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Coolbot Controller Cakes Jury-Rigged Cooler Work

When market gardener Mark Wittman spotted a walk-in cooler at a sale, he knew it was just what he and his wife needed for their start-up CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Now in its second year, they were tired of carrying produce into and out of a cool basement and stuffing more temperature sensitive produce into their 2 refrigerators.

    “We knew a walk-in cooler would make our job a whole lot easier,” says Wittman. “We couldn’t justify a new one, but the one at auction was cheap.”

    The pieces were panels of 3 1/2-in. insulation blown into 2 by 4-in. frames with steel cladding on the outside. Described as an 8 by 8-ft. cooler, it sold for only $220. Wittman quickly discovered why.

    “The pieces were actually for parts of 2 coolers that were slightly different heights,” he recalls. “There were 4 panels from one cooler and 7 panels from a slightly shorter one. We ended up with 2 entrance doors between the 11 panels.”

    Wittman used 7 panels for sides and 2 for the roof. He fabricated corners from 2 by 4’s and plywood and jury-rigged closures.

    “The panels used an off-center latch system activated with a hex key that sent an arm out to grab the corresponding fixture and pull it tight,” explains Wittman. “I mounted new edges on the off-size panels with bolts in place of the bars.”

    Wittman ended up with a slightly smaller than planned, 7 by 8-ft. cooler that he mounted to a freshly poured concrete slab. Cooling is provided by a used air conditioner and a CoolBot control system (Vol. 32, No. 5) that Wittman purchased on eBay. The CoolBot micro-controller constantly monitors the walk-in cooler and adjusts the A/C fan and compressors as needed to keep the cooler at the desired temperature without freezing up.

    “It runs for about $20 per month, which is not much more than the second refrigerator cost,” says Wittman.

    He estimates a total cost of $1,200 including the CoolBot and concrete floor, which was the most costly part of the project.

    “The cooler is a nice size for our operation and lets us store produce in the insulated coolers that we take back and forth to farmer’s markets,” says Wittman. “We end up with better quality merchandise and less work.”

    Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Mark Wittman, Willmar, Minn. (mark@underthecottonwood.net) or Store It Cold (ph 888 871-5723; info@storeitcold.com; www.storeitcold.com).

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2015 - Volume #39, Issue #1