Refrigerator alternatives aren’t mainstream in American homes. I struggle to think of one person I know who doesn’t have a full-sized refrigerator, even if they live alone and it’s half empty.
And I’ve done the exact same thing: lived in a studio apartment with a big, mostly empty fridge. I never questioned it, because it seemed like an inevitable part of the household. I was just grateful that the apartment came with a fridge. The idea of buying one for myself and having to lug it from apartment to apartment for the next 10 years was dreadful.
Why reconsider your fridge?
There are some tangible perks to using a nonstandard refrigerator.
Reduced environmental footprint and utility bills
All of these refrigerator alternatives consume less energy than a standard refrigerator. They’re handy for people living off grid, in tiny homes or who want to cut their electricity costs where possible. Lower electricity consumption means lower utility costs and environmental footprint.
Big, heavy appliances are inconvenient to move from place to place. A full-size refrigerator is an impractical investment for someone who sees themselves relocating. But then again, if you need a fridge, you need a fridge…
Truth be told, my curiosity with refrigerator alternatives began when I started researching how to live in a van. Mobile-livers manage to consolidate their refrigeration needs into a small space without electricity. I wanted to see if I could bring that creative thinking into a brick and mortar home.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution for nonstandard refrigeration, but there are options. The creativity and technological advancements make these products well worth the read.
All of the product photos in this post were provided by the companies per my request. This is not sponsored and no one paid to be included. Just so you know!
3 Alternatives to a Full-Size Refrigerator
1. Small Electricity-Free Refrigerator: Evaptainers
One group of innovators has designed a small, electricity-free refrigerator that runs on water. Evaptainers is using their design to help solve the global hunger crisis by giving people access to electricity-free refrigeration.
Evaptainers have no emissions, run on one liter of water a day, and are lightweight and collapsible.
To use, you open the Evaptainers, pour water in, and… that’s it! The water ignites a reaction that cools the interior and gives you a portable mini fridge. Ah-mazing.
Evaptainers isn’t the size of a full-size refrigerator, but could be a game-changing addition to camping trips, living off-grid, and so on.
The project began as a humanitarian mission, but is being made available to the public. You can sign up here to be notified when it’s ready to be purchased.
They’re working on finalizing the design for commercial release, and said on their YouTube channel that it will run about $30 a piece.
Great for: tiny homes, vans, camping, prepping and people whose electricity goes out often
2. Large Electricity-Free Walk-In Refrigerator: The Groundfridge
This self-described “ultimate innovative version of the traditional root cellar” is buried underground and cooled naturally by the temperature of the ground.
The Groundfridge itself is new, but the technology is a tale as old as time: use what your mama (Earth) gave you.
The size of 12 refrigerators in one, you descend into this peculiarly shaped bulb via steps to retrieve your vegetables, white wine, cheese and so on.
Using the natural cool temperatures of the Earth, it works with the ongoing electrical cost of just the indoor light fixture.
The Groundfridge is only available currently in the Netherlands, Luxemburg and Belgium, but the company says delivery to more countries can be expected in 2020.
An alternative to the Ground Fridge that’s available to your right now is to make your own root cellar. The blog Morning Chores shares their 25 ideas for DIY root cellars that may be the right fit for your home.
Great for: big families, farmers, homesteaders, prepping and people whose electricity goes out often
3. Scale Down The Normal Refrigerator
One last idea for minimizing your refrigeration footprint and costs is to still use an electrical refrigerator, but a smaller one.
Could this be the most ~daring~ idea of all?
It may sound funny for a full-size kitchen or home, but a fridge half the size uses half the energy. If you tweak your shopping habits, you can cut your need for refrigeration significantly:
Buy less meat
Meat poses the biggest threat for food poisoning, so proper storage should be taken seriously. But what if you just skip for something plant based instead?
You’d also save on carbon footprint and cost as well, given that reducing meat and dairy intake is single biggest way to reduce your impact on Earth.
Only refrigerate when necessary
After having a European roommate, I learned that Americans refrigerate many things that other cultures don’t. The most surprising example for me was eggs – refrigeration not necessary! Who knew?! (But if you have health concerns, do some research before you take my word for it)
There are also fruits and vegetables that stay fresh longer in open air instead of the closed, stuffy refrigerator. Bread also spoils faster in the cold, yet many people come home from the store and toss their loaves right in the fridge.
Buy less at once, but shop more frequently
Another lesson borrowed from Europeans – make small, frequent trips to the grocery store for fresher food. Americans tend to buy more at once, trying to get the grocery shopping out of the way.
Buying certain things in bulk is a great idea for saving money and wasting less, but for fresh foods it’s the opposite. Power to you for buying a year’s supply of toilet paper at once, but try going to the local market for groceries a couple of times a week instead of doing one big trip.
Great for: cutting utility bills, tiny homes, small families and people who move frequently
Refrigerator Alternatives Summary
These products make one thing clear: our current refrigerator may be old-school before long with new alternatives coming onto the field.
Do you see your refrigerator differently?