Saturday, February 4, 2012

Walk in cooler

Jane asked for this one, so this will be the first of my catch-up posts.

Some time last year we started looking into the idea of turning our handy-dandy root cellar into an even handier-dandier walk in cooler. Why would we do that you ask? Of course you would ask. It's the mushrooms' fault.

Back in our pre-mushroom days, the root cellar was fine for storing root vegetables, apples, and whatever else seemed appropriate in the cold months. We always had some scrambles in the late fall/early spring season when temperatures outside got warm and we had to run down and close up the vents so things wouldn't get too warm. And there were times we had to scramble down in the dead of winter to close vents and open the door so things wouldn't freeze. So it's not perfect, but it usually works just fine.

Back in the early days of mushrooms, Jeremy would just store the spawn in the kitchen refrigerator (much to my annoyance). But there has been more and more spawn and last year we realized we could use the root cellar to store the spawn. But, with Jeremy inoculating up into April and May - the root cellar doesn't maintain a cold temperature that long. So back to the refrigerator. But with a gazillion bags of spawn, there was not enough room. So Jeremy bought a cheap fridge off Craigslist just for mushroom purposes. Then he got another. And another. In the end we had two fridges in the basement, one in the back hall, and one in the garage! Ridiculous, I know.

So how do we utilize that space in the root cellar? It's already insulated and can get cold. How to get it colder and keep it that way? The answer: a modified air conditioner. An air conditioner of course is designed to keep a certain size of space at a certain cool temperature. But air conditioners don't go below a certain temperature. Let's face it, even on the hottest of hot, humid summer days, you really don't want to be living in a 35 degree house. Jeremy did some research and found the CoolBot which is a little contraption you can add to an air conditioner to make it cool down more than normal.

Anyway, without further adieu... pictures!

Here is the root cellar after it was all cleaned out. The walls we built are already insulated, but in order for this to work it had to be even more insulated.

This meant insulation on the stone walls and everywhere else...

up, up, up went the insulation - two layers of pink on the walls and floor...

and a layer of foil on top of it all, including on the ceiling.

Here it is mostly done, except the plywood Jeremy put on the floor so we could walk on the floor.

Six inches or so of insulation on the floor...

so Jeremy built up a threshold so we wouldn't destroy this part as we came in and out.

Finally he installed the air conditioner.The pipes on the side are so we can take advantage of the winter months, like a normal root cellar, and not use the air conditioner in the coldest times.

Here it is with the CoolBot installed and everything taped up and ready to go.

It's really a fun space because its completely lined in foil. The one bare bulb in there lights the whole place up and it kind of glows. It's not all dark and spooky like the root cellar.

Just in time for the first batch of spawn!

Now when Jeremy starts harvesting mushrooms and he brings in loads of them, we don't have to find room for them in the fridge (or fridges!). A neighbor gave us an old workbench from his basement which we'll be installing eventually, and I think shelving will line one or two walls. But for now everything is living on the floor. We've gotten rid of one fridge, and the other two are unplugged and ready to cart away. Wahoo!

[If you want a description of this project from a different perspective, check out Jeremy's post about it!]


Jane @ Hard Work Homestead said...

Now that is really cool!! What a great idea and I bet it saves you money since you no longer need to run all those refrigerator. I love it.

Aimee said...

We don't keep track of our electricity use as much as you do; but I'm sure you're right! Jeremy wasn't sure about it a time or two during the process, but I kept telling him that it HAD to be cheaper than running five fridges. And it had better be! =)

Jason shwartz said...

I had no idea that there was a way to potentially have a walk in cooler in your house. This looks like an incredible option for anyone that is looking to have their own cooler in their basement. Would it require having someone look at the overall work and make sure it's up to par? Thank you for sharing.