August 1, 2020

Pantry Cooling Project: What's Next?

Our objective with the pantry project is to improve food storage conditions. About a year ago, we started giving this a good think because after we quit air conditioning, the pantry became the warmest room in the house. Doing something about that has meant a feasibility study, analysis, researching alternatives, and formulating a plan:
  1. Moving the freezer and auxiliary fridge out of the pantry.
  2. Replacing the old upright auxiliary fridge with a chest fridge.
  3. Putting the freezer and chest fridge on solar energy. 
  4. Replacing old pantry windows with energy-efficient windows.
  5. Add insulation to the pantry walls.
  6. ➡ Cooling the air in the pantry without air conditioning.
Steps #1-5 of our plan checklist are completed (they're linked to take you to their respective blog posts). Already, they have made a difference! The pantry is no longer the warmest room in the house, but even stays a couple of degrees cooler than the kitchen, with the bonus that it isn't as humid!

Now, we're contemplating #6. As a baseline, I've been keeping track of temperature highs and lows in three places: our shaded outside back porch, the kitchen, and the pantry.

Baseline of daily highs and lows. O = outside, K = kitchen, P = pantry
Morning low on the left, afternoon high on the right. All in Fahrenheit.

The pattern is that the outdoor high is about 8 degrees or so higher than the kitchen, and the kitchen  is about 2 degrees higher than the pantry. So there is typically a ten degree difference between outdoors and the pantry. The question is, can we do better? Can we bring the pantry air temp down a little more? I listed quite a few ideas in this post, with some being more realistic for us than others. Dan has been researching and collecting more ideas, and he's ready to experiment with some of them. If something works, I'll let you know!


tpals said...

There isn't a basement under your house, is there? I used to dream about making a root cellar in part of my basement, but I don't have a Dan to make it work. I will be fascinated to read what he comes up with for you.

Leigh said...

Tpals, no, no basement. :( It was one of the things on our original dream farm list, but sadly lacking in this house. A basement would be the perfect place for a pantry and root cellar!

Living Alone in Your 60's said...

We had high temperatures yesterday but nothing like you repeatedly get. Our homes ate just not equip for that level of warmth.

Mama Pea said...

Uff da! I am now going to have to quit whining and complaining about our "hot" weather! You and Dan are fighting a valiant battle in your attempts to make whatever improvements necessary to keep your inside temps lower during your summer seasons. Keep it up. You're gaining on it!

Lady Locust said...

Looking good. Thank you for letting us know as you go. I’m logging it in my mental notes 😂 for future use. We are hoping for a cellar as well but appreciate knowing the options.

Lady Locust said...

PS Please don’t ever remove your blog or my mental notes are gonzo!

Leigh said...

Frugal, I don't mind saying that I wish we didn't get these kinds of temps! :)

Mama Pea, true confession - we're tired of being hot! I truly hope we can come up with something. If we could at least get closer to official "room temperature," I'd be thrilled.

Lady Locust, lol. No plans to remove my blog. If I ever do quit blogging, the blog will be left as is. I've seen too many blog addys taken over by porn pushers after original owners deleted their blogs. I hope we come up with something that helps you too!

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Similar to our weather Leigh.

I will be interested to see what the next potential plans are. I suppose I assume there is nothing else to be done for insulation; is a large screen of some kind possible (even maybe a trellis) to further cut down on direct sun?

Goatldi said...

You two have and are doing a great job!

I hear you on the “tired of being hot “ I am also . Looking through your reference links I tripped over a comment from you to the effect you doubted totally off gird folks used their AC if they indeed had it. Good point no we didn’t and in our set up we had two inverters and a sufficient array of panels plus a huge propane driven generator. However even with that the only way we could used the AC would have been to turn on the generator. A proposition that wasn’t acceptable. Toss in we weren’t keen on AC to begin with. And the home came with it if we had built it we wouldn’t have put AC in.

We got a large swamp cooler. Humidity renders them pretty worthless. But with California dry heat they are gold standard. Still unless you had the time/ $$$ and ability to put in a top notch system one still needs to cool in other ways. Many of which you mention.
I will be most interested in the system you ingenious folks come up with. Don’t give up the fight😊

Rain said...

I love reading what you and Dan are doing with the pantry. My dream is to divide up the basement one day into rooms and one will be a pantry. My challenge will be humidity down there. I think that in my case though, if it's well insulated, it'll be okay. Can't wait to read what you guys do to keep things cooler! :))

Renee Nefe said...

We just received some junk mail from a place that does whole house attic fans. Their system sucks the cooler air up through the house and into the attic forcing the air out through the attic vents...cooling that attic as well. Wondering if perhaps you could set up a system like that and use solar to power it?

Leigh said...

TB, the insulation (of walls and energy efficient windows) is probably about as far as we're going to take it. For now, anyway. Better insulation of ceiling is a possibility, as would be insulating the floor. The "attic" space is very shallow, so for now the batt insulation in it will have to do. The other idea would be a double roof, i.e. installing a second, faux roof 6-12 inches over the current roof, to allow air to flow between the two. That's beyond us at the moment, but some homes have used that to good success (usually designed into the building plans).

