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Old 29-10-2015, 06:42   #1
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Adler Barbour CU100 refrigerator - Increased amp use and low voltage error code on

Hello! i am currently having issues with a CU100 Adler/Barbour that is giving me an LED blink code of 1 because it is getting a low voltage. The unit has been installed on my boat for at least 3 years and in the last year of me owning the boat it has worked great until two days ago.

Here's what happened:
Yesterday I noticed that my fridge was getting warm and I could hear it shutting off and back on repeatedly. I checked the LED panel and it was giving me a clear single blinking light indicating that I have low voltage problem even though my house batteries were reading a solid 12.2 or 12.3V. I probed the voltage of the + and - at the CU100 terminals and sure enough I am seeing the voltage drop to 10.0V when the unit tries to turn on every minute or so. I also checked the amperage draw of the unit and it's pulling almost 9.5A when it first starts up before it shuts back down again.

Next I went ahead and started my engine and pumped up the RPM a bit to get a bit more juice out of my alternator (and thus raise the system voltage). As expected, I found that the unit powered up without problems and would run for a bit even with the motor off until my house battery voltage dropped down to roughly 12.2 again and the unit started cycling again. While it was running, however, I did take some measurements and I noticed that it's using about 8 amps when it's chugging away which is 2amps (25%!!) more than what is expected out of the unit.

If there's one thing that owning a boat has taught me it's to make my first question be "what (the !#@%) changed?" as it seemed to be working before.

Thinking back, I believe the unit has been drawing close to 7 or 7.5 for a while and is potentially creeping up. That said, I often have other systems running and so I can't say this for sure. However, my current (har har) guess is that the system has been slowly using more amperage and thus the higher current pull has caused enough of a voltage drop to finally make the unit not charge when I still have 50% left of my house batteries (aka 12.2V).

Here are a few theories:

Dirty condenser coils or bad fan
- I checked the condenser coils and the fan and they look just fine. Definitely not dirty enough to cause such a sharp increase in my amperage usage of the unit and cleaning them had no effect.

Loose or corroded wiring
- The boat is a 2002 Beneteau and much of the wiring aboard was quite well done. I've done some digging in the instrument panel and next to the fridge but I'm not seeing anything that could be causing the issues I've described.

Undersized wiring
- Looking at my boat manuals, it appears that I have 50ft of 8 AWG wire running through the boat for my fridge wiring. According to the CU100 manual it says I should actually have 4AWG wire and thus I would typically think that this would be the culprit. However what's weird is that this system has been on the boat for at least 4 years (maybe much more) and it was working just fine.

The next troubleshooting step for me I think is to plug the fridge directly into my starting battery to see if I get the same issue. This should help isolate the wiring from a potential issue with the fridge itself.

Any other suggestions to help a sailor in need?

Thanks!
Lars
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Old 29-10-2015, 06:47   #2
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Re: Adler Barbour CU100 refrigerator - Increased amp use and low voltage error code o

Why is your house bank at such a low voltage? I'd investigate that, I'd never let my bank get that low intentionally.
Use this to determine wire size https://www.bluesea.com/resources/1437
They also have a really neat app if you have an apple product.

Circuit length I believe is to the appliance and back, so if it's 20' away, circuit length is 40'.
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Old 29-10-2015, 07:02   #3
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Re: Adler Barbour CU100 refrigerator - Increased amp use and low voltage error code o

How did you measure the amps? If you do not have a proper battery monitor then I recommend you insert a multimeter in series with the wire that goes to the compressor.

I recommend that thrkughout the troubleshooting you keep a voltmeter connected to the pos and neg wires right before the compressor.

Excessive current draw can be caused by low voltage. You need to exclude this before moving considering that excessive current draw is caused by the compressor itself.

Kollman is right when he insists that first of all you connect the thing direct to the battery with fat wires (and a fuse). Ignorr this at your own peril. It may have worked well for 100 years, but one bit of extra resistance from a bad connection will tip it over.

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Old 29-10-2015, 09:33   #4
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Re: Adler Barbour CU100 refrigerator - Increased amp use and low voltage error code o

Thanks for the replies thus far guys.

As I mentioned earlier, I don't think wire sizing is the root cause of this low voltage issue as the system has been working just fine for years with the existing wires. I figure it could be corrosion or something that got knocked loose somehow which added resistance to the line and thus increased the amperage. I havent yet tried directly connecting it to my starter battery with a fuse inline but that will be my next troubleshooting step.

Any other ideas on why the amperage would increase in the first place?

Thanks again for the help!

Lars
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Old 29-10-2015, 09:57   #5
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Re: Adler Barbour CU100 refrigerator - Increased amp use and low voltage error code o

Hi Lars,

Wiring is the first thing I would check. These units are very sensitive to voltage drop. Also I learned from experience that using even very good voltmeter is not adequate to check this. The voltage drop on compressor startup can be very, very short and never show on the meter, even one with max/min memory.

