Refrigeration selection?

Up until now we have not had refrigeration on the boat and just used ice blocks, quite effective for a trip of 4-5 days. Eileen has persuaded me to get a quote for refrigeration and we have visited the booths of Glacier Bay (the Cadillac brand) and C-Frost at past boat shows. I sent sketches to both companies and Glacier Bay replied with a quote the same day. The price, including our 15% sales taxes, comes out similar to a small car – well at least a dinghy plus outboard. Glacier Bay, which claims the highest efficiency, says we will need to run the engine for 2 hours a day and produce 60 Ah. I guess the acceptance rate of the cold plates is the limiting factor as we have a 120 Ah alternator. David Salter (#050, Opportunity).

a. Hope all is well with you. We are progressing well with the refit of #135, Necessity and look forward to heading out for the Med next year. A year ago we installed a K50 with a BD50 Danfoss compressor and a keel cooler. While we have not used it in the tropics as yet, all indications are that it will prove quite satisfactory. We looked at a number of systems and chose this one for the energy efficiency and the fact that there was no heat generated inside the boat. We also looked at the Isotherm but were concerned that the thru hull cooler would not generate adequate heat dissipation when the boat was still at anchor. The drawback to a cold plate is the requirement for regular engine operation at a specific speed. On a passage from BVI to Florida some years ago, the Sea Frost system required over 2 hours a day run time on the engine at about 1800RPM. It wouldn’t have been so bad except that we were moving faster than the 1800 RPM engine speed would have driven us and engaging the prop would have actually slowed us down. I have attached an article from Cruising World which I found helpful, B. Hall

b. Having read what you propose, I respectfully submit the following for your consideration: I would stay away from ” Cold Plate ” mainly due to engine running required and the fact that you end up freezing and unfreezing your food, that may not be a good thing. We have installed-4 yrs. ago a Novacool Evaporator / Condenser type unit, air cooled, with the compressor located in the large engine room area. We had a two-compartment ice box so the first compartment is a freezer (that’s where we located the evaporator) and the second compartment acts like a fridge. We installed a small 12 VDC fan to move cold air from the first to the second compartment. I can’t say enough about this system and I did the whole thing myself in 1/2 day. Our current draw is about 6 Amps and there has never been a problem with the batteries. Whole thing can be bought for approx. 850.00 CDN, on sale right now. I would further suggest that you contact Peter @ HMP Marine here in Toronto, 416 762 3821 or . I have had an ongoing relationship with Peter for years, I respect his knowledge above anything, even though he can be somewhat ” unconventional ” sometimes. Hope this will assist you, Frank Bryant, #186, Visitant.

c. About the most I can do to help you is to say that the most important thing you can do is to be sure you have the most effective insulation, top and all sides, most important is the top where most heat leakage occurs. On my boat (#069, Joint Effort), I have a freezer and refrigeration. The freezer unit is a Sea-Frost custom designed by them. I have been very pleased by the unit’s operation. Once it is down to the desired temperature it does not cycle on and off very often. It is a small freezer, maybe 2-1/2 cubic feet but serves us well. I would order from them again. The compressor is very compact and quiet and vents into the living compartment. I have no issues with this. The refrigeration unit is an Adler Barbour Cold Machine. This is the second one in there for the twenty or so years of using the boat. The fact I am using it again must say something for the unit. I replaced it because it needed a new temperature control switch inside the box. You can buy the switch, and I actually did, then changed my mind and bought a whole new unit while thinking about what the company said. They told me the unit should last about twenty years and I had 19 on it. The refrigerator is on the large side and I need to keep the temperature about halfway down or things begin to freeze in there. My logic is; this is on the lower end of the price scale and it has been most satisfactory in its operation, I could have bought the high-end stuff but the results would have been the same. I have had good support from the companies involved. The power for those units is pretty effective too. I have a KISS wind Generator, when it is spinning good (6-10 amps.), I will need to run my engine about every three days or so but I am not power stingy as I use the boat for North Channel use mostly and will spend a day or so in a harbor to restock the boat and I use the boats batteries for many things. I even have an inverter on board and will use the microwave on occasion. I do have a battery monitoring system on board and keep a close eye on battery condition. There are 745 amp hours available and I have a 125-amp alternator. Hope this helps a bit! A lot of options are out there GENE WHITNEY (#069, Joint Effort).

d. I’m a liveaboard and use ice exclusively (free ice most of the time). I winter over in Philadelphia so the ambient temps tend to be on the cold side. I usually get about 4-5 days before I need to replace. The ice maintains the box at about 33-34 degrees F (0.5 – 1 degrees C). During the summer months I resupply a little more often. One thing I have noticed with using ice is that items like milk and lettuce stay fresher longer than in a home refrigerator. I’ve been investigating different ice box conversion systems and air conditioning units. I’ve been leaning towards the Glacier Bay system for two reasons: 1) energy requirements and 2) the fact that you can run an air conditioning unit using the same compressor as the fridge. This would be used only dockside so power would not be a problem. I would save space (always a premium) and have less plumbing and electrical to deal with. The only drawbacks I’ve run into with this is sizing the cold plate, I keep coming up with the need for 2 plates and the price of the system – $4300 to 4700. But I believe this is the way to go. Let me know how you make out. Bill Costello (s/v #095, Coochi), Phila.

