Ground breaking ideas can be very simple and this energy free refrigerator is a great example. It is so simple that you can make it yourself!
The fridge consists of two terracotta pots. The smaller one sits inside the larger one and the gap between them is filled with sand. The sand is kept wet and the top is covered by a wet cloth or lid. The cooling effect works by the evaporation of the water through the porous sides of the larger pot, which cools the inner pot and its contents.
This idea was re-invented in 1995 by Mohammed Bah Abba, who recognised what a difference it could make to those living without electricity in his country. By preserving food for longer they could improve their lives, for example allowing children to spend more time in school instead of having to sell the family’s fresh produce in the market every single day.
How can we use this idea to improve our lives? After all most of us, if we are reading this on a computer will have a refrigerator already. There are several ways that this pot fridge could be used to help with green living:
- Run a smaller fridge, just big enough for your everyday needs, and use the pot fridge to take the extra goods when you are having a party or otherwise need more fridge space. A smaller fridge needs less electricity to run than a large one.
- Often fresh vegetables and fruits don’t actually need to be refrigerated, but do benefit from a cool storage space. The pot fridge can be used for fresh produce in hot weather, keeping it fresher for longer and allowing you to use a smaller fridge for the rest of your essential groceries.
- If you keep a second fridge in an occasionally used area, perhaps in a guest room or garage, think of replacing it with a pot fridge. The pot can be used intermittently with no detrimental effects. When it’s not in use it just dries up. To start using it, simply wet the sand again and keep it damp.
- If you regularly go camping to the same place, consider keeping a pot fridge there, instead of taking a gas camping fridge with you. Just start it up when you arrive by wetting the sand and leave it behind for next time to save space in your vehicle.
- A pot fridge can be a great insurance against power outages. If you are affected by blackouts keep a pot fridge on the go to minimise the spoilage of your refrigerator contents.
- The pot fridge is perfect for market stalls, where you are selling fresh produce. On hot days your goods can all be wilting within a couple of hours, but with this, you can keep your supplies fresh and just display one or two items at a time on top of the damp cloth lid.
Remember that a pot fridge does need regular maintenance to run effectively. It relies on the sand being wet to keep it cool. As soon as the sand dries out the cooling effect ceases. In hot weather you may need to re-wet the sand twice a day.
Important note: the pot refrigerator works best in a hot dry climate. The evaporation is what cools the inside. In a very humid climate far less evaporation takes place, so the cooling effect doesn’t work as well.