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Old 03-07-2016, 14:49   #1
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How hot is too hot for Frigoboat's Merlin II?

Greetings from sunny San Carlos, Sonora Mexico - where the outside temperature is 35C/95F and relative humidity is about 86%. GAWD, is it hot!

A few days ago, we discovered that the ice in the freezer was no longer frozen solid. Kind of soft, kind of snow-cone-ish. A HUGE problem for happy hour and for the few remaining Costco steaks.

We have two completely separate Frigoboat keel cooled systems, which have been working flawlessly until three days ago. All components (except the actual boxes) are new, installed in July, 2015. K50F Danfoss compressors, 200F evaporators, keel cooled condensers (cleaned and zincs replaced), Merlin IIs, and mechanical thermostats. Plenty of solar power to run the things. Refrigerator is 7 cubic feet. Freezer is 5 cubic feet. About 4" of insulation all around, new gaskets. Boat is a 1988 Norseman 400. Boxes are in excellent condition.

The problem turned out to be the freezer's Merlin II circuit board had failed. The Merlin is the Smart Speed Controller for the Danfoss K50F compressor. The other Merlin (refrigerator side) was still working. So, we switched the Merlin from the fridge to the freezer. Apparently, we can drink warm milk, but not warm cocktails.

After removing the Merlin, the refrigerator's compressor is running at continuous low speed and is holding temperature around 40F. The freezer (with the fridge's Merlin) is once again freezing ice.

The Merlin was not covered by Climate Control's warranty (of course). They said, by looking at the photographs, they could tell seawater had come in contact with the unit. See the green stains on the left side of the copper lines? (No idea where that came from, or how. The boat is completely dry in this compartment.)

So we ordered two more Merlin IIs at $135 a pop. (We now have a spare.)

We think that the Merlin may have been damaged by humidity, temperature, or the unexplained splash of sea water inside the hull. (No, we don't have a leaking keel cooler. lol We checked.)

Our question to the forum - which Climate Control couldn't answer - is how hot is too hot for these controllers? How humid is too humid? Seawater, really?

The compressors are separated from the engine compartment by a thin wall. If we motor, the ambient air temperature in this area increases. Should we make an attempt to control the temperature and humidity where the refrigeration units are? Should we install a box around the units?

Climate Control suggested a splash shield, but since we don't know where any water would be coming from, and it wouldn't account for humidity or temperature, we thought we'd ask here before starting another project.

Any comments and suggestions are appreciated.
Thanks for your help.
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Old 03-07-2016, 15:39   #2
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Re: How hot is too hot for Frigoboat's Merlin II?

We just had some work done to a system that looks just like yours. The refer tech said to point a small fan at the controller. The aux fan circuit inside the controller can handle a couple of computer fans and the terminals are right there in front.
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Old 03-07-2016, 16:51   #3
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Re: How hot is too hot for Frigoboat's Merlin II?

The Problem with using automatic speed control and keel coolers in tropical waters is excessive compressor oil heating and eventually system failure. These speed controllers tend to operate compressor at to high an Rpm when Keel cooler type condenser cooling may be inadequate causing a high pressure temperature overload condition.

Electronic module failures is another problem with operating BD compressors at maximum Rpm without adequate cooling. Danfoss has a requirement for a module cooling fan if BD50 is to be operated at high RPM.

These compressors appear to not serve well without compressor fan cooling. The only compressor cooling in keel cooler systems is the return gas sub cooling that is also inadequate in tropical at high compressor Rpm.

My advice is to remove the Merlin device and find a speed resistor for both units that can reduce compressor speed and heat while maintaining desired box temperatures. I would also add a 30 to 50 Cfm compressor cooling fan. A slower compressor speed running less than 50% of the time and maintaining desired box temperature is what I would shoot for. You may be surprised in the energy and heat reduction by reducing compressor temperatures.
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Old 03-07-2016, 19:04   #4
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Re: How hot is too hot for Frigoboat's Merlin II?

