The Propane Refrigerator vs. Solar Refrigeration Units

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When choosing an off-grid refrigeration system, there are many things to consider.

With the biggest decision being; should your power source be propane or solar?

To ultimately decide on either propane or solar, you may want to answer these questions first:

  • Which is less problematic?
  • How long do they last?
  • Which is most efficient?
  • And which is most cost effective overall?

With these questions in the forefront of our minds, we aim to answer them in this article. There is a lot to unpack, so let’s get started.

So if you happen to live off-grid year round or even if you are only off-grid occasionally throughout the year with perhaps a summer cabin, fishing or hunting camp. You definitely need a refrigerator for your cold food storage. Hauling ice is a hassle, not to mention it is expensive! But what direction do you go? Should you buy a propane refrigerator or a solar one? This is a common question folks have. Our team has spent many years selling both types of refrigerators, and we’ve collected data from both sides of the isle.  Our opinion is this: the propane refrigerator is much more straightforward to use, and it is easy to maintain. Additional benefits of propane refrigeration are that it is much more durable, as well as overall a propane unit is more efficient, and cost effective than solar. Hopefully, this article will prove itself useful to you as you ponder which direction to go.

Simplicity

Propane refrigerators are simple.  They are decidedly straightforward in their operation.  A gas fridge has a cooling unit operated by a pilot light.  In simple terms, this cooling unit and flame make up the whole system! The cooling unit continues to cycle the cooling vapors using the pilot light.  There are very few components to ever malfunction. Plus, propane units do not require sunlight! Generally, the service on a propane refrigerator involves cleaning the burner box…which is easy!  The setup is simple too; just attach your gas line onto the 3/8” male flare screw fitting on the back of the fridge, light the pilot light and you’re good to go!

In contrast, solar refrigerators use a compressor system made up of many different components and electrical pieces.  Solar refrigerators require compressors, refrigerant solution, solar panels, batteries, controllers and other electrical wires and components to make the refrigerator run properly–not to mention the requirement for sunlight…and lots of it!  The point here is that within an electrical refrigerator (which is essentially what a solar refrigerator is) there are many parts and pieces that could wear out, go bad or malfunction leaving your refrigerator totally useless…plus, you can’t control the sun and with solar you need a steady supply of sunshine!

Longevity

Next, propane fridges just last longer than solar fridges. Today’s EZ Freeze propane refrigerator is lasting upwards of 20 to 30 years.  Occasionally, a thermocouple or a thermostat needs to be replaced but even if you have no technical skills, you will be able to change them out yourself! Plus, EZ Freeze fridges come with a maintenance video as well. Generally, all you need is a wrench or a screwdriver to change out these parts. This proves especially useful when living off-grid, where tools and maintenance services are scarce. Plus, the parts are very easy to get your hands on because they are made in the USA.

Solar refrigerators last as long as the “normal” electric refrigerator you may have in your “on-grid” home.  Some can last more than 10 years, BUT when they do stop working or malfunction, getting them fixed is very involved. You may not find the parts you need and it may require taking the fridge to a service repair establishment.  The last thing you want to do while living off the grid is to spend your time and energy fixing and troubleshooting appliances. Your valuable time will be better spent tending to the other chores and necessities that come with living off-grid.

Efficiency

Efficiency is also a consideration when deciding between propane and solar.  Solar systems are expensive. The panels alone cost $10,000 to $20,000 and up from there. This doesn’t even include the battery!  Batteries can cost $5,000 to $7,000. Also, it is recommended that you have a backup generator (thousands of dollars) for those gloomy months when the sun is not shining in order to charge your batteries.  Let’s remember, the generator requires fuel and adds additional variables that can malfunction or fail.

Cost-effectiveness

So let’s break this down a bit:

Let’s say a solar system with panels, batteries and a backup generator costs a very conservative $20,000. Your fridge works off of this solar system at no monthly cost.

An all off-grid home, run with propane, has a propane refrigerator, propane stove and gas lights. The fridge, on average, will consume 1.5 gallons of propane a week.  That’s roughly 80 gallons of propane a year to run the fridge. Propane at an average of $2.00 a gallon will cost you $160 a year. Powering your lights and oven via propane will cost a little bit more.  If we tripled this cost to include propane lights and an oven/range, costs would be roughly $480 a year. That means it would take 42 years to make up for the cost of a $20,000 solar system. This does NOT factor in the fuel for the generator, or new batteries every 5 years, nor the maintenance expenses for the solar system.  As you can see the cost difference is too significant to argue when contemplating the two types of off-grid energy.

