Ice Storage ??? : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

Anyone had experience with storing ice without electricity? Am moving to the Appalachians and would like to get by with a styrofoam lined cooler(built into my countertop)for refrigeration. Am considering freezing plastic gallon jugs of water (about 150 of them) in the winter, and building some sort of storage locker that I could pull them from over the course of the warmer months. (Am thinking that a frozen jug would last a day or two in the cooler). Anyone out there done anything like this? I believe a well lined storage pit dug into the floor of the basement will allow the ice to stay frozen longer (than something in a free-standing building or dug into a hillside). Am still considering how to handle condensation run-off. Any ideas on this are welcome! Thanks in advance.

-- mike sherman (, April 25, 2002


Might look up the design of old ice houses, seems that the walls were about 2 feet thick and filled with saw dust.

-- BC (, April 25, 2002.

would be more space effeicent if you made ice bricks,,just blocks of ice,, easier to stack and store,,or to use in your ice chest. Lots of old ice houses around here,, used to freeze or cut ice in winter,,sperate the blocks with sawdust,so they dont refreeze together,,cover with LOTS of sawdust,, would keep till the next winter

-- Stan (, April 25, 2002.

I once worked in old ice ice house turned warehouse, built into a hill near a spring, with 3ft thick cement walls. We dressed for the cold in the winter, and appreciated the cool come summer!

Placement is all.

-- Kathy (, April 25, 2002.


If all your needing is a small refrigerator, why not purchase a Coleman 12 volt cooler and charge the battery with your vehicle. Be easier than cutting, hauling and packing ice chunks in sawdust down in the ice celler all winter. They sell for less than $100 at Wal Mart.

-- Jay Blair in N. AL (, April 25, 2002.

Jay- Unfortunately, it seems that theft is a very real possibility in country living. I don't plan on locking my door, and think it's probably best not to have anything around that I'd miss much if it happened to walk off while I'm gone.

-- mike (, April 25, 2002.

you will need more than 150 jugs I suggest best find a spring or test water from creek dig a pond at least 15x15 close to it long side the stream at least 4 ft deep so you can cut with chainsaw work done in february and float the chunks of ice and drag them up a ramp to your ice house all ice blocks should be stacked very close cover all sides top including bottom with sawdust at least 10-12 inches you might need about 5 ton of ice A ice house 6x6x6 ft inside, walls thick, IN a hill side good luck

-- nick (, April 25, 2002.

5 tons works out to about 33lbs a day for 300 days. That sounds like a bit much to me, even though there would be (who knows how much) melting to consider. Am still thinking that gallon jugs will be easier to handle than blocks of ice and sawdust. I could refreeze the jugs for as long as the plastic holds up. At this point, I'm thinking I'd like to insulate everything with styrofoam. But here to hear your ideas...til "it all" freezes over. Cheers.

-- mike (, April 25, 2002.

Sorry, nick -- it sounds like I'm arguing. I just don't want to work too hard. These are all great ideas. Thank you.

-- mike (, April 25, 2002.

Hi, Mike. When my Dad first moved out here from Massachusetts right after WWII, the first two things he did was build an "ice-house" and install a lightning rod on the house. If there had been any neighbors, I guess they would have had a good laugh. Anyway, the ice house was not anything you would expect. It was a slatted (horizontal) building, up off the ground, with a slotted floor and a solid roof. After he found out the first winter he was here that it doesn't freeze solid enough to even count on ice at all, let alone cut blocks, it sat abandoned until us kids got big enough to play in it, and slide down the old HUGE pile of sawdust next to it. Go to the library and check out "Farmer Boy" by Laura Ingalls Wilder. In it, there is a quite detailed account of cutting the ice, the ice house and the packing it with sawdust. To me, just common sense tells me that an underground shelter, lots of sawdust (insulation) and a shady location would make more sense, but I wouldn't dare to argue with the old timers--there had to be a reason for what they did. I agree about the plastic jugs being more convenient...just let me give you a bit of advice, from my own experience. Make sure they are totally thawed before you re-freeze them. Otherwise you will have "blow-outs". As far as wanting to keep your doors unlocked...we never lock our doors, except when we all leave at the same time (about twice a year). When I leave with the husband, we lock the front door, but leave the back door open for the kids. But just living out in the boonies doesn't guaruntee your safety from theft...invest in a couple of locks and a good dog, and the cooler mentioned above, just in case your ice doesn't make it through a long hot summer. Hope this helps. Kathie p.s. I wish my dad had lived long enough for me to be where I am today, and asked the simple question of "why?"

-- Kathie in Western Washington (, April 25, 2002.


