Apple/Pear refrigerators

  • December 15, 2016 at 3:34 pm #1356

    Apple/Pear refrigerators (PDF of archived thread)

    January 30, 2024 at 2:45 pm #1840
    Brittany Kordick

    It’s been a few years since this idea of constructing a cooler from straw bales was floated, but it has captured my imagination as we find that any larger scale options for refrigeration are increasingly hard to justify (yet absolutely necessary, regardless) economically. Time was, you could pick up a used walk-in at an auction or in classifieds for a song or go the shipping container route. Seems like everyone and their mother’s gotten savvy to these options, as well as the resale profits to be had, and I can’t count how many times I’ve seen used walk-ins and containers go for prices higher than what I’d think possible for brand-new ones. There’s got to be another way.

    So I started thinking about building a cooler with straw bales. On the surface, it’s a great concept: once the fairly simple principles of building are mastered, you can apply them to build as big or as small a cooler as you like, and the R-values of using bales exceed that of the insulation typical of walk-in paneling. Also seems ideal for use with a Coolbot and a/c setup — sure would be simpler than building a straw bale house, to just build a cube structure with a single or few windows to accommodate an a/c plus. What I’m hung up on is the humidity aspect. The whole idea of straw bale structures is that the walls are breathable. We would want any cooler we build to have washable interior walls, and this would seem impossible, given the plasters typically used in straw bale structures; one abiding principle of straw bale building appears to be that you build a substantial roof overhang and employ guttering specifically to prevent habitual wetting of plastered exterior walls. OK, so what if we line the interior with a more standard construction or salvage material that is cheap and washable — say linoleum? But surely that will affect the integrity of the entire structure from a breathability standpoint since we’ve effectively rendered it one-way breathable, from exterior only.

    Also of concern: the current economics of building a straw bale cooler; will we actually ultimately see savings compared with the other expensive options out there? Several years ago, we remember purchasing straw bales for $2 a bale; this was once one of the biggest attractions of building with straw bales — you’re using an agricultural waste product AND it’s cheap! Obviously, times have changed as more farmers opt to till in their straw stubble; nowadays straw is often as or more expensive than a square bale of hay and in the neighborhood of $8 a bale in our area. Perhaps by the time we budget this out accordingly, it will not seem quite like the economical option it does on the surface.

    But before we do take the time to painstakingly budget this out, I’m just wondering if anyone on the forum with any experience building with straw bales can weigh in on the humidity/washability concerns in general. We would like to build a test 8 by 10 cooler, and figure we’ll need approximately 100 straw bales, as well as rebar, mesh, foundation material, lumber, etc., so before we sink $800 plus into a test structure, it would be good to have higher conceptual confidence in building a cooler that lasts for years or decades, rather than starting to rot after a single season.

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