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Old 05-09-2017, 10:10   #1
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Ice Box Conversion to Spill Over Fridge/Freezer

After a year of contemplation, I am about to start one of my bigger boat projects of converting my ice box into a spill over fridge and freezer. But before I start making the purchases within the next week or so, I thought I'd post up my plan here to see what additional advice I may receive. Then, once the plan is honed in, I'll follow up with posts on the actual project (happening in mid-October, when I'm back at the boat).

My Sabre 38 has its original ice box, measuring around 14 square feet. It is a bit like a tapered trapezoidal prism. A SeaFrost engine driven holding plate system was installed in 2010 by the previous owner. It works just fine, I just hate having to turn on the engine at least twice a day to charge the holding plate. Plus, with the current insufficient insulation, the SeaFrost can only manage 40 degrees.

The goal of the conversion:

Have a 1 sqft freezer and a 3 to 4 sq ft fridge, to keep fish rock hard, make ice, and cool veggies, left overs, dairy and beer, all while cruising the tropics.

Some constraints:

1) The original ice box cannot be removed as it would require taking apart the entire galley, and I'm just not doing that.
2) I looked long and hard at fitting a dorm room fridge or an Engel. Any possible location was shut down by the wife, so the ice box conversion is the only way.
3) 60 amp hours per day is the target. My charging system (440 watts, Honda 2000) and battery bank (645 amp hours) were built with having a fridge/freezer installed in mind.
4) Seeing as how the SeaFrost is working, I see no need to remove it. If I'm motoring, I can flip the system on and get some "free" cooling.

After researching (endlessly) options for ice box conversions, I have landed on installing an air cooled Danfoss 50, with an 8" by 38" evaporator plate.

Some reasons why I think this is the best option for me:
- Danfoss 50 is only a little more money than the 35. Figure it is worth it to have the extra power in the tropics.
- Going air cooled as there seems to be some doubts to the effectiveness of water cooling in the Caribbean, and I don't want the install/maintenance hassle. I plan on installing the condenser in a cockpit locker, which should provide for enough air circulation.
- An evaporator plate over a holding plate for budget reasons (refitting the entire boat). The plate is the largest I can reasonable fit into my 1 sqft freezer from the maker (Vitrifrigo), and is sized to have the Danfoss 50 run at the lowest RPM.

Some bells and whistles:
- I like data. I ran across a little device called StainlessLobster, which works with the Danfoss 50 to digitally control the temperature of the freezer. It also records a host of performance metrics, so I can fine tune the performance and/or determine if there is a problem. It is pricey, but saves me from buying the Danfoss thermostat.
- The StanlessLobster only controls the freezer, so I'll install some sort of spill over fan and probably make it digitally controlled using a cheap thermostat from eBay.

Insulation upgrade:
- I am going to fill in much of the ice box cavity with DOW blue board. I hope to use this to create the shape of the fridge and freezer.
- I am strongly considering buying about 30 sqft of Aerogel/Spaceloft to line the freezer. Between this, the additional blue board, and the original ice box, I should be approaching R30 in the freezer, maybe more.
- I know I need to fabricate better lids, but need to put more thought into it.
- Will use a lot of vapor barrier to stop moister and spray urethane to fill cracks and holes.
- Will line the insulation with plastic bathroom sheeting and epoxy seams to create a stable surface for food.
- Within the freezer, I'll create someway of keeping the evaporator plate off the walls and the food off the plate.
- Have some sort of ducting to channel the cold air from the SeaFrost holding plate to the freezer location.
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Old 05-09-2017, 10:39   #2
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Re: Ice Box Conversion to Spill Over Fridge/Freezer

Here's a little video we did about insulating your lids.

If you are going to add insulation to your existing liner and then build another one over your new insulation ,I suggest taking all the old insulation out including your old liner through the door opening all the way to the bare hull and insulate from that point , as you will be adding any way . This way to maximize your R value . Also use Polyiso, board its R value is greater, but make sure it is well sealed . I like to use one inch of blue board on the cold side as Polyiso seems to lose R value when cold.





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Old 05-09-2017, 11:16   #3
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Re: Ice Box Conversion to Spill Over Fridge/Freezer

I did a total fridge refit a few years back and agree that pulling the cabinets apart in the galley is a HUGE pain in the posterior. I did that and spent more time on that one project that almost all the other major projects combined.