e. I have a Glacier Bay system in Impresa (fridge, freezer & AC). I have the Whisper Jet model which I believe has been supplanted by a smaller and possibly more efficient model. My review is:
Noise/Vibration: reasonable but not silent. The sound does not awaken me and the vibration is minor.You need to follow the recommendations for mounting the compressor.

Run Time: Close to the predicted value for the fridge. The freezer runs longer than expected but I am still working to optimize the superheat.

Box: I bought the super insulation panels (tops & hatches, sides, bottoms) from Glacier Bay. They claim an R of 30 for a 1″ thickness. Although expensive, I am convinced that these are worth the money. I gained lots of extra space and they hold the cold very well. Also, the inside is very easy to clean.

Air Conditioning: Not really worth it. The unit does cool things down but at the expense of long run times. The newer freestanding AC units are more efficient: shorter run times and faster cool down. Impresa is in the Chesapeake. If we were in a really warm area like Florida, I would strongly suggest a different AC system. I installed the system myself and found it tedious but not overwhelming. If you have reasonable mechanical skills and can do a decent job of sweating copper tubing, I wouldn’t shy away from the job. In addition, the newer unit is more integrated (fewer solder joints) than my system.

The bottom line: Skip the Glacier Bay AC. Definitely use the super insulation panels for the box (or a competitive system that is unquestionably as good). The Glacier Bay compressor/holding plates seem to be of first quality but they are pricey. If I were to do it over, I would buy the box components and see if I could find a good quality compressor/plates system for less money. Good luck. Lou Lieto (#193, Impresa).

f. David, there’s a company that deals with marine refrigeration right near you in Picton, Ontario. His name is Marv and he knows more about the subject than anyone I know. He has a company called E-Z Kold. You can contact him and see his line of products on his website . Good luck. Jack Verheyden (#127, Kathrian).

g. In regards to David Salter’s question about refrigeration: We bought a 12volt holding plate unit from EZ-Kold in Kingston Ontario. They made the holding plate into a box (custom sized) and we use the inside for a freezer and the outside for a fridge. It works fantastic. We bought the air cooled unit and put the compressor (comes with 12 feet of copper pipe) next to our fuel tank, behind the settee in the pilot house, mostly to be out of the way. We’ve used this system from Nova Scotia to Trinidad with perfect success. I know everyone says you need water cooled and such, but we’ve never had a situation where we didn’t have ice in the fridge or more than 25 ah per day draw. (and I watch diligently since we’re strictly solar charged) I have 6 inches of insulation all around the fridge except the bottom (where heat may “rise” into the fridge, or cold may sink out of it) where we have 9 inches of insulation. No, the unit does not make any noticeable heat in the pilot house. We also have some 3″ ducting from the compressor compartment, 4 feet to the lazerette (I suppose that helps eh?). There’s also an opening at the bottom of the compartment to the bilge to suck fresh air to the compressor. The best part is that this unit cost us less than $1600 Canadian Brand new and custom made to our specs!! (2003) All for now, we’re preparing for our trans-Atlantic and will be leaving from Beaufort NC in May.

Add: Just to confirm for you that our fridge is indeed a “holding plate” with eutectic fluid (antifreeze) in it, not an evaporator plate like a home style fridge. It runs about 2.5 hrs every 24 hrs plus or minus 2 hrs (22-26 hrs between running times). Cheers. Paul Melanson on #058, Quintana.

h. Lester, Thanks very much for forwarding all this correspondence re refrigeration. After getting a recommendation from Jack Verheyden, #127, Kathrian, I visited E-Z Kold, only about an hour away, including a short ferry ride to Prince Edward County. I spoke with Marvin Nye, the CEO (maybe the only employee??) and saw his shop. I have now ordered a system. It has 2 plates, one for the freezer and one for the fridge, plus the air-cooled compressor. As Paul said, the price is very reasonable, currently $1449 US. See This is the “conversion kit” for an ice box and all plates can be customized for this price. It is nice to read Paul’s confirmation of the performance of the system and his energy consumption. We are anticipating higher energy demand and will let you know how it works out in due course. We have decided to make the originally planned big “freezer”, 5.9 cu ft, into the fridge. The smaller unit above, 1.75 cu ft, will be the freezer. A minor drawback is that the freezer will be the one with 4″ insulation and the fridge has 6″. The sizes are a lot more realistic this way. Regards, David Salter (#050, Opportunity).