Cool Pantries: Storing Food Without Using Power

What’s the difference between a cool pantry and root cellar? Humidity. Root cellars are very practical for storing certain types of produce, and have been a key part of sustainable households for centuries. Root cellars are kept fairly moist in order to best preserve the crops that are stored there. However, the high humidity limits their use since many food items require a dryer environment to avoid spoilage. A cool pantry with low humidity is suitable for storing a wider range of food items.

Kelly Hart and I created a simple, easy to build design to help make cool pantries a standard feature in homes. This design can be added to most new homes or retrofitted to existing houses. The idea of having a large cool storage room next to the kitchen makes so much sense to us that we think all houses should be designed this way. This facility uses no energy to keep things cool and promotes a lifestyle of fewer miles driven, along with a feeling of abundance and security. Imagine millions of homes with this feature and how much energy could be saved.

You can read the full article by buying the February/March 2011 issue of The Owner Builder Magazine.

Note: We will build this cool pantry at our next workshop April 1-6 in Thailand. See our Workshops page. And I’ll add the design to Earthbag House Plans soon, so people can incorporate it into their homes right from the start.

10 thoughts on “Cool Pantries: Storing Food Without Using Power”

  1. We have 50-100 ft oak trees in our yard. We have one tree that might be a wild pear tree, not sure yet, that one is starting to have over hanging branches. I didn’t mean to make it sound like I wanted to destroy the root system, I meant the unexpected, far-reaching roots coming from those old oaks.
    I’ll figure something out. I have read that article on the root cellar, I didn’t see specifics on how you regulate humidity, but I’ll keep looking, and researching the humidity levels and such. North Carolina is humid as it is anyway, so I may not have to do much but help some escape from time to time.

    • The dome article only covers the building process, not how to regular the humidity. There’s a good root cellar book you should pick up. Can’t think of the name. A little research should uncover the most popular one.

  2. I have lots of trees, I’m just worried about how many roots I’ll have to get past for that, haha. But I’ve got plenty of shade. I’ll be looking up that article. Does it also include the basics for the root cellar?

  3. Owen, we just purchase our first property, and I was thinking about building a root cellar. Our land is a very slow slope, almost flat. I’m going to do more research on whether or not I want an above-ground, bermed pantry, or a somewhat completely buried structure, but my question is, do you think it would be possible to build a split root cellar/cool pantry in the same structure?
    Could you seal off humidity with some poly liner? Or is it more complex than that?

    • Luke, I don’t see any reason why you couldn’t combine the two. But you need to get the basics right for it to work. For instance, you’ll get much better performance if the structure is in shade all day. All the details are in my cool pantry article that was published in the Owner Builder Magazine in Australia.

  4. I definitely look forward to that. In a way, it’s good that I don’t currently have the funds to buy land/materials, since there seem to be so many advances lately. Though I do enjoy the thought of helping set a precedent in areas where earth bag building is unheard-of.


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