If you were going to build it into your countertop, odds are it won't leave. The days of leaving your place unlocked when you leave sadly went away many years ago. True some folks try to believe it can be salvaged by moving to the country, but practically everywhere is now within driving distance and has criminal elements. Hope you pack some firepower as insurance when you return to an unlocked home. Just out of curiosity, do you also intend to forgo emergency communications and internet? I have met a few from this board who planned on going primitive, only to realize that they had a distinct use and need for technological based services such as internet communications. As I pointed out to them, even the primitive self sufficiency lifestyle individuals utilized the available technological advances of their era. Just as the pioneers forged into the wilderness with a Conastoga wagon, plow , ax and letters from home, futuristic pioneers will forge into their own wilderness, however, they may have an antigrav transport, sonic cultivator, laser tool and communicator. Good luck on however you choose to pursue your future.

A couple years ago right here on this board, a participant posted the question "How many of you live like the old time homesteaders and pioneers?". At first, I wanted to say "Well, lets eliminate all of us using internet connected PCs as possible candidates." as a smart aleck answer, then I realized most all of us live as the old time homesteaders as we all utilize things available to us to forge our own paths away from established society and its standards. I doubt if anyone on this board can say they have never been ridiculed or looked at with that "what are you about" look from members of society. 200 years ago, neighbors told families they were crazy as the wagon trains started west, today they call us crazy because we prepare for TEOWAWKI or build our own existance.

I personally believe mankind is so designed to utilize all resources available to him to achieve his goals and intentional primitiveness is forced, not a natural occurance.

-- Jay Blair in N. AL (, April 26, 2002.


I just wanna say that I love your idea and hope that it works out for you. I envy the fact that this will be one way of being truly self reliant with out the need for a refrigerator and the power companies. You will be kind to the enviroment at the same time. I wish I were in the same situation that you are in, and that I too could try this ice storage for my self.

I would also suggest that you spend some time at the library researching your project. You might be VERY surprised to learn how much info is really available to you. Find a good resource librarian and ask them to help you. I have seen plans for ice houses in books. These books are reprints of books from the late 1800's of how to build farm structures of that time period. You also might ask the librarian about inter-library loans, which are available in most states.

-- just a thought (, April 26, 2002.

INteresting idea, Mike. My first thought is, you can't possibly have that much room under your countertop to store 150 gallons of water/ice in individual containers with the amount of insulation necessary to preserve it. I'd build a small ice house and have a Coleman cooler type arrangement in the house that I occasionally would refill. And MUCH less mess in the house. Around here they used to do ice every winter and store it in sawdust, and the outer layer of sawdust was 2-3' thick. Don't know what the styrofoam equivelent would be, but I can't imagine it not taking up a lot of room under that countertop.

I lock my door when I go into town, but probably don't really need to. Just something I do now since I live alone. Since I have dogs with a dog door, they are right there to greet me when I come home, so I feel pretty safe. I think it's great that you have a place you feel that comfortable with. :)

-- Jennifer L. (Northern NYS) (, April 26, 2002.

Mike, one thing you might consider is that water in an open container will freeze at a higher temp than water in a closed container. Even leaving the lid off the gal jugs is not enough exposure. Also, water in a shallow pan is much likelier to freeze than in a deeper pan.

-- kim in CO (, April 26, 2002.

I congratulate you. We too are moving to simpler ways. I will probably keept he phone, computor and lights for my home biz, But they will be moving to the self contained shop/office/whatever. We are gradually fasing things out rather than in as most folks seem to. I love hearing all these ways and means for things simpler....I did not say easier mind you!

On A side note, in our neighborhood the doors are rarely locked, and keys are left in the cars, heck the cars are left running in parking lots routinely in winter. I don't think it can last much longer but it's nice now.....

-- Novina in ND (, April 26, 2002.

Can't resist throwing in my two cents worth.

I too, have thought about building and stocking an ice house. I just don't think that I get enough cold weather to be satisfactory. Where I live we get just a few super cold days a year. Would have to put up the ice quickly.

My idea of a proper ice house would be to use S.I.P.s. Structurally insulated panels. I would upt for the really thick ones, then line the small building and seal the seams to pretty well make it water tight. Of course a drain would have to be installed to drain away melted ice.

And yes the ice would have to have barriers between layers or blocks to facilitate removal.

I would probably use 5 gallon buckets to freeze in, although square would be much better because the blocks would take up less space. Oh yeah, I would remove the blocks from the buckets so that they could be refilled.

Larger blocks will last a lot longer than smaller ones. Same idea as crushed ice vs. cubes and small cubes vs. larger ones. The larger chunks just don't produce as much coolness as there isn't as much surface exposed.

Be sure to let us know what you have decided and how the idea works out in the future.

