How to Repurpose an Old Refrigerator into a Root Cellar

How to Repurpose an Old Refrigerator into a Root Cellar

How to Repurpose an Old Refrigerator into a Root Cellar


Converting an old refrigerator into a root cellar is a great way to extend the storage life of fruits, vegetables, and other crops while repurposing something that would otherwise go to waste. A root cellar provides the cool, dark conditions that many crops need to stay fresh for months past the end of the harvest season. With a little DIY work, you can give an old fridge new life and enjoy homegrown produce all winter long.

Choosing a Refrigerator

The first step is finding a suitable old refrigerator or freezer to convert. Ideal options include:

  • A compact unit, like a dorm-sized fridge. This will be easier to move and fit into your planned root cellar space.

  • A model from the 1990s or earlier. Newer fridges may rely more on plastics that degrade over time. Older models often have more durable components.

  • A working unit or one that needs only minor repairs. Avoid units with severe rust or broken cooling components.

Consider where you plan to set up the root cellar fridge. It should be in a space that maintains cool temperatures, like a basement, garage, or underground room. Make sure there is access to power if your old refrigerator still needs electricity to run interior lights or cooling.

Removing Refrigerator Components

Once you have an old refrigerator, the next step is gutting the interior:

  • Remove all shelves, drawers, trays, door racks etc. You need clear interior space to store crops.

  • Remove the compressor at the back if your fridge will not be powered. This frees up more space.

  • Disconnect and remove any wiring or electrical components unless you plan to have lighting or cooling.

  • Clean interior surfaces thoroughly with hot, soapy water and baking soda. Scour off grime and wipe down with disinfectant.

Adding Insulation

Adding more insulation helps regulate interior temperatures in your repurposed refrigerator root cellar. Options include:

  • Loose insulation like perlite or vermiculite. Fill interior cavities for more all-around insulation.

  • Rigid foam boards. Line interior walls and seal edges with spray foam for moisture protection.

  • Reflective insulation. Cover inside with reflective sheets to reflect heat away from the interior.

  • Straw bales or bags. Pack tight in empty fridge for natural insulation.

Make sure insulation is pest-free and leaves enough clear space for crops. Caulk and seal any wiring holes, cracks, or gaps.

Installing Racks, Shelves, and Bins

Now the refrigerator is prepped – time to add storage!

  • Build sturdy wooden shelves and racking along the interior sides and back wall. This maximizes space.

  • Install wire mesh racks or baskets for increased airflow if your fridge won’t be powered.

  • Include bins and buckets for loose crops like potatoes, onions, garlic. Make sure containers have vent holes.

  • Use hooks, rods, and shelves to hang drying herbs, garlic, onions, and more.

Make sure all materials are food-safe, rot-resistant, and ventilated. Leave space between storage items for air circulation.

Maintaining Proper Conditions

To keep your crops fresh, the root cellar refrigerator needs:

  • Cool temperatures between 32-50° F. Monitor with a thermometer and ventilate as needed.

  • High humidity around 90-95% RH. Add pans of water if humidity drops.

  • Good air circulation. Use small fans if the fridge doesn’t provide airflow.

  • Minimal light. Use an LED grow light for just a few hours if needed.

  • Moisture control. Absorb excess moisture with baking soda or dessicant packs.

Check stored crops regularly for signs of rot or spoilage. Remove any compromised produce immediately.

Enjoying Fresh Produce Year-Round!

With a properly prepped and maintained refrigerator root cellar, you can stock up at the end of the growing season and still enjoy fresh, homegrown fruits and veggies all winter long. Get creative with storage methods, ventilation, and lighting based on the fridge you repurpose. Maintain ideal cellar conditions, and your hard work will be rewarded with produce that stays fresh for months!