Goatldi, we do have some dry humidity, but often not, so something expensive like that probably wouldn't be worth it in the long-run. Nice you could use it though.

Rain, a basement is a wonderful thing to have (wish we had one!). You actually might want to consider making a root cellar down there. Many of the things stored in a root cellar like some humidity.

Renee, we have talked about a whole house fan from time to time, but obviously never actually put one in. It might could run on a solar battery for a short time, i.e. long enough to pull the hot air out of the house at night. It would just take some calculations to figure out what size battery.

wyomingheart said...

Love the idea of an attic fan, but have no idea how loud it might be. We will certainly be watching for your decision and update. Have an awesome weekend.

Toirdhealbheach Beucail said...

Leigh, I have had friends that installed attic fans. They have made a considerable difference.

Ed said...

I'm not much help in this department. I do know that several Amish homesteads have rooms attached to their houses with reflective metal replacing the siding and roof. I've always assumed they are using it as some sort of cold storage during the summer time but don't know that for a fact since I haven't been granted a tour.

Probably the route I would take is looking at geothermal piping but I'm guessing that might be out of most budgets for cooling a pantry.

The more budget friendly route would probably be a combination of exhaust fan in evening to cool it down, intake fan in morning to cool it off some sort of thermal mass to slow down the afternoon heat from heating things up.

arta said...

Hi Leigh,
I love following your progress :) This post links very closely to my new project. We live on the edge of the kalahari desert, so we have extreme high temperatures. My next building project will be a "dam house" for lack of a better word....... take a corrugated metal dam, cut it in half, put the two halves next to each other and cover with strawbales. Much like cutting a pipe in half lengthwise, putting the two halves next to each other and covering them. Well, that is the oversimplified idea :) Because we're on solar power, we do not want to add another electrical way to cool the whole thing...... the bales will take care of heat from the top and sides, but to cool the inside air, I'm going to bury an irrigation pipe under the floor (in the foundation). As long a pipe as I can (coiled). One end will open into the house just above the floor and the other end outside the house in a shady area. Then to complete the system, a chimney pipe painted black on the roof. The chimney pipe will heat up and suck the air from the inside which will in turn suck the air through the buried pipe. The air in the pipe cools down as it travels under the floor and will be several degrees cooler than the inside temperature. And it will not add humidity to the inside. It is almost the same principle as they use in earth ships. They bury a pipe underground in the back of the house and it cools down the air that travels through it. I don't know if this makes sense........ I can see the picture in my head as I'm typing, but I do not know if I'm explaining it will :)

Cockeyed Jo said...

Our in house pantry is a laughable interior closet. Our big food storage is an exterior shed. But I'm taking notes.

Leigh said...

Wyomingheart, the last time I lived with a whole-house attic fan was several decades ago. I recall it was fairly loud (rumbly) but only when I stood right under it. It was strong and really did help suck the hot air out of the house.

TB, especially at night. I'm not sure why we've never installed one!

Ed, hasn't thought to research Amish ideas, thanks! We talked about geothermal as a cooling source, but the digging would be difficult to do our selves or expensive to hire out. Still, it's an excellent idea. The nighttime combo of intake and exhaust fans is probably easiest and least expensive.

Arta, good to hear from you! Living on the edge of a desert is a huge advantage because of the low humidity. That's one thing we struggle with now, humidity. I think I understand what you're describing, it's similar to some of the ideas we're toying with, if we could manage to get a long enough piece of pipe buried/insulated well enough. I'll be curious as to your success!

Jo, it's a start!

Simply Handmade Farmhouse said...

Thank you for stopping by my place and leaving a sweet comment. How have you been? You look busy on your farm! Neat idea about the elderberries.

Leigh said...

Simply At Home, it's good to hear from you! Yes, it's a very busy time of year, isn't it? But I still love it. :)

Nancy In Boise said...

It's good to hear that you're making progress! With the size of your property have you ever thought about digging a root cellar?

daisy g said...

Good gravy, I can't imagine living in this heat without AC! Kudos to y'all.

Have you every heard of the weatherization program? They come and do an evaluation of your home and recommend certain things to improve your efficiency. Not only is the eval free, but anything they do to improve your efficiency is also free. We've had two houses (in two different states) go through the program and have gotten extra insulation, aerators on the faucets, new lightbulbs, a special fan that takes the humidity out of the whole house, and lots more. All free. Everyone who came to work on our homes was so kind and respectful. Please do a local search and see if you can find a weatherization program near you. If you can't, I'll be happy to look into it for you. It could make a huge difference for you.
Blessings, daisy@MapleHill101

Leigh said...

Nancy, yes, we have thought about a root cellar, but it would be a big undertaking and we aren't sure how much we could actually cool it off. I think that's one of the reason they aren't common in my part of the country.

Daisy, I hadn't heard of that program, but it certainly sounds useful! Thanks!