As a retired electronic tech (now Bernina sewing machine tech) it's pretty obvious to me that it is indeed salt on that board.
Don't laugh, but you might be able to restore it to good working order with hot water and a toothbrush.
Dunk it in some hot water, let it soak for awhile, then give it a workout with a toothbrush. Not really hard, but just like you would be brushing your teeth.
Brush it for ten minutes, rinsing it often each time in new fresh water (doesn't have to be hot rinse).
Let it dry in the sun for a bit, and if you still see any whitish stuff, redo the above until it's nice and clean.
Dry it out thoroughly in the sun (twenty minutes in San Carlos ought to do it !), and try it. You might be amazed, but in the past, I repaired a lot of VCR's that had soda pop spilled in them with similar damage.
I removed the damaged boards and ran them through the dishwasher in my house.
Voila ! Just like new.
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Old 04-07-2016, 13:18   #5
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Re: How hot is too hot for Frigoboat's Merlin II?

My non-expert opinion is that this is just an example of a corporate service manager type thinking of an excuse for the failure of their product. To me the corrosion dots on the copper lines looks typical enough and meaningless enough that they could be the result of installer sweat that dried, leaving salt residue which then re-hydrated via the local humidity and resulted in surface corrosion. Did the same happen to the board? Could be, but where and what is the evidence? Actually, the system must work harder, and board failures could increase with heavy work, considerable heat and high moisture/humidity, but the system should have been designed and built to allow for this. Failures of this type need to be covered by company policy, not blaming the customer. I will think twice before buying from them. Often, in my experience attitudes of this type are preludes to the permanent demise of the company or the product.
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Old 04-07-2016, 13:47   #6
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Re: How hot is too hot for Frigoboat's Merlin II?

Circuit boards seem to be the bane of refrig's.... and other things really. Even my new Maytag home fridge had a multitude of issues. Is a circuit board really necessary? Someone should build a robust simple unit without a board.
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Old 04-07-2016, 14:01   #7
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Re: How hot is too hot for Frigoboat's Merlin II?

After posting my previous reply, I decided to do some research. There were several things that you may wish to look into, but the one that caught my eye in particular was a brochure found at http://veco-na.com/images/Frigoboat_...d_Brochure.pdf If you look at the brochure you will see, in capitalized red letters, "SMART SPEED CONTROL NO LONGER AVAILABLE." I do not know if this is the product or related to the circuit board you replaced, but if so it may indicate a problem other than a seawater splash. It may be worth a phone call to the company that placed the brochure on the web page. I also saw, at another location dealing with troubleshooting your product, that there are a number of potential causes of the problem you describe.
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Old 05-07-2016, 05:45   #8
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Re: How hot is too hot for Frigoboat's Merlin II?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Kollmann View Post
The Problem with using automatic speed control and keel coolers in tropical waters is excessive compressor oil heating and eventually system failure. These speed controllers tend to operate compressor at to high an Rpm when Keel cooler type condenser cooling may be inadequate causing a high pressure temperature overload condition.

Electronic module failures is another problem with operating BD compressors at maximum Rpm without adequate cooling. Danfoss has a requirement for a module cooling fan if BD50 is to be operated at high RPM.

These compressors appear to not serve well without compressor fan cooling. The only compressor cooling in keel cooler systems is the return gas sub cooling that is also inadequate in tropical at high compressor Rpm.

My advice is to remove the Merlin device and find a speed resistor for both units that can reduce compressor speed and heat while maintaining desired box temperatures. I would also add a 30 to 50 Cfm compressor cooling fan. A slower compressor speed running less than 50% of the time and maintaining desired box temperature is what I would shoot for. You may be surprised in the energy and heat reduction by reducing compressor temperatures.
The freezer compressor operates at speed three (out of five) when freshly loaded with new food. The speed drops down to one (out of five) during the night when the freezer isn't opened. Overall, we have a fairly efficient system and haven't had an issue with the compressor overheating. The keel cooler works great - as the water temperature is a lot cooler than the air temperature. And, we don't have any problem keeping the keel coolers clean.

We were looking for information regarding the Merlin's max operating temperature since we need to protect them from humidity and moisture.
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Old 05-07-2016, 06:08   #9
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Re: How hot is too hot for Frigoboat's Merlin II?

Seniormechanico - Thanks! We will try cleaning the board per your steps. I'll let you know if it works.

