Saturday, January 18, 2014

Saving seven hundred dollars -- again

Last year I put up a blog post called Saving Seven Hundred Dollars about how Don managed to save our enormous chest freezer by rebuilding the lid.

Our freezer sits outside on our north-facing porch. Since it's so big, we have no place to put it inside; but it's always done well on the porch so we're not fussed. However in the last couple of years the insulation in the lid has absorbed water and swelled, pushing the lid apart and causing the freezer to accumulate ice, which means it's hard to close the freezer lid all the way.

A year ago, Don removed the lid, removed the insulation, let it dry, and reassembled the lid. This worked very well for another twelve months, but lately we've been having the same trouble.

In winter it's not a huge deal (the outside temp is often lower than the inside temp anyway) but clearly this isn't a sustainable situation during the other three seasons of the year.

You can see how thick the ice is becoming inside the freezer. Time for another fix.

So Don removed the inner part of the freezer lid and took out the insulation. It was very heavy with ice, so he dumped it in the bathtub for a couple of days to dry. This time he had no plans to reuse the insulation since clearly water absorption will be a continuous problem.

Meanwhile we draped a heavy wool blanket over the freezer, put the lid shell down, and anchored it with firewood.

Don bought a sheet of Styrofoam, which he cut to the appropriate size to fit into the freezer lid.

Lydia is ready and waiting to help insert the Styrofoam into the lid.

Because Styrofoam can't be "flexed" to get it under the metal lip of the lid, Don had to cut the foam board into pieces and insert them that way, trimming as necessary.

Then he caulked all the pieces in place.

The Styrofoam is not as thick as the original insulation, so there was leftover room in the lid shell. After some discussion, Don went ahead and used some fresh insulation to finish filling the space. He tore it up and laid a layer over the Styrofoam. He also packed edges and cracks with insulation.

Then he put another layer of caulking around the perimeter of the outer lid...

...and we fitted the inner lid over it and buttoned it up.

Then we took a rubber mallet and hammered out much of the ice on the upper portion of the freezer, and Don re-fitted the lid onto the freezer.

So once again our enormous chest freezer is working beautifully. However the lid is no longer repairable. If things malfunction once again, we may have to break down and purchase a new chest freezer. If that happens, we may get two smaller freezers (instead of one large freezer) and then we'll be able to find room in the house for them. We'll see.

But meanwhile, we put off having to spend $700...again.


  1. I recommend the 2 smaller freezers, that way if something goes wrong and there is a possibility of losing food, you won't lose as much. Plus with many models 2 smaller freezers will use less power and cost less to run than having 1 big one, although the up front cost may be a bit more. We got 2 smaller ones at Lowes last year for fairly cheap.

  2. We saved hard and last year bought a 19 cubic foot deep freeze. It is a top brand and was on clearance and we had a discount card so we got a very good deal. However the new Deep freezers do not seem to be as well made as the ones that are older. The lid seals but is very light and I know it would not survive outside, also the insulation is not what it used to be, the lid feels cool. We have called the manufacturer with questions but it seems this is standard. Your lid repair is awesome! I am thinking we may add the hard styrofoam to the lid on ours, it should help.

  3. I'd happily buy y'all a new freezer if Don would do a 'vulcan mind meld' with my husband to impart some of that DIY willingness and brilliance.

    What a guy.

    A. McSp

  4. I love a good fix it and make it work story!! Thanks for sharing!

  5. good job! can't imagine being frugal without one!

  6. I agree with others, 2 smaller freezers are better. For one reason, you don't have to open both at the same time therefore exposing all food to the warmer air. For another reason you can sort the freezers by food types which saves time of digging. I have 3 smaller freezers, one for beef, one for chicken and pork, and one for veggies, milk and miscellaneous. I have also bought mine from Lowes and been very happy for the last 10 years.

  7. we don't have room in the house for our freezer so it lives in the
    barn. not handy but out of the weather.

  8. Just curious, with all the canning you do, what all goes in your freezer? We also have a small chest freezer, which I despise because I lose stuff in the bottom......forget to look! My mindset now is to can as much as I can, that way if we lose power it's still good
    Kelly in K'ville

    1. I used baskets, banana boxes, Large ziploc bags, etc to sort the stuff in my chest freezer. They stacked really well. I'm short and couldn't reach the bottom of the freezer if the stuff was loose. Marked the baskets/boxes/bags with colored tape for ID so anyone could get what was needed.