The Propane / Solar Synergy

Let’s not throw solar out the window all together.   Solar power as a whole, is a wonderful option and provides you with power needed to run other useful devices (i.e. lights, computer, cell phone).  If you do install a solar system, we want to help your solar system run as efficiently and for as long as possible. How do we do this? By removing those appliances that put heavy strain on your solar batteries. This simply allows for your other important items in your home, like the television, dishwasher and music player, to continue to work.  So, the best way to help your solar system run more efficiently is to remove heavy power consuming appliances from the solar grid entirely. Using a propane refrigerator and a propane stove will aid in this effort tremendously.

Choose a long established company

Now that we have determined how easy set up and maintenance of a propane fridge is, along with identifying the considerable low cost of running it, and additionally its longevity and power saving ability; let’s discuss another trend we have noticed: solar refrigerator companies seem to come and go.  The life span of these companies seem to be short. Which can certainly make finding parts and service locations very difficult. Please don’t misunderstand, this is not the case with all solar refrigerator manufacturers – even some propane refrigerator companies have left the market. However, as a whole, the propane refrigerator manufacturers stand the test of time.  

In the early to mid-1900’s Servel was the biggest propane refrigerator manufacturer.  Their units can still be found working in homes all over the world today! Since propane refrigerators were first on the market in the 1930’s, the science of the absorption cooling unit has proven its reliability through the test of time.  Whether you use natural gas or propane – the necessary combustion for the cooling unit has proven to work seamlessly over the years in creating the energy needed to heat the cooling unit solution. Our new units such as the EZ-Freeze propane refrigerator not only use the same technology and have the same longevity, but run on half of the propane of those refrigerators of old.  EZ-Freeze refrigerators only burn, on average, 1.5 gallons a week, per year.

EZ Freeze fridges are extensively tested in hot rooms, under extreme heat and humidity, which the solar refrigerators would not be able to keep up with.  The EZ Freeze brand propane fridges are safe, durable, and can be transported laying down; on their left side! You can’t do that with your solar fridge, as that is too dangerous!

Warranty

We also take pride in our 7 year warranty on the cooling unit, which is unheard of in the industry and this duration of warranty remains unmatched.  Not only is the warranty far superior to other propane manufacturers but EZ Freeze ranks #1 for any refrigerator, including solar.

Final Words

In conclusion, a well-made propane refrigerator from EZ Freeze will not only last you upwards of 20 to 30 years but it will save you time, money and is virtually hassle free. Our experience in the off-grid industry has taught us that solar power is useful and can provide power where there are no other options but when considering your two major appliances: the refrigerator and the stove, propane generated power is hands down the wiser investment.

EZ Freeze Gas Refrigerator – Burner Assembly

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EZ Freeze Burner Assembly

The EZ Freeze Propane Refrigerator burner assembly is constructed of corrosion resistant materials. The burner tube itself is made from Stainless Steel. Eliminating the possibility of corrosion allows the system to burn cleaner therefore keeping your propane refrigerator performance to it’s maximum.EZ Freeze Gas Refrigerators burner assembly - Images by Warehouse Appliance, experts of off-grid appliances and gas fridge sales and service Corrosion can not only foul the burner slots but also attack the inside of the burner tube and create unwanted turbulence. The flame will then burn foul and put off soot and high levels of carbon monoxide.

The burner housing and brackets are also made from Stainless Steel material allowing for easy maintenance during service. This practice is unique to any other gas refrigerator manufacturer.

The EZ Freeze gas refrigerator burner assembly removes from the refrigerator absorption cooling unit with only one screw. This is great for servicing gas refrigerators. Nothing to disassemble or realign during regular routine propane refrigerator maintenance.

A flame viewing window is incorporated into the assembly to allow easy viewing from the rear of your gas fridge. A flip up shutter closes to keep out unwanted debris.

The entire Orifice Assembly of these gas refrigerators are made from solid brass also reducing the corrosion factor and increasing lifespan. One of just many things to consider when finding a propane refrigerator for sale. Please note that the natural gas refrigerator parts are slightly different than the above image.