Quote:
Originally Posted by buzzstar View Post
After posting my previous reply, I decided to do some research. There were several things that you may wish to look into, but the one that caught my eye in particular was a brochure found at http://veco-na.com/images/Frigoboat_...d_Brochure.pdf If you look at the brochure you will see, in capitalized red letters, "SMART SPEED CONTROL NO LONGER AVAILABLE." I do not know if this is the product or related to the circuit board you replaced, but if so it may indicate a problem other than a seawater splash. It may be worth a phone call to the company that placed the brochure on the web page. I also saw, at another location dealing with troubleshooting your product, that there are a number of potential causes of the problem you describe.
Thanks for pointing out the "No longer Available." Yes, it is my understanding that it is the part we just replaced.

Veco is the company in Italy who owns the Frigoboat brand. They basically do what Westerbeke does, without the red paint. They buy all the component parts, assemble them, and then sell them as complete systems.

Are their distributors are still trying to offload all the problem parts? Crap. I hate it when that happens.

Climate Control is the ONLY authorized United States Distributor for Veco, so I would be really surprised if they go under. Go2Marine appears to be a web presence that sells for Climate Control. In other words, when I ordered from Go2Marine's website, it was Climate Control who shipped us the product. I think there are a few more web companies selling for Climate Control. I do know that Climate Control is the company who approves or denies a warranty claim.

That said, I'm very glad Veco/Frigoboat exist. It is pretty amazing to live in this day and age - where we can literally turn seawater and sunlight into ice cubes. I'm sure there are constant advancements and changes in technology that affect the refrigeration industry. Things have come a long way from putting a chunk of ice inside a wood box. And for that, we are grateful.

So, back to my original question - does anyone know how much ambient temperature these circuit boards can stand before they start going haywire? We've already figured out they don't like to get wet. Now to figure out how to protect it.

Thanks again. We really appreciate the input.
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Old 05-07-2016, 06:24   #10
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Re: How hot is too hot for Frigoboat's Merlin II?

Quote:
Originally Posted by buzzstar View Post
My non-expert opinion is that this is just an example of a corporate service manager type thinking of an excuse for the failure of their product. To me the corrosion dots on the copper lines looks typical enough and meaningless enough that they could be the result of installer sweat that dried, leaving salt residue which then re-hydrated via the local humidity and resulted in surface corrosion.
We installed the system ourselves while we were on the hard in Astoria, Oregon. It wasn't warm enough to sweat. LOL The original installation was pristine. No water marks on anything.

After looking around with a flashlight, it may have been possible that fresh water (when hosing out the cockpit) entered through a single bolt hole on the binnacle. Highly unlikely, but possible.

Quote:
Originally Posted by buzzstar View Post
Did the same happen to the board?
No, the other Merlin II board (for the refrigeration compressor) is working perfectly and did not have any moisture or contamination of any kind on it. They are abut 10 inches apart. The refrigeration compressor sits directly behind the freezer compressor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by buzzstar View Post
Actually, the system must work harder, and board failures could increase with heavy work, considerable heat and high moisture/humidity, but the system should have been designed and built to allow for this.
Agree - especially when VECO specifically markets to the marine environment!

Thanks for you input!
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Old 05-07-2016, 07:30   #11
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Re: How hot is too hot for Frigoboat's Merlin II?

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Originally Posted by Sailor647 View Post

So, back to my original question - does anyone know how much ambient temperature these circuit boards can stand before they start going haywire? We've already figured out they don't like to get wet. Now to figure out how to protect it.
We ran ours in an enclosed space for 3 years in Thailand which, if you can believe it, is even more hot and humid than the SOC in summer. As yet no problems although a muffin fan is on the list.

Looking at your photos, is that corrosion on your copper lines? Might the unit have gotten splashed before or during installation?

Looking forward to joining you in the Sea this winter.
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Old 05-07-2016, 08:28   #12
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Re: How hot is too hot for Frigoboat's Merlin II?

Veco Spa is the creator and manufacturer of Frigoboat, a wee bit more than "owning the brand." It's a family owned business, now being managed by the third generation - the eldest daughter, as a matter of fact. With such a strong brand name at stake, well known worldwide, I think it highly unlikely that they "offload" product. Now, I don't know what Westerbeke does, with or without red paint, so perhaps I'm speaking out of turn.