    2. colored tape good hint thanks

  9. my 22cuft craigslist find was about 125$ just sayin'
    -Old Soldier

  10. If you have 2 smaller freezers, not only do you lose less if one fails, if you use enough to empty one, you can turn it off and reduce power use also.
    I can see how having it on the porch is great in the winter, but how does it do in hot summers? Seems to me it would be better to find a semi-sheltered place for it, in the barn, shed, or workshop.

    1. read someplace grandparents gave big freezer to son's growing family and used two smaller freezers as they needed less with family grown. spent less on power as they consolidated all to one freezer when supplies dwindled and turned other freezer off.djh

  11. Outstanding work Don, I tip my hat to you.

    Some guys have the knack to make this work. Me - not so much. (sigh).

    Steve Davis
    Anchorage, Alaska

  12. I'm impressed! That's a beautiful job.

  13. Next freezer we get will be upright.

  14. Next freezer we get will be upright.

  15. Great fix, both times. Is the freezer worth looking for a lid from an old non-working freezer?

  16. The two smaller freezer idea is great and practical. We use it in our homestead. During a recent power outage , that extended over several days , we pushed our smaller freezers out on the back deck, as the ambient temp was 10 degrees and the items inside remained frozen and safe. if we had a larger freezer it would of been hard to do.

  17. So glad you could fix it! Today's new freezers cannot be left outside in the cold (or in an unheated garage like our freezers) or they will be ruined. We were going to replace our old upright with a newer energy efficient one but we couldn't for that reason. So we will keep "old faithful" until it no longer works.

  18. Reducing expenditures by making and doing is the modus operandi on our homestead. It is the same as cash.

    As your husband, my husband is a very talented guy and can fix or repair just about anything. Late summer, the cutting blade for the sickle bar mower broke. He welded it together, machined the weld to bring it back to size, and riveted an piece of spring steel to it to increase the strength. The mower is from 1956 (he prefers vintage machinery) and is not replaceable. I guess the repair is "priceless."

    Last Christmas I made all of the presents for the eight G'kids. (I have a large skill base.) For 2013, I decided to make all of the birthday and Christmas presents for the now 9 grands. For my adult children and spouses, they get a token gift for their birthday, but a generous Christmas gift as the monetary amount is reduced from what I would have spent, but the real value is much higher. Total savings for 21 people for birthdays and Christmas: $600. This was figured out by what I would have spent for that event, how much was spent on supplies, times the number of people.

    I have already started on 2014.

    The bonus is that I only paid taxes on the supplies that were taxed rather than an end product. Sweet.

    Having a homestead of any size and shape necessitates having a joy of making a doing, especially when it helps the budget..and the never ending taxes. More importantly, making and doing adds to the quality of our lives. (Don't tell the shopaholics! It our best kept secret.)

    Glad you saved on a freezer, at least for now. You never know. This time it may last even longer!

  19. An old friend of ours who was an electrician came over for a visit and noticed we had out freezer out in the garage. He said you are going to have problems with that freezer in the winter because it sitting basically outside. He explained that when it is very cold out side the freon sinks to the bottom and will not circulate. He told us to put a heat tape on the compressor and the freon will continue to circulate all winter and your freezer will not have problems.
    Just a thought.

  20. Hi Patrice. Thanks for posting this. Some friends just gave me their old (small) chest freezer, and once I get it flown out to my cabin, it will have to sit outside on my porch. I expect the same problem you've had. I'll store this away in the back of my mind so I'll know how keep it going longer. Thank you! Hope you're doing well. --- Jenny

  21. Hi Patrice. Thanks for posting this. Friends just gave me their old (small) chest freezer, and once I get it flown out to my cabin, it will have to stay on the porch, so I expect to have the same problem you've had. I'll store this in the back of my mind so I can at least keep it going a little longer. Thanks! Hope you and your family are well. You're in our prayers. --- Jenny

  22. If you used the same math as our elected officials that would be a budget savings of $1,400.00

  23. Next time try maybe spray foam? If you do, let us know.

    You know, people throw out stuff on craigslist all the time. Might be worth it to keep your eye open for a free one or one where just the freezer doesn't work and you can take the lid off and use it.

    Of course, you could pray:)

    Consider getting a couple smaller ones. I like to use the smaller ones for organizational purposes. I put all the chicken in one, fish in the other, veggies in the other etc.

  24. One last thing. My parents used to wrap the water heater in insulation with a waterproof outer cover. I would imagine you could do the same with this in the summer. Maybe cover it with industrial saran wrap that movers use or even tyvek.