Recycle a Refrigerator into a Solar Water Heater

Learn how to recycle a refrigerator into a solar water heater, includes step-by-step instructions and detailed diagram to convert the refrigerator.

| November/December 1977

Design and instruction about how to recycle a refrigerator into a solar water heater.

Recycle a Refrigerator Into a Solar Water Heater

Everyone knows that refrigerators are good for storing cold. What everyone doesn't know is that fridges are also very good for storing heat . . . as Miles K. Free III points out in the following report.

Ever go riding or walking through the countryside . . . and discover an old, abandoned Frigidaire, Kelvinator, or what-have-you just sitting there collecting dirt, leaves, and field mice? A while ago — after I was laid off from the local steel Mill — I began to encounter so many of these derelict fridges that I actually found it profitable to load them into my pickup and sell them to the local scrap yard for $15 to $20 per ton.

For a while, I felt good knowing that I was helping to clean up the countryside, and recycle tons of valuable metals (thereby reducing the need for mining). I'll admit, too, that I didn't mind pocketing the few extra bucks that my "fridge salvaging" operation was netting me. But still, it was slightly upsetting to see all those once-useful appliances go on the scrap heap.

"Surely," I said to myself, "there must be some useful function that a precision-made, well insulated 'cabinet' can serve." And that's when it hit me: Why not use an old refrigerator to store heat, rather than cold? Specifically, why not build a simple solar collector . . . connect it to a water storage tank . . . enclose the tank in a recycled fridge . . . and stick the whole works out in the sun to generate a constant supply of "free" hot water?

To make a long story brief, I went ahead and built just such a water heater (see the accompanying illustration in the Image Gallery) using about $30 worth of easily obtainable materials (see the diagram with the accompanying Bill of Materials in the Image Gallery) . . . and the darned thing works great! Here's how it all went together.
5/27/2018 9:11:07 PM

I used the plans at WWW.EASYWOODWORK.ORG to build my own – I highly recommend you visit that website and check their plans out too. They are detailed and super easy to read and understand unlike several others I found online. The amount of plans there is mind-boggling… there’s like 16,000 plans or something like that for tons of different projects. Definitely enough to keep me busy with projects for many more years to come haha. Go to WWW.EASYWOODWORK.ORG if you want some additional plans :)

Myron Sawyer
8/8/2012 4:43:54 PM

If using for drinking or cooking water PLEASE fill with R.V. antifreeze in winter.

Myron Sawyer
8/8/2012 4:40:33 PM

Runs on thermo siphon. Google it.

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