If possible to do John's suggestion to remove all the interior box of the old fridge is a good plan. Let's you remove any old, possibly wet insulation and do it right from the start.

If you're going from a 14 cu ft box to 3-4 cu ft fridge and 1 cu ft freezer I wouldn't think you would need to mess with aerogel. I haven't used it but heard it's really messy to deal with and the dust is not good for you.

I cut my old fiberglass box into 4 pieces with a Fein tool and pulled it out of the hole. That might have been the easiest part of the whole job.

Then painted a layer of epoxy on the inside of the wood cabinets, then a layer of Al foil, shinny side out. Then started layers of blue board. Polyiso has better R value but as John notes, needs to be sealed. I would consider blue board for first and last layers and all around the edges to encapsulate the polyiso. I also used spray foam to fill in a few small cracks and voids.

Once you get the insulation in you can buy sheets of fiberglass at Home Depot or Lowes. Easy to work with, cut pieces to cover the insulation, glue to the blue board with epoxy or 5200 (one of the few places I ever used it) and seal the edges with a fillet of epoxy et voile, you have a box. Wish I had done my whole box this way instead of just the lid and smaller parts.

Also HIGHLY recommend air cooled. I have a box total 9-10 cu ft including a 2 cu ft freezer section with an air cooled BD50. FL summer with daily temps 92-98 outside (and hotter inside the closed up boat) I was pulling less that 50 amp hours/day. Winter almost half that. I'm thinking a BD50 would be too much for your size. Bigger is not always better and you should size the compressor for the box. You might be surprised at how small 3-4 cu ft is. If you spend a lot of time on board I would recommend larger.
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Old 05-09-2017, 11:46   #4
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Re: Ice Box Conversion to Spill Over Fridge/Freezer

Not much to add, but if you don't need data logging, you can get digital thermostats from amazon for under $15 each. I installed two, but bought 4 (two spares), and haven't needed them in 2 years.



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Old 05-09-2017, 11:50   #5
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Re: Ice Box Conversion to Spill Over Fridge/Freezer

Oh, we had a Sabre before, and the trim and plywood panels are pretty easy to remove. Just be careful pulling the bungs, and everything else is a logical order.

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Old 05-09-2017, 11:51   #6
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Re: Ice Box Conversion to Spill Over Fridge/Freezer

Quote:
Originally Posted by skipmac View Post
I did a total fridge refit a few years back and agree that pulling the cabinets apart in the galley is a HUGE pain in the posterior. I did that and spent more time on that one project that almost all the other major projects combined.



If possible to do John's suggestion to remove all the interior box of the old fridge is a good plan. Let's you remove any old, possibly wet insulation and do it right from the start.



If you're going from a 14 cu ft box to 3-4 cu ft fridge and 1 cu ft freezer I wouldn't think you would need to mess with aerogel. I haven't used it but heard it's really messy to deal with and the dust is not good for you.



I cut my old fiberglass box into 4 pieces with a Fein tool and pulled it out of the hole. That might have been the easiest part of the whole job.



Then painted a layer of epoxy on the inside of the wood cabinets, then a layer of Al foil, shinny side out. Then started layers of blue board. Polyiso has better R value but as John notes, needs to be sealed. I would consider blue board for first and last layers and all around the edges to encapsulate the polyiso. I also used spray foam to fill in a few small cracks and voids.



Once you get the insulation in you can buy sheets of fiberglass at Home Depot or Lowes. Easy to work with, cut pieces to cover the insulation, glue to the blue board with epoxy or 5200 (one of the few places I ever used it) and seal the edges with a fillet of epoxy et voile, you have a box. Wish I had done my whole box this way instead of just the lid and smaller parts.



Also HIGHLY recommend air cooled. I have a box total 9-10 cu ft including a 2 cu ft freezer section with an air cooled BD50. FL summer with daily temps 92-98 outside (and hotter inside the closed up boat) I was pulling less that 50 amp hours/day. Winter almost half that. I'm thinking a BD50 would be too much for your size. Bigger is not always better and you should size the compressor for the box. You might be surprised at how small 3-4 cu ft is. If you spend a lot of time on board I would recommend larger.