The EZ Freeze Brand of gas powered refrigerators feature top performance and the best quality! Contact Warehouse Appliance for more information on our gas fridges or any of our off-grid appliances.

EZ Freeze Gas Refrigerator Parts – Orifice Information

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Info on the EZ Freeze Orifice

The gas orifice is a very important part of any gas fridge.  EZ Freeze propane refrigerators all include a very precise orifice in the burner system that is unmatched in the industry. The Orifice includes a ruby gemstone tip, all brass construction, internal filter and pressure test port.

EZ Freeze Propane Refrigerator Parts - Gas orifice information for gas fridges from Warehouse Appliance - the off-grid appliance experts!

– Ruby Gemstone Tip –
EZ Freeze has these orifices manufactured specifically for a propane  refrigerator. The brass body of the orifice is bored out to accept a very precise ruby gemstone that has been laser-cut to the specific size. This process ensures that each orifice is virtually same size with the proper BTU output.

– Internal Filter –
Any slight change in size of the orifice hole will lower the performance of the gas refrigerator. This includes debris that may migrate into the orifice through the gas lines. This debris can be from a dirty tank, dirt or debris in the plumbing, or just left over material from construction or manufacturing. To ensure this does not cause the EZ Freeze gas refrigerators to loose their reliable performance, the orifice hole is protected by a micro fine filter screen just upstream from the ruby tip.

– Pressure Test Port –
This port allows diagnosis of the gas system using a manometer at the orifice while the gas refrigerator is in operation. This is the best way to detect a bad regulator or thermostat.

EZ Freeze fridge maintenance is cut down to a minimum due to the precision of this solid brass orifice.

Please also note that the orifice for the EZ Freeze Freezer and Blizzard Freezer is different from the refrigerator.  The Freezer orifice is a different size and shape which is vital for the freezer cooling unit functioning properly.

For more information on the EZ Freeze gas orifice, EZ Freeze Propane Refrigerator, or general gas fridge questions, please contact the off-grid appliance specialists at Warehouse Appliance.

EZ Freeze Gas Refrigerator Controls – Lighting Instructions

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The controls of the EZ Freeze propane refrigerator are located on the front of the unit at the bottom. All are hidden by the door or a removable panel. The controls include the Thermostat Control (shown as “Temp” within the gas refrigerator parts image below) which controls the temperature of both the refrigerator and freezer compartment. It adjusts the amount of refrigerant running through the system by controlling the high and low flame of the burner. The refrigerant of the absorption system is an ammonia and water solution that flows via gravity from the top of the freezer to the refrigerator section below and absorbing all the hot air. The higher the temperature control is set the more the flame will stay on high and produce more refrigerant, therefore making the interior colder.

The Gas Safety Shut-Off Valve on the EZ Freeze propane refrigerator (shown as “Gas” in the image) is magnetically-controlled by an electromagnet that is feed millivolts via the thermocouple. The thermocouple is heated by the flame and produces the small amount of electricity to power the magnet. If the flame is extinguished and the thermocouple does not sense heat, then the electromagnet will release and shut-off the gas supply. This prevents any unburned gas from escaping into the room.

The Piezo Igniter of the EZ Freeze Propane Refrigerator (shown as “Spark” in the image) is a self-powered, non-electric spark generator. It’s very similar to what propane BBQ’s use. By pushing this button, the Piezo Igniter will produce a spark to light the flame.

 

Lighting An EZ Freeze Gas Refrigerator

The First Time After the set-up of the unit is complete, use the following procedure to light the burner. First time lighting may take longer than usual due to the air that may be in the gas lines.

Turn on the gas valve at the rear of the gas refrigerator

To start the gas refrigerator, turn the thermostat knob “Temp” (Thermostat) to the #2 setting

Push and hold “Gas” (Gas Safety Valve) button, and then…

Press the “Spark ” (Piezo Igniter) button continuously 5 to 10 times to light burner. Confirm the flame is lit by viewing through the flame “Viewer”. It should be possible to hear a slight turbulent noise from the flame. If the burner is lit, continue holding the “Gas ” button for 5-15 seconds. Release the “Gas” button and confirm the burner is still lit. If the burner does not light, repeat steps 1 through 4.

EZ Freeze Gas Refrigerators controls - Images by Warehouse Appliance, experts of off-grid appliances and gas fridge sales and service

We recommend that owners take a good look at the flame upon initial start up and note its size and color for future reference. It is good practice to visually check the flame for this size and color upon every start up.

Hand Lighting….

If for some reason the unit will not light with the piezo ignition or the igniter is failing to spark, it is possible to hand light the burner. This usually requires two people. Simply use the above procedure and replace “Spark ” Button with a person at the burner with a lighter.

This type of refrigerator uses manual operation. Setting the temperature information is here and the manual defrosting information is here.

The EZ Freeze Brand of gas refrigerators feature top performance and the best quality! Contact Warehouse Appliance for more information on our gas fridges or any of our off-grid appliances.

Peerless Premier Off-Grid Propane Stove/Oven FAQ

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Peerless Gas Off Grid Stove/Range – Questions and Answers

There are many things to consider when living without power.  What kind of stove/oven/range/cooktop to purchase is definitely one to consider before making a large investment. We’ve answered some common questions below about our Peerless Premier ranges.  Peerless premier propane battery spark ranges are the best option in off-grid living.

Q. Do the Peerless Premier Ranges operate from Propane (LPG) or Natural Gas?

A. All Peerless Premier Ranges are shipped to operate from Natural gas. All the units come with the instructions and parts to convert to Propane (LPG) gas. This is done during the installation process and is very easy.
Continue reading Peerless Premier Off-Grid Propane Stove/Oven FAQ

About ammonia refrigerators and the absorption system

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What does the Ammonia do in the Absorption System?

Ammonia refrigerators, also known as gas refrigerators, operate from an absorption system that use ammonia as the active key ingredient are made specific as a non electric appliance. Typically you will see these units as propane gas refrigerators in recreational vehicles. Ammonia is the key ingredient among 4 total ingredients within the cooling unit also referred to as the absorption system. Water is the other liquid ingredient. Sodium Chromate is a powder substance that acts as an anti corrosive. This combats the highly corrosive ammonia. The fourth ingredient is Hydrogen gas which pressurizes the system to over 300 PSI. This is also true for ammonia freezers

Another common question is “Will freezing temperatures affect the cooling unit since it is filled with liquid?” The liquid is pressurized by the Hydrogen gas therefore it protects the liquid from freezing. The absorption system can be in use or just static in sub freezing temperatures without adverse affects.

With all 4 ingredients mixed together, the color is a bright yellow/green which is the original color of the Sodium Chromate. This color aids in leak detection. Either in wet form or dry state, the bright yellow/green color showing anywhere on the cooling unit coils will signal a leak. The other tell tale sign of a leak is the smell of ammonia. Ammonia has a very strong odor and is sometimes used in cleaning agents. it can literally take your breath away. In high doses it can be dangerous. For the most part, a propane powered refrigerator is considered safe and have been in continuous use in some cases for over 60 years. Read more about this…

About the Absorption Refrigerator

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What is an Absorption Refrigerator?

What is an Absorption Refrigerator? It is exactly what the name implies. The unit refrigerates by absorbing the warm air from the interior and expelling it to the exterior. Within the gas refrigeration industry, this process is accomplished by using a sealed absorption system containing a solution mixture of ammonia, water, sodium chromate, and hydrogen. The mixture is boiled by a flame usually fueled by either propane gas or natural gas.

The active ingredient is the ammonia which turns from liquid to vapor and back to a pure liquid again. This pure ammonia liquid absorbs the warm air through aluminum plates on the fridge back wall, freezer back wall, and freezer floor. This system uses no motors, compressors, or any moving parts. This is all accomplished by heat boiling the solution and it rising to the top of the sealed system where gravity takes over and allows the liquid to flow through the coil system at a rate determined by slight downward angles of the tubing.

The system is very simple in operation but very complicated in design. A very slight change in angle can alter performance and lower efficiency. A couple percentage difference in the solution ingredients will also change the gas refrigerator performance . Any weakness in a weld will shorten lifespan. All these factors must be correct in order to produce an efficient unit with top performance. Strict quality control is vital toward good production results.

At Warehouse Appliance, we rely on our many years of experience in using gas freezers and fridges, servicing gas refrigerators, and repairing gas fridges, and our warranty records to make the business decision of promoting the best brand. We choose the EZ Freeze brand.

