Constructing an Aboveground "Root Cellar" in Florida, By R.R.L.

Tuesday, Nov 23, 2010

First , to tell you a little about myself.  I was a prepper in anticipation of Y2K, had the property, cabin, most of the works and of course nothing happened. (my family thought I was nuts) We all went back to our living.  Unfortunately sold our property, because of an illness.   I never thought of continuing on for future problems.  I was awakened by talking with my brother earlier this year when he told me about SurvivalBlog.  So needless to say I am a prepper once again, but this time my whole family is. 

I am preparing my parents home to "shelter in place" because they are too old to move now or when the SHTF.  It’s a concrete block home, my dad built plywood covers (I know, he needs metal) to fit over all windows when a hurricane comes through.  The property is only one acre but in a very rural area.  We have started a garden and trying to talk him into chickens. He grew up on a farm so he has an idea of what to do. 

My father is a builder of furniture, homes, or anything you can think of.  I knew that because of the humidity and area we needed a safe place to put our food storage, we called it an "above ground root cellar". But it is really just a controlled temperature pantry room--a heavily-insulated shed.

So last summer dad drew up the plans and got it built.  We have a barn/shop with a lean-to. It is a a two car garage type building. We built "above ground root cellar" adjoining the barn under the lean-to but didn’t go all the way up to the roof, so that we could double insulate it.  Inside, it measures approximately 6’x10’. It is insulated on all the walls, including the roof.  Two of the walls already existed from the barn which were constructed of 2x4s. We also used the same 2x4 construction for the other 2 walls.  We used R-13 batting on everything because 2 - 2" solid poly foam pieces would not fit between the 2x4s.  For the outside walls - we put 15 pound roofing felt on the 2x4s, then 7/16" oriented strand board (OSB) on top of the felt.   All the inside walls were sheathed in 1/2" plywood. On the ceiling we used 1/4" plywood and with a double layer of R-13 insulation -- that ended up being 6-to-8 inches deep.  The insulation inside the door is 3" and again we used R-13. 

Just a note:  Because my dad is a carpenter, we used what he had on hand, without buying much of anything, so you could substitute here and there.)  My father used to build freezers back in the 1940s (when they had wooden doors) so he knew how to build a freezer door out of wood with rubber around it with insulation.  The walls are lined ceiling to floor with storage shelves. We were originally going to leave the floor dirt but decided to lay down a floor of concrete patio steps. 

We placed a small room size air conditioner near the floor. We leave it running, set to 62 degrees at all times.  Initially, we had problems with dampness, then we placed some charcoal on tin plates, that cured our dampness.  If we have more problems we thought of a dehumidifier; not sure if that would work.  We place everything in there right now but will have to divide it up later as we get more items.  At present we place our potatoes, apples, and onions on the floor in crates. These last us two months or more.  So we are extending our fresh food shelf life, so we can buy in quantity or harvest large quantities from our garden.

You can’t easily see the cellar door in the barn/shop; but we are planning to build shelves in front so it will be hidden.
We are also looking for a solar backup for the cellar because we don’t want to depend upon the air conditioning if and when grid goes down.  There was only about a $20 difference in our light bill, so not bad. 

We only have a six month supply of stored food, but we are buying a little more each month, gradually building our stocks.  I know it’s not enough but it is more than most people have stored. 

If anyone could help us out with some information on a solar system to run small room size air conditioner, we’d appreciate it.  I’ve read some books on it, but I'm confused on what we need, besides panels.

JWR Adds: Air conditioners draw a lot of current and are hence some of the biggest power hogs of any alternative energy system. The key specification for a refrigerator, air conditioner or other device that includes a compressor pump is is the locked rotor amps (LRA) rating. The LRA rating is the peak load (expressed in Amps) that the air conditioning unit will draw from your inverter, right when the compressor starts up. Even a small air conditioner can have a high LRA. A typical air conditioner might draw only 30 or 40 amps in the middle of a cycle. But on start-up it may have a LRA of 70 amps. Multiplying this by 117 volts, this means that the inverter must be able to supply a peak load of 8,190 watts. Yikes!

Unless you have a strong background in math and electronics, the process of "sizing" and specifying the components of an alternative power system is best left to professionals. Your key part of the sizing process is adding up all of the loads. Each electrical or electronic device should have a rating expressed in either Watts or Amps. You will provide an aggregate Amp figure, a brief description of your daily routine (how many hours per day each device is used, and seasonal differences) and an estimate on the number of direct sunlight hours available for your solar array's location. A system designer can then determine your system requirements, namely: how many PV panels, what size and type of inverter, and how large a battery bank is needed. In the hopes that you will buy system components from them, the folks at Ready Made Resources offer free consulting on alternative energy system design. You can reach them at: 1(800) 627-3809.

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