Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Great Fridge Debate

We have (what I think is) a rather large ice box on the boat and up until now we've always brought ice with us to the boat to keep our food cold. And it works quite well; when we went on our 2 week cruise last year we still had some of the ice we put in it the first day when we got back to our home port. However, we also added some more over the course of the trip and, admittedly, the air and water temps were no where near what is seen in the tropical climes.

The ice box goes to the back corner of the counter and extends down to the floor
With the fall and winter approaching, we're trying to research, choose and buy what we need for some of our larger projects, so that when spring rolls around we can tackle them in a timely manner and be ready for our July departure --> Geeze, I still get butterflies when writting that!

While Ron seems to have chosen a particular approach to this problem, I wanted to pick your brains for a moment and see what refridgeration-related experiences you've had.

Option #1 - Convert our ice box to a refridgerator unit

This would require us to buy a compressor, evaporator plate (or cold plate....are these 2 even the same thing?) and necessary hardware to complete the conversion. Then we would have to beef up the insulation of the current box, which I hear is a nightmare itself.

Conversion Kit
Image here
However, this system could also give us the option to freeze a small amount of food or make our beloved ice cubes. I like ice. Plus, we have a handy spot to put the compressor...or so Ron tells me.

Option #2 - Drop-in unit

These units are made to drop into pre-existing ice boxes and come fully insulated and ready to go. And I've heard that they use a suuuuuper small amount of battery power to run.

Drop-in unit
Image here
This unit has to be used as either a fridge or a freezer but not both. And it is substantially smaller in size than our current ice box...which could very well be why it is more energy efficient. This option would also still likely require some level of alterations to install and could result in loosing access to the remaining space in the ice box.

Bottom Line
From what I can tell the conversion kits run anywhere from $700-$1000 and the drop-ins are $1000-$1500.

What has been your experience dealing with an existing boat refridgeration unit or installing a new one? Any advice? What are we missing?

10 comments:

  1. The tropics are very hard on ice boxes. Old insulation just won't work well. If you decide to keep the current box, rebuild it as per Don Casey's "This Old Boat". Insulation is critical. I read a lot of people are now using the Engle. The dual fridge/freezer is around 1500. Ken

    http://www.roadtrucker.com/engel/large-64-quart-engel-12-volt-acdc-fridge-and-freezer.htm

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    1. Thanks for the reference, insulating will definitely be in our future if we do the conversion!

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  2. Ours came with a dual fridge/freezer. The freezer is pretty small, but I love that we have the option. Good luck on the project!

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  3. We have a drop in unit and it works good in Massachusetts. From talking to others who have been south with the same boat it works fine in tropics but they do use a lot of energy. Ours isn't that big either so we keep thinking about adding a second unit or a "spill over" kit to the space next to the refer.

    One thing with either unit is I wouldn't count on the freezer side. Ours doesn't keep things truly frozen. I was reading a FB post from another boater the other day who was complaining that she could make ice but can't keep ice cream from melting. We have similar issues. I could put a steak in there and 3 days later its not really frozen. It's not really defrosted either so I don't like to leave food in there too long.

    We've also been looking at the Engle fridge/freezer. One thought by having the Engle is that if we catch a nice mahi, we can freeze it and have it for the next couple of weeks. But it we are in a port with good fresh veggies we can put the Engle on the fridge setting and stock up.

    Good luck,

    Jesse

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    1. Thanks for the info Jesse! I can do without the ice cream, but it sure would be nice to be able to have ice cubes in our drinks! I guess if we catch more than we can eat/keep we can always share right? Decisions, decisions

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  4. What have Matt and Jessica been using?

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    1. I believe theirs had a unit when they bought it but Matt covers beefing up the insulation in their blog.

      http://mjsailing.com/projects/refrigeration-insulation-spray-foam/

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  5. We have a conversion kit from Adler Barbour with a rectangular cold plate that functions as a freezer if you crank it up enough. I like that condenser is mounted in the cockpit's aft lazarette so we don't have to listen to it running and cycling on and off. I don't like that it seems to use a lot of juice, even here in the Great Lakes. We'll run it off DC power occasionally while we're day sailing or when motoring, but if we're out cruising we generally through a block of ice in and typically get 3 days out of it without running the fridge. Our last boat had nearly the same set up and we used it the same way. I'm guessing your needs/operation will be different since you'll be in the little latitudes and likely have large solar panels for repowering.

    Have you seen the FrigoBoat systems with a Keel Cooler? We looked at them at sailboat show once and also saw one operate on Catalina 36 once. From what I recall, they were much more efficient than our set-up, but pricier too.

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    1. We have a little spot in our lazarette to put the condensor too, I really don't want to have to listen to it running all the time. We've also been advised to use a cork or some similar object to stop up the fridge's drain while cruising to keep the cold air from sinking down into the bilge and making the condensor run more often.

      Ron has been drooling over the FrigoBoat keel systems since the boat show too! Very efficient but that price is pretty hard to swallow.

      Thanks for the feedback!

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