chest Fridge

Once I had sufficiently emptied our upright fridge/freezer, I was ready to move what remained to the new solar powered chest fridge. I was shocked by how much space was being taken up in our fridge by stuff that didn’t even require refrigeration.

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I’m still working my way through the condiments and canned goods (I had like six jellies open in the fridge… yikes!), but when it comes down to the basics, we really only need the fridge for dairy products, a few condiments, leftovers, and more delicate produce such as leafy greens.

Down in the bottom of the fridge I put a milk crate to hold condiments and things we don’t use that often. Over time, condensation builds up in the bottom of the fridge and it needs to be soaked up.

Having all of the loose jars up out of the water and in one easy-to-remove container makes cleanup a little easier.

I’ve used two freezer baskets to take advantage of the space at the top of the fridge. In these I put the stuff we use most often.

I’ve found that having our leftovers right on top where they can’t get lost has really helped me use them up, whereas before they would often get pushed to the back of the fridge and forgotten.

Having two baskets is a good use of the space, but it isn’t as practical as I’d like. To get to anything below, we have to remove one of the baskets first. Ideally, we would just slide one basket to either side to reach the bottom.

But what about a freezer?

Yes, we still have a freezer. Instead of having an upright fridge/freezer AND a chest freezer (which is what we had before), we’ve consolidated all of our frozen foods into the chest freezer.

The chest freezer by itself pulls about 1kWh/day, which we can support with the solar panels alongside the chest fridge.

Drawbacks of Using a Chest Freezer as a Fridge

Yes, there are trade-offs when switching from an upright to a chest fridge. Here are a few I’ve discovered so far…

Convenience– Obviously, having to move stuff to reach down into the fridge is a little less convenient than we’re used to. But honestly, it really hasn’t been too much trouble.

Condensation– The fridge does accumulate water in the bottom from condensation. About once a week I pull everything out of the fridge and dry it up with a towel.

No Instant Filtered Water– With our upright fridge, the kids were used to helping themselves to cold, filtered water straight from the fridge door. Now they have to get water from the kitchen faucet, ’cause it’s too far down for them to reach into the bottom of the fridge.

I’d like to get a Berkey or other beverage dispenser to fill with ice water to keep on the kitchen counter so that it’s easier for the children to fill their cups whenever they need to.

No Ice Maker– Of course, we don’t have an automatic ice maker now either, so it’s back to the old fashioned ice cube trays. Which works just fine.

Space– Having a chest fridge and a chest freezer definitely requires more floor space than an upright model.

This last one may be a deal breaker for you. We have chosen to be unconventional (imagine that!) and move our chest fridge and freezer into the master bathroom, which is on the north side of the house and stays the coolest.

We had to sacrifice the garden tub, but honestly we probably wouldn’t have used it anymore anyway since we’ll have to be more conservative with our water usage.

(Now I have to figure out the best way to fill the empty space where our fridge used to be in the kitchen.)

With a little adjusting it really hasn’t been difficult to get over these minor inconveniences. In our opinion, it has definitely been worth the trade.

Other Ways to Convert a Freezer into a Fridge

If you have an old freezer that you want to convert into a fridge but aren’t interested in swapping out the thermostats, as I did in the tutorial described above, you can just buy a conversion kit and do it that way.

I think this method is a bit more complicated but is still an option for people who can’t go the easier route.

The kit includes a temperature probe, refrigerator thermostat, mounting bracket, and spare connectors. Just follow the instructions and you’ll find it is pretty easy to do

Can You Revert a Fridge Back Into a Freezer?

It’s a common misconception that once a fridge has been turned into a freezer, it can never go back. However, this is not the case.

In fact, if you decide you don’t want to use your chest freezer as a fridge any more (perhaps you’re sick of bending over all the time?) you can easily convert it back into a freezer by following the same steps described above for the reverse process.

Total Cost and Final Thoughts

The total setup cost to us was about $130 for a fridge that now runs on solar power, which we quickly made back by selling our upright fridge. Your cost will depend on the deal you can find on a chest freezer, plus about $50 for the thermostat controller.

Refrigerators generally don’t cost that much to run for a year, especially newer more efficient models.

But when your power is limited and every watt adds up in a big way, converting a chest freezer to a fridge is a great way to significantly reduce your household energy load.

These simple steps will help you turn your chest fridge into a freezer in no time. Just remember to be careful when handling food that’s been frozen for an extended period of time—it can be quite delicate!

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Can you use a freezer for a refrigerator?

Yes! By converting your old chest freezer into a refrigerator by swapping out the thermostats, you can easily use a freezer for a refrigerator.

How warm can a freezer be set?

Most modern freezers can be set to a variety of different temperatures, depending on your needs. For instance, if you plan to store mainly ice cream and other frozen desserts, you’ll want to set the temperature fairly low, around -10 degrees Fahrenheit. On the other hand, if you’ll be using the freezer for meat and other perishable items, a higher setting of 0 degrees Fahrenheit may be more appropriate.

Is a freezer more efficient than a fridge?

A chest freezer can actually be more efficient than a fridge. Because the cold air in a freezer sinks to the bottom, less energy is needed to circulate the air.

Does a deep freezer or refrigerator use more electricity?

A fridge is an essential appliance in any kitchen, but it can also be one of the biggest energy users in the home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average fridge uses about 925 kilowatt-hours of energy each year.

What is a chest refrigerator?

A chest refrigerator is a type of refrigerator that stores items horizontally, rather than vertically. It does not have the typical upright design of a regular refrigerator.

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