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Thread: "Refrigerator Options For 2009"

12,268 posts on 2,444 threads   •   From Mar 07, 2004 - Jan 08, 2012


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Refrigerator Options For 2009

Randell 'Randy' Kocurek

My boat has an old Seafrost engine driven refridgerator/freezer. It don't work. I think the zinc replacement got overlooked.
Am thinking of ripping it out and going with ice. Called Seafrost today and the receptionist said, "Gee, we haven't sold those in YEARS". A tech is gonna call me back (right).
What are the modern options? Seems like there should be better units now.

Stephen and Lu Ann Yoder

We installed a Frigoboat keel-cooled reefer in the icebox on our W28. We would never go back to ice. The reefer essentially doubled the icebox volume since we don't have to take up space with ice. It's also dryer inside now. It keeps the beer colder than ice ever did and keeps everything else nice and cold, too. Being keel-cooled, the unit is very quiet and it seems to be pretty efficient electrically although I have nothing much to compare to. I'd definitely recommend looking in to one of these units before reverting to the hassle of ice.


Jim Focha and Julie Gwin

We went with Glacier Bay which was the best system Ive seen so far. But unfortunately they priced themselves out of the market. In Mexico we were using 15-18 amps a day for a 5 cu. ft. box. No one else came close. Any of the systems on the market are satisfactory, but it's the box that will make the differance in performance. I would select a 12 volt unit based on lowest watt per btu. I had an article in Windblown that showed a box rebuild and ref. installation a few years ago.

Randell 'Randy' Kocurek

Thanks for the info and tips.
Just for the record Seafrost's rep did call back and very politely lead me through several options since they still support their equipment. One is 12 v. One is to salvage the old R12 engine-drive system with new compressor, etc.., the other is to convert to 134a refrigerant with a whole new engine-drive system less freezer plate (Seafrost says they almost never fail and are easy to check) at a total cost of $1600. I like the latter option, perhaps.
So, Steve, how does the Frigoboat keel-cooled reefer work, exactly? Are there any through hull fittings to deal with. What does keel cooled mean exactly? How hard to install? Is it a 12v system or what?
Also, Jim, the Glacier Bay system sounds intriguing. Especially since a lot of people seem to be going to 12v systems and Seafrost even slightly tended to favor that recommendation. Is that the key? Get the box as right as possible and then the most bang for the amp? Sounds like Glacier Bay may be worth it? About how much do they cost? I;ll have to go dig up your article. Thanks.
What about life expectancy of the units?
As for the engine-drive system, I seem to have plenty of hp with a new engine, and running engine seems to be something I'll see a lot more of than I originally expected. Yet, the system does clog up the engine room and has more ties into the water cooling system, a source of potential leaks and trouble, not to mention zincs to maintain.
Thanks for all.

Ken and Debra Bridger

Randy, you have (or had before your refit) a keel cooler on Satori. Look under the galley sink and the copper looking tube going through hull. The keel cooler was the rectangular plate mounted outside on the hull just outside the galley. I think you really need to rebuild the icebox with new materials. Don Casey has a good primer in "This Old Boat". Also I think in the pile of books is a orange booklet on marine refridgeration. Hudson (on your dock- Present Moment) thinks its best to replace the fridge every 8-10 years instead of repair due to internal corrosion. He said fix a leak in one place and another will pop up in another. It corrodes inside out not outside in. Just remember to get a 12v/110 unit so you can plug in at the dock to shore power. Really handy. Ken

Randell 'Randy' Kocurek

Hi Ken,
Thanks for the input. For better or worse, the keel cooler and port transducer are now in the bed of my pickup. Repairing those holes properly was no easy chore. Benefits for Satori: Reduced drag, risk of leaks, electrolysis. The 12v system reefer system did not work, apparently since 2000, nor the engine drive since you had it, I suppose. How am I going to get anything fixed out in the out areas anyway?
Why do you feel the icebox needs rebuilding? I'm not ready to spend 1500$ or more on the latest and greatest. Do you think the factory job is inadequate? If so, why? Do you have any reason to think the original foam is no longer good?
By the way, the air conditioner (Marine Air Systems) has apparently resurrected like a Phoneix and is checking out very well (according to my A/C guy) to my very pleasant surprise.