If the wire to the fridge is 50' one way, with 8 gauge wire you will drop around 0.4V just due to wire resistance plus additional drops at all connectors, switches, etc. With low battery voltage this could be the problem. Sure it worked fine for years but as you well know, on a boat over time corrosion happens. The voltage could have been just barely enough to work and over time a slight increase in the voltage drop would be enough to push it over the limit.

First step I would do, start with the easy tests. Rig a temporary, heavy gauge wire directly from the battery to the fridge and see if that fixes the problem. If it does, then next step is remove, clean and tighten every connection in the wire between the battery and the fridge, even if they look OK. Also, does the power go through a switch or circuit breaker to the fridge? If so, that could also add voltage drop that can get worse over time and could be the source of the problem.
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Old 29-10-2015, 10:04   #6
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Re: Adler Barbour CU100 refrigerator - Increased amp use and low voltage error code o

Quote:
Originally Posted by heylaerz View Post
Thanks for the replies thus far guys.

As I mentioned earlier, I don't think wire sizing is the root cause of this low voltage issue as the system has been working just fine for years with the existing wires. I figure it could be corrosion or something that got knocked loose somehow which added resistance to the line and thus increased the amperage. I havent yet tried directly connecting it to my starter battery with a fuse inline but that will be my next troubleshooting step.

Any other ideas on why the amperage would increase in the first place?

Thanks again for the help!

Lars
Lars,

You will help yourself and those who help you if you follow a logical troubleshooting sequence such as Kollman´s. This is not about debating, it is about doing the things that with the least work are most likely to give you a a useful diagnostic.

Amperage can increase because there is too much refrigerant, because of an construction or because voltage is too low. Therefore a logical troubleshooting process starts continuous voltage (and ideally current if you have the means) measurement at the compressor terminals (not anywhere else), together with direct wiring from the battery (not form anywhere else).

I do not think anyone believes the gauge of your wires has diminished. IMHO most people who have done this sort of troubleshooting will suspect there is a bad connection somewhere and they will be suspicious of the low voltages you report, which are not consistent with a healthy system.
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Old 29-10-2015, 10:42   #7
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Re: Adler Barbour CU100 refrigerator - Increased amp use and low voltage error code o

Lars,

Your trouble shooting is a good start.

"Been working all those years" is a constant refrain.

But, heck, something's not right NOW!

So did mine.

But the wire CONNECTIONS get old, which develop additional resistance. I ended up checking every connection, including behind the electrical panel, which showed some of the original jumpers from the main power to the panel positive bus were simply crappy. I replaced those and increased the wire size to the compressor module by adding another parallel set of wires and things have been fine since.

Kollmann correctly states that 99% of all fridge issues are electrical.

skipmac is right.

It's usually NOT the refrigerant.

When in doubt, ask Richard:

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Old 29-10-2015, 11:41   #8
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Re: Adler Barbour CU100 refrigerator - Increased amp use and low voltage error code o

A couple of additional thoughts and comments.

When I installed my new fridge I was having problems with startup. Measured 12.3-12.4V with a calibrated Fluke meter, not at the battery but at the compressor. I was positive the voltage and wiring was good, using the wiring from the old fridge. Richard Kollmann told me the wiring was the problem. After some resistance on my part (pun intended) I installed new, heavier gauge wire and like magic, problem fixed.

Regarding the higher amp draw, lower voltage means an appliance will have to pull more amps to get the same power. Remember power (watts) is volts X amps. To get the same number of watts at a load if the volts go down the amps have to go up.

It might be something besides voltage but it is very easy to test that so why not eliminate the easy ones first.

Finally 12.3 V is low for a fully charged battery. Fully charged after a couple hours or so to rest and with no load attached the battery should be reading around 12.6V.
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Old 29-10-2015, 12:05   #9
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Re: Adler Barbour CU100 refrigerator - Increased amp use and low voltage error code o

It IS voltage drop, fault code is voltage drop, and he measured low voltage and he proved that too by it running fine with the engine on.
Way I read his post is that his bank is at 12.2 at the bank. I'd suspect that his bank is being killed by being undercharged, I know mine was by the factory installed charger.
So if I'm right he needs to investigate both his charging system and his wiring to his fridge.
I inferred he thought his bank was fully charged?
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Old 29-10-2015, 12:44   #10
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Re: Adler Barbour CU100 refrigerator - Increased amp use and low voltage error code o

Quote:
Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
So if I'm right he needs to investigate both his charging system and his wiring to his fridge.
Good points.