We rate the EZ Freeze quality control as the best in the industry. EZ Freeze is the only company that produces the absorption system in house at the factory. No outside contracting is used in production. Over 50% of the production process is centered around quality checks within the production line of the product. A high pressure flushing occurs immediately after the welding process is complete to remove any weld slag or foreign objects that may be inside of the coils. The absorption system is then baked in an oven to relieve stresses and reduce the risk of stress cracks during its lifespan. The oven baking process also aids in sterilization of the internals of the absorption unit prior to filling. Baking off the oils and impurities. Each unit is then pressurized and leak tested before installation in the cabinet. The EZ Freeze absorption units are all made on a jig and foamed in a mold and are interchangeable at anytime in it’s life span with a new unit. This promotes consistency and reparability. It may seem excessive, but after all, this is the heart of the absorption refrigerator. It is also the most labor intensive part of production so it must be 100% before the unit ever gets to the consumer.

Further down the production line near completion, each unit is tested in the factory “Hot Room” which simulates a harsh operating environment with temperatures of 100 degrees Fahrenheit and high humidity levels. Each unit must pass well within the limits of good food keeping temperatures after this 16 hour torture test. The results are recorded on each refrigerator prior to packaging. No over company within this industry does this.

When asked about these strict quality control issues, EZ Freeze ownership replies “We realize that most of our fridges are used in remote areas. Hard to get to and from areas. It puts a great hardship on the consumer if there is a failure and we just don’t want to see that happen.” Click here to read about the history on propane refrigeration.

Danby and Consul Propane Refrigerators

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DANBY GAS REFRIGERATOR – CONSUL GAS REFRIGERATOR

One of the most popular Propane Refrigerators for off-grid living. This gas refrigerator is Baja proven for over 20 years with excellent results!! We consider this a small propane refrigerator. Made by Consul in Brazil and also labeled by Danby. We offer a repair DVD for those looking to keep these units operating like new for years to come. This unit has a 7.8 cubic foot box and freezer compartment. Removable shelving, molded 18 egg rack, and a battery operated interior light. Three easy glide shelves and large vegetable crisper. European rounded door with recessed handles. Reversible door hinges for left or right hand opening. The temperature control and piezo ignition system is easily accessed on a front panel. Includes a safety shut-off valve. Reversible doors. No electric plugs needed!.This unit has been discontinued by the manufacturer. Please see the EZ Freeze EZ-10 for the most comparable model.

 Danby Consul Propane Gas Refrigerator

Consul CQE22B – Danby DPR2262W

 Specifications
 Overall Dimensions  H=57 1/8″ X W=24 1/4″ X D=28″
 Interior Dimensions (Freezer)  H=7 1/4 ” X W=17″ X D=13 1/2″
 Interior Dimensions (Fridge)  H=35″ X W=20″ X D=17 1/2″
 Refrigerator Capacity  6.7 cubic feet
 Freezer Capacity  1.1 cubic feet
 Color  White
 LP Gas Consumption  High flame = 1600 btu/hr. or 2.93 gal. per 7 days
Low flame = 700 btu/hr. or 1.28 gal. per 7 days
Average = 1.5 – 1.75 gal. per 7 days
 Hook-up
Buy the Connector
 3/8″ Male Flare Fitting
 Actual Weight  202 Lbs.
 Shipping Weight  220 Lbs
 Service  Danby / Consul Propane Gas Refrigerator Service Repair DVD
 Natural Gas Option  Conversion kit = $75.00
 Thermometer Option  Remote wireless digital thermometer. =$39.95
 Ice Cube Tray Option  Aluminum Ice Cube Tray
= $9.99 ea. or buy 3 get 1 free
 Pricing  No longer available – See EZ-10

 

Repair DVD for the Danby Consul Gas Fridge

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Danby / Consul Propane Gas Refrigerator Service Repair DVD

The Danby / Consul Gas Refrigerator has been in production for over 30 years using the original designs of the components. With the correct care and gas fridge maintenance, these units have been in service since their introduction to the market. We have repaired hundreds of units and brought them back to life from what the owner considered “dead”. Now we offer our expert repair DVD to show you how we do gas refrigerator repair on the Danby / Consul units. DVD Features Include; Set-up tips, General Maintenance, Lighting Instructions, Cleaning the Burner, Replacing the Thermocouple, Checking Gas Pressure, Leak Testing, Cooling Unit Diagnosis, Cleaning the Flue, Permanent fix for the “Factory Design Flaw” and Much More…
Danby Consul DVD = $49.95 Click here to order the DVD