The Wood Burning Alternative Refrigerator Project

MOTHER EARTH NEWS shares the wood burning alternative refrigerator project under development by Dale Degler, including how an intermittent absorption refrigerator works, and the icy-ball refrigerator mechanism.

  • 035-114-01-icy-ball2
    Diagram of the refrigerating mechanism for the icy-ball refrigerator.
  • 035-114-01-Refrigerator
    Diagram of the intermittent absorption refrigerator.
  • 035-114-01-icy-ball1
    Diagram of the icy-ball refrigerator.

  • 035-114-01-icy-ball2
  • 035-114-01-Refrigerator
  • 035-114-01-icy-ball1

Just like a lot of other folks, the Dale Degler family spent the summer of '75 truckin' around the country in an old, converted school bus. Unlike most of those others, however, Dale used his time on the road to pioneer several interesting new ideas in low-energy and self-sufficient living.

The Alternative Refrigerator Project

Ideas such as The Incredible Degler Wood-Burning Refrigerator. No, it hasn't been built yet. The fridge you see here with Dale is nothing more than an antique Servel gas-powered cooler that Degler has converted to operate on propane. But Dale assures one and all that his wood-burning chiller will soon be constructed and in operation.

"Actually, I'm not doing anything new," he says. "The wood-burning refrigerator will be nothing more than an intermittent absorption unit . . . and the design was well known and even mildly popular back before every neighborhood in the country was wired up with the steady supplies of electricity that now make 'ordinary' refrigerators possible."

To prove his point, Degler quickly pencils a sketch (see accompanying illustration) that explains the operation of an intermittent absorption chill chest. And, by golly, the explanation makes sense.

"This type of refrigerator has both advantages and disadvantages," says Degler. "The main disadvantage is that no one is building such a unit now, which means that you can't just go out and buy one like you can a regular fridge. A secondary disadvantage is the fact that, although heat needs to be applied to the unit only once a day, that heat does have to be applied every 24 hours . . . week-long vacations, in other words, are out unless you have an automatic timer on your burner.

"To offset these two points, however, you have at least five things working in favor of the intermittent absorption refrigerator: [1] the unit will operate on a relatively small energy input, [2] it can produce subzero temperatures for 24 hours from a single 20-minute application of heat, [3] any heat source — electric, oil, gas, candle, solar, wood, etc. — will power the refrigerator, [4] the unit is simple and self-circulating, and [5] other than having its flue cleaned from time to time, the cooler requires little or no maintenance."

10/16/2017 2:46:05 PM

Again publishing a 1975 article like it was new news. You will notice in the 42 years since it was written nothing has materialized in the market. Though the theory is correct, no one appears interested. There is a small market in campers which often have a two way or three way refrigerator powered by either 120vac and 12vdc or both of these plus propane. This works well and it overcomes the biggest problem with the Servel refrigerators which was death due to the gas flame being vented in the dwelling. Dominic which is the largest maker for camper refrigerators vents the gas flame outside away from the occupants. Servels were so dangerous, they actively tried to buy them back from owners through at least the 90's and maybe later. Please give us real data, not a rehash of 42 year old theory.

7/23/2007 9:51:52 PM

For a 1935 version of a solar powered refrigerator that uses this same priciple see the August 1935 issue of the magazine "modern mechanix" Here is the link:

Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

50 Years of Money-Saving Tips!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS for 50 years and counting, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters