Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Candlewax of Frugality

I recall a practitioner of the Wiccan religion once telling me that every religion burdens its believers with something unpleasant that isn't really the point of the religion, just a necessary by product of sorts. She said that for Wiccans, it's dealing with all the candlewax that has to be scraped off of various surfaces after their ceremonies. She said that celibacy would be one equivalent unpleasant thing for unmarried Christians, especially Catholic priests and nuns. That idea always struck me as amusing, but interesting too. Frugality isn't a religion, but it sure has its share of candlewax.

Today I tackled some of the candlewax of frugality; I defrosted the chest freezer we keep in our unheated garage. This was one of those necessary chores that I knew I should be getting to in order to trim our electricity bill. But the task was about as appealing as scraping candlewax off a floor. All summer long I procrastinated, using the warm weather as an excuse. Today the high temperature forecast was for 35 degrees. No excuses there: the contents of the freezer would thaw only very slowly while I cleaned, and make it less urgent for me to work at top speed. I'm still getting over a nasty and very tenacious chest cold, so I'm not really working at 100% lately.

Our chest freezer is about as full as it possibly can be, thanks to our homegrown, hand-pressed apple cider, several quarts of homemade lamb stock, and my inclination to bake a lot during cold weather. While having a freezer full of food is reassuring, and more energy efficient than an empty freezer, it does make it hard to find things in there. It also makes for a lot of work when it's time for the defrost. But the build up of frost on the walls of the chest freezer is quite inefficient, because the freezer has to work harder to keep things cold.

As you can see in the picture above, I had allowed a full inch of ice to build up on certain parts of the freezer walls. The ice was quite unevenly distributed. But from what I've read, you're meant to defrost a freezer when the frost/ice is 1/4" thick. There were parts of the freezer with no ice at all, but clearly the defrosting was overdue.

You know what? Getting through this chore that I had put off for so long was pretty quick once I got started. It took less than an hour from start to finish, and that was with me having to make trips inside for warm water. Isn't that the way of things? It also gave me the chance to re-organize the chest freezer so that things are easier to get to, and I have a better sense of where everything is. While I had the chest freezer empty, I also pulled it away from the wall and dusted off the coil that is part of the cooling system. There wasn't much dust, but keeping that coil free of crud is another way to maximize the efficiency of the appliance.

So, all you chest-freezer-owning frugalites out there, I know I'm no shining example of frugal maintenance. But I'll just point out that winter is really the best time of year to defrost a freezer if you've got one that needs it. Time to get to some of that frugal candlewax. I hope your necessary but unappealing frugal chores turn out to be as unexpectedly easy as mine were today.


Anonymous said...

I'm so excited to join the ranks of those with freezers. My in-laws weren't using theirs and we are "borrowing" it to see if it's worthwhile to have in our situation. The freezer compartment of our refrigerator is completely packed which put a hold on my baking. How often do you think you should defrost?

Wendy said...

I put off defrosting my freezer. Then, we lost power for three and a half days. Nature decided it was time to defrost my freezer :).

Renee said...

When my Grandma was living in this house and feeding 12-15 people everyday, she had 2 humongous deep freezers on the go in the basement at all times. When one is not completely full, it takes more power to maintain the cold temp than if it's packed to the gunwales, so when the freezer was half empty, she'd put plastic containers of water in too. (This is also a kind of insurance against power outages because you get an extra day or 2 of leeway b4 you must cook and eat everything that thaws. It happened one summer when some genius decided to move a freezer and put it on an extension cord,big mistake...)

Anonymous said...

I like that, that all organized religions have some stupid component "just because," it gives me a good reason to avoid them altogether. But really, ick, I hate defrosting the freezers. I finally did my old one after 2 years this spring. Gold stars all around?

Renee said...

I've been given a Bookworm award and now I'm giving it to you. Tag--you're it.

Rhonda Jean said...

Hello Kate. I can't find an email link so could you please email me.

Rhonda Jean - Down to Earth


Thank you.

kateS said...

Goodmorning. Hmmm, it's been awhile since I intentionally defrosted a freezer, but my life is split between winters here and summers in AK, so it gets done every year when we go north just because I empty and unplug. Jumbled freezers where I can't find things bug me, so I've been using cardboard boxes to keep things together. If you use med-small boxes that fit your space right and stack well, you can keep your fish in one, your pork in another, your green beans and corn in a third, and so on. I do lose some space this way, and I don't know how it affects the cost of freezing, but it's much better for my sanity.

Kate said...

Jeri, the rule of thumb is to defrost when the buildup reaches 1/4". I didn't manage that. I would say once per year would be a good schedule. Congrats on scoring a chest freezer for free.

Wendy, that does happen.

UM, yes, the water bottle trick is a good one.

Gold stars all around indeed, El!

Kate, that's a pretty good discipline then. I favor re-usable shopping bags to group stuff together in the freezer. I find that I tend to waste less space that way.