Stephen and Lu Ann Yoder

These guys can explain it way better than I can: http://www.frigoboat.com/home.html . Explore the entire site, there's a wealth of good information there.

Basically the keel-cooled units use the seawater you're sitting in to remove the heat that has been removed from your refrigerator box by the refrigerant. The advantage is that the water is probably always going to be cooler than the air, especially if your air-cooled condenser is located in a locker or the engine room. It's also very quiet as you don't have a fan running to send cooling air across the condenser. The downside is that, yes, you do have to put a hole in the bottom of your boat. The mounting hole is around 1-1/2" and it was pretty scary to drill it. But now that it's installed, bolted down tightly with some 5200 to back it up and nary a leak to be seen, it was all worth it.

Whichever system you decide on, be sure to peruse the Frigoboat website as there is lots of great info on marine refrigeration in general as well as pages detailing how to size your system, etc.


Stephen and Lu Ann Yoder

Oh, the other down side of a keel-cooled system is that you can't use it when hauled out. But that's when we'd revert to icebox mode.


Jim Focha and Julie Gwin

Randy, The original boxes just didn't have enough insulation. You need R-20/R-30 which is about 4-6" of insulation. They work ok in northeren climates but not in the tropics if thats where your going. Also the lid seal needs to be upgraded or replaced.

Unfortunately Glacier Bay no longer makes refrigeration systems, at least when I last talked to them. They were considering a more competitive unit but I don't know were that stands. While I believe they were technically the best unit on efficiency, they did fall short when price is considered. A single plate system ran @ 4K. If you have a properly built box you can get excellent performance with any of the well known brands. They were well designed without corrosion problems snd the water cooled condensers don't seem to scale up. I had no scaling after four years.

We crusied with two boats that had fridgoboat sytems and were real happy with them. Their only problem was having to keep the keel cooler clean in the tropics. We spent the extra money for Glacier Bay for the efficiency. It was important to us to be able run our boat including water maker without using the motor to charge no matter how long we anchored. A 12 volt system will still run if/when you lose your motor and you can leave running if you travel inland for a few days.

One last thing. Corrosion happens from the outside in, not inside out. It's true when you start having pin hole leaks it's time for a replacement.

Ken and Debra Bridger

As above but also the foam will absorb moisture over time and just generally deteriorate. The box rebuild should not cost you that much but a new system might get that high. The SeaFrost is supposed to be a very easy plug and play system. The Don Casey icebox rebuild should be a snap for you. Check with Mike, he redid his and his beer is near freezing. You might check with Hudson for the name of the boat A/C guy. He had the SeaFrost running before. I don't thnk you can get ice like Lin and Larry use to in their books. Cold beer in the tropics means refridge systems. Seems there is always something added to the list. Ken

Steve & Vanessa

Having good insulation is key. That said, the last mod I did was to pull the refer system out of my boat and replace it with a new 12volt Adler/Barbour Super Cold Machine.

The old Fleming hold-over plate system took up a lot of room in the box. It was a dual circuit system (engine drive and 110v electric) which was great in that it could freeze the whole box down in 30 minutes flat. However it was very noisy and the electric half very inefficient. I did learn a lot about refrigeration with it, but got tired of fixing it all the time.

The new variable speed 12v compressors are very efficient, super quiet, and work great. Mine draws around 4 amps and doesn't run very long. It has a raw water loop on it for more efficient cooling, but I haven't found the need to hook it up.

The compressor is surprisingly small. I installed it in the engine room. I think it cost me $1200. So, if I have to replace it in 8-10 years, it's ok, as it beats the hell out of finding and hauling ice.

One thing I won't compromise on aboard is cold drinks.

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