-- Notforprint (, April 26, 2002.

Kathie, I guess even simple ideas (and questions) aren't always so simple. Thanks.

Jay, Yes, if the cooler's set into the countertop it's more likely to stay put. I'll check it out. The reason I don't want to lock my door is that I'd rather not have it kicked in, or a window broken - by someone wanting to gain access. I hadn't thought (until you mentioned it)about someone waiting inside to ambush me(Geezus)when I get home! Well, now that that image has made its way into my already overworked pea brain, I'll make it as agreeable as possible. Any intruder would in all likelihood be an overly curious 19 year old in t-shirt and cutoffs, who just wanted to be "neighborly" in her own innocent way. (Hee-hee, me knowing full well that not even the most ferocious, hardened, criminal could stand 2 minutes in the closet with my old shoes.) maybe I will lock the door. Anyway, as for having a cell phone - why not? I agree, simplicity takes into account available technology. It's a question of trade-offs though... convenience sometimes means dependence. Will be flexible and realistic. Still intending to see the occasional movie, and internet access is for free at the local library. (Thank you, Bill Gates.) Have lived the quiet life before, and will enjoy it again. (There're as many TEOWAWKI's as there are people.)

Just a Thought, Yeah, libraries are cool.

Jennifer, Yes, the ice storage would be separate from the cooler... either in the basement or another building. Haven't found the site yet, actually. Am moving to NE TN, June 1, and will be exploring Hancock, Hawkins, Greene and possibly Johnson, counties. All is prepared - no doubt!

Kim, Novina, Notforprint, Thank you!

-- mike (, April 26, 2002.

Notforprint and others:

I use the square 5-gallon 'buckets' that you referred to. But I also slip a flimsy plastic trash can liner - I think it's the 7-gal. size - into the bucket beforehand. Set 'em out overnight when it's -30F here, and they're hard frozen long before daybreak. Then a quick splash of hot water on the outside, and the plastic bag and monster ice cube pops right out. By springtime (any week now!), I have a lot of ice.

The 5-gallon squares that I use were margarine, mayonnaise, etc., containers from restaurants. They're far more convenient for just about anything than are the conventional round ones. If you can get some from restaurants, a splash of Clorox helps a lot in getting the innards grease-free.

-- Audie (, April 27, 2002.

Audie-- A couple of questions for you. How do you use those 5 gallon cubes? If you have some sort of ice-box or chest that you put them in, how long does a cube last in the summertime? (It would help me figure out how much ice to make.) I'm thinking, why not build myself a big enough ice-box and put a "fresh" frozen 5 gallon bucket in whenever it needs it? Do you think leaving the ice right in the bucket might work? Any tips on how you store them? Much appreciated.

-- mike (, April 27, 2002.

Thanks Audie. I had thought about the square buckets but didn't have any idea where a person might get them. Also about lining them.

Mike, I used bags of cubed ice last year on occasion. They took about 72 hours to completely melt and leave cool water. That is if the items placed in the ice was cool to start with.

I don't know if you are aware of the construction of ice boxes, but in many the ice was on one side of a divider while goods were stored on shelves on the other side.

I think that I would also make sure the chilled water draining off could be used for drinks, etc. i.e. sanitary.

Also be reminded that most folk store way more in the refrigerator than needs to be. As an example, I buy margarine that does not state "Keep refrigerated."

Thanks for the thread.

-- Notforprint (, April 27, 2002.

I've found that the best size for me is pretty close to a cube. So I fill the containers about 12" high. Out will pop a more-or-less 12x12x12 cube of ice. Prewrapped in its plastic bag.

What do I do with them? 1. Store 'em in my chest freezers....because....

2. Increases the thermal inertia - important here because my electricity is extremely unreliable, but also because....

3. Later on in the year, I sell the blocks to tourists/campers/fishermen/hunters.

So I don't have any hot tips on how to sawdust, etc., store them. But remember, I live in a place that still has snowdrifts at the end of June. I wonder whether old hay bales might make a fair substitute for sawdust. I remember as a kid in Maine having to labor a fair bit forking through sawdust and wresting out blocks of ice. Bales might be a bit less work, and insulate about as well.

-- Audie (, April 27, 2002.

Mike: We have some friends that have built a "root cellar" out of straw bale construction that is 1/2 in the ground and 1/2 above ground. It is exceptionally cool even in the summer. The insulation and cost factors were also a win for them. I was most impressed. Maybe the thought could be adapted for a ice house??

-- Marie in Central WA (, April 27, 2002.

Marie-- That may be a very workable alternative to having to dig a deeper basement. Thank you all for the excellent ideas.

-- mike (, April 28, 2002.

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