What is being confused here is the Merlin II, which is pictured in this thread, is not the Smart Speed Control, a great product no longer in production due to escalating COG, so I'm told. The Smart Speed Control was mounted where one could see green bars that indicate compressor speed; button to chose automatic or manual speed control; lights that indicate when the compressor is running or not running; and a compressor fault indicator light. The Merlin does some of these things, but is mounted on the compressor's control module - hard to easily monitor, but effective at automatically running the compressor at the correct speed for the job at hand.

The Merlin is a circuit board, as susceptible to moisture and water issues as is the control module, which also has a circuit board, as is a digital thermostat, which also has a circuit board. Perhaps I'm being simple to suppose the question here is at what temperature and degree of moisture is a circuit board susceptible to malfunction?
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Old 05-07-2016, 10:16   #13
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Re: How hot is too hot for Frigoboat's Merlin II?

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Veco Spa is the creator and manufacturer of Frigoboat, a wee bit more than "owning the brand." It's a family owned business, now being managed by the third generation - the eldest daughter, as a matter of fact. With such a strong brand name at stake, well known worldwide, I think it highly unlikely that they "offload" product. Now, I don't know what Westerbeke does, with or without red paint, so perhaps I'm speaking out of turn.

What is being confused here is the Merlin II, which is pictured in this thread, is not the Smart Speed Control, a great product no longer in production due to escalating COG, so I'm told. The Smart Speed Control was mounted where one could see green bars that indicate compressor speed; button to chose automatic or manual speed control; lights that indicate when the compressor is running or not running; and a compressor fault indicator light. The Merlin does some of these things, but is mounted on the compressor's control module - hard to easily monitor, but effective at automatically running the compressor at the correct speed for the job at hand.

The Merlin is a circuit board, as susceptible to moisture and water issues as is the control module, which also has a circuit board, as is a digital thermostat, which also has a circuit board. Perhaps I'm being simple to suppose the question here is at what temperature and degree of moisture is a circuit board susceptible to malfunction?
Hi Anna,
Great information. I stand corrected. Thank you. Sounds like you are somebody "in the know." Any chance Veco could update their online brochure to show the Merlin II instead of the Speed Control, which they have crossed out in red? It would be less confusing for me and the audience here on CF, I think.

Yes, we'd like to know "how hot is too hot" for the circuit board? And, is there also a humidity threshold (in % humidity) that we should try to avoid in order to prolong the life of our system? Which we really, really like, by the way. We are just trying to protect our nearly $4,000 USD investment.

One other thing - if you can bring "Frigoboat Info" back to the forum, I'm sure there are a lot of boaters who would really appreciate the resource.

Thanks again. We do appreciate your help.
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Old 05-07-2016, 14:41   #14
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Re: How hot is too hot for Frigoboat's Merlin II?

Wow, you give me a lot of credit, thanks! Curious, when I go to the Frigoboat refrigeration - Climma air conditioning page, to Technical info Frigoboat, I can see what you're looking for , so perhaps someone at Veco NA heard you! You could also go to Coastal's site, they have the info also: http://coastalclimatecontrol.com/ind...igeration.html

Really, if I had the answer to the question on "how hot....", I would have tossed in my two-cents worth. I simply re-phrased the question to get some super smart engineer kind of person to chime in. I did find this out - Danfoss with their circuit board say it is operational to 100 degree C, which seems rather warm to me, so maybe I should have a closer look at the Danfoss site....

I sure would like to hear from Frigoboat Info too, because I agree with you, he gave some good answers. Perhaps we can all entice him to return if we promise to play nice. And I'm really glad to hear you like your Frigoboat system and that it's working for you... one doesn't like to have to choose between ice cubes and cool cucumbers.
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Old 05-07-2016, 15:09   #15
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Re: How hot is too hot for Frigoboat's Merlin II?

The board's components were able to withstand molten solder (about 350f.) so I'm not surprised with the operational temp to 100C. (212f.)
Salt with any moisture is a conductor and thus the whole board is racked with bogus resistors every which way.
No wonder it doesn't work !
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