For the OP, if you'd like some more verification of all this, you might be interested in reading these experiences of mine:

Fridges 101 (Adler Barbour Repairs & Troubleshooting from Richard Kollmann)

Waeco Adler/Barbour Refrigeration Problem - Fridge 101

Fridge Follies 101 - to prove that Richard is right and that 99% of fridge issues are electrical

Fridge Follies - Adler Barbour
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Old 29-10-2015, 14:06   #11
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Re: Adler Barbour CU100 refrigerator - Increased amp use and low voltage error code o

Quote:
Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
It IS voltage drop, fault code is voltage drop, and he measured low voltage and he proved that too by it running fine with the engine on.
Exactly. This fact alone makes me 99% certain it's a voltage problem.



Quote:
Originally Posted by a64pilot View Post
Way I read his post is that his bank is at 12.2 at the bank. I'd suspect that his bank is being killed by being undercharged, I know mine was by the factory installed charger.
So if I'm right he needs to investigate both his charging system and his wiring to his fridge.
I inferred he thought his bank was fully charged?
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Old 29-10-2015, 19:48   #12
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Re: Adler Barbour CU100 refrigerator - Increased amp use and low voltage error code o

He is clear at the end of the first post that the 12.2 is half charged which makes sense


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Old 29-10-2015, 21:57   #13
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Re: Adler Barbour CU100 refrigerator - Increased amp use and low voltage error code o

Quote:
Originally Posted by heylaerz View Post
... when I still have 50% left of my house batteries (aka 12.2V).
What type of batteries?

If it's a normal FLA/Gel or whatever then 50% charge is not the same as "50% left". At 50% charge, you have little if anything usable left if you want to get any sort of longevity out of your batteries.

A simple solution to your problem may be to keep your state of charge above 50% at all times - not only will your fridge like it, but your wallet will since your batteries will last a lot longer.
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Old 30-10-2015, 19:56   #14
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Re: Adler Barbour CU100 refrigerator - Increased amp use and low voltage error code o

Hey all!
Thanks for the input thus far. As for my battery setup, I have 2x 6V golf cart batteries in series to make my 12V and then I have two pairs of these (thus 4x 6V batteries) making up my house bank. One 12V half of the house bank is less than a year old and the other is about 2 years old. Of course it's still possible that these are the culprit but I'm not sure how I would test them without more tools. Also my charging system is working just fine as I have both solar and an alternator that are putting good amperage into my house bank.

To clarify, I understand that the refrigerator is throwing the low voltage error with good reason as I am indeed seeing a voltage below 10.4V. The confusing part is that the voltage of my house bank never dips below 12.2V when I get the low voltage error. I verified this as I have a built in meter for voltage and current for my house bank and I kept an eye on this while holding my handheld DMM to the terminals when starting up the fridge. The house bank showed 12.44V and when I flip on the fridge I see it drop to 12.10 with a ~9amp pull. At the exact same time I'm also watching my DMM and I see the voltage drop to 10.3V when it shuts the compressor down and gives me the single flashing LED. In the minute while the unit waits to retry, I was seeing 12.24 at the CU100 terminals. That means that it is dropping from 12.24 to 10.3V at the terminals during start up.

I also did some more troubleshooting today to try and isolate my wiring from my fridge. I took my starting battery out and moved it next to the fridge and connected it directly and measured the amp usage with my DMM at the connection. I found that the fridge will jump up to 8amps, creep up to 9.2amps over 10 seconds or so and then over 5 minutes it will slowly work its way down to 6 or 7 amps. Note that I never received the low voltage failure on my starter battery.

From what I've read online, most people only see a very momentary jump in amperage rather than this 5 second rise to 9amps and then a slow fall to 6 or 7.

Any thoughts on what might be causing such a significant voltage drop (~2V!) between my house bank and my CU100? Are there any other troubleshooting steps that I can do? Thanks guys!

Lars
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Old 30-10-2015, 20:14   #15
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Re: Adler Barbour CU100 refrigerator - Increased amp use and low voltage error code o

Stu Jackson, thanks for the links. I had run across this info before and one particular line stood out to me:

"Watch the voltage AT THE INPUT OF THE UNIT AS IT’S STARTING AND STOPPING. You will see a significant drop in voltage. The low voltage cut off is 10.4VDC, but you will probably never see it get this low on your meter because of buffers etc installed in the meter. If you see a drop of over .5VDC you have a problem. You will need to track down the boats wiring, find your loose connection/corrosion that’s causing the high resistance. You may even have a weak cell in the battery."

I am seeing a drop that is closer to 2VDC between my house and the input of the unit. I am guessing that a drop this significant would be caused by a bad connection somewhere in the system (rather than a weak cell especially since my batteries are less than 2 years old). I have tried and failed to follow the 50ft of cable that runs through the boat and I am seeing good connections in my breaker panel and next to the fridge. =[[[

Lars
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