Skip, thanks for that. Gives me lots to think about.

I have a multi tool that I could use to cut the box out. What's one more day of work? Little worried about working my way around the already installed SeaFrost holding plate, so let me look at that. I'm trying to keep the fridge size small because I don't know what insulation I have. If I re-do the whole thing, I'd go bigger if I can.

Do you have an evaporator plate with your DB50? If so, what size? What RMP do you run the DB50 at?

Will be cruising the Caribbean for a year or two, so it needs to work.
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Old 05-09-2017, 12:42   #7
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Re: Ice Box Conversion to Spill Over Fridge/Freezer

Great that your initial focus is on insulation, most critical factor for keeping freezer temps down same time as AH/day down. 60AH is plenty unless maybe kids opening it all day,

IMO should be pulling the SeaFrost plates out. More room for food or insulation!

There are pre-made lid kits, worth considering before finalizing the top side.

Also look for vendors that can do custom evaporator? if you can get 2-3 sides of your freezer rather than just one. . .

In fact I know it may cost more, but getting a knowledgeable vendor to adjust your design, consulting & support and a guarantee are worth it IMO.

Check out http://www.coldeh.com, he uses Danfoss, also very efficient TXV
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Old 05-09-2017, 14:54   #8
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Re: Ice Box Conversion to Spill Over Fridge/Freezer

Quote:
Originally Posted by john61ct View Post
Great that your initial focus is on insulation, most critical factor for keeping freezer temps down same time as AH/day down. 60AH is plenty unless maybe kids opening it all day,

IMO should be pulling the SeaFrost plates out. More room for food or insulation!

There are pre-made lid kits, worth considering before finalizing the top side.

Also look for vendors that can do custom evaporator? if you can get 2-3 sides of your freezer rather than just one. . .

In fact I know it may cost more, but getting a knowledgeable vendor to adjust your design, consulting & support and a guarantee are worth it IMO.

Check out http://www.coldeh.com, he uses Danfoss, also very efficient TXV
Thanks.

I figure the SeaFrost kind of makes up for the fact that I have the crappy original alt on the engine. That and it still works. If I can build the box incorporating the holding plate, I think it will be effort well spent versus ripping it out.

As for the evaporator plate, it will be three sides of the freezer. One long plate, bent in two places.

Cheers.
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Old 05-09-2017, 15:09   #9
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Re: Ice Box Conversion to Spill Over Fridge/Freezer

Remove existing cold plate, reinstall after box is built, working around it is going to be way more trouble than you can imagine and you won't end up with nearly as good a box
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Old 05-09-2017, 15:57   #10
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Re: Ice Box Conversion to Spill Over Fridge/Freezer

Quote:
Originally Posted by funjohnson View Post
Not much to add, but if you don't need data logging, you can get digital thermostats from amazon for under $15 each. I installed two, but bought 4 (two spares), and haven't needed them in 2 years.



Matt


I think I know what you are referring to and they are what I'd like for the spill over. Thinking it can turn a small fan off and on. I also know the data logging is rather over kill. Still thinking about that expense.

I wish the 38 was more like the 34. Half of the ice box extends into the cockpit locker area / under the cockpit deck, making access an issue. Need to find a picture.
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Old 05-09-2017, 16:08   #11
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Ice Box Conversion to Spill Over Fridge/Freezer

Here is a picture of the ice box's location. This is looking aft towards the galley. The current ice box has a folding lid.

Click image for larger version

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Here is a diagram of the compartment.

Click image for larger version

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The SeaFrost holding plate is rather large and currently hangs from the top on the back and takes up about half of the available depth. No real other place to put it, given its size.
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Old 05-09-2017, 16:12   #12
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Re: Ice Box Conversion to Spill Over Fridge/Freezer

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Remove existing cold plate, reinstall after box is built, working around it is going to be way more trouble than you can imagine and you won't end up with nearly as good a box


I have thought about this as well.

What I haven't figured out is what happens if I disconnect the copper tubes from the holding plate. Does the refrigerant leak out or should the connectors stop this (assuming they are of the type that screw off)?
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Old 05-09-2017, 16:22   #13
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Re: Ice Box Conversion to Spill Over Fridge/Freezer

One question I have thought about is rather the freezer should be on the port side / next to the hull or next to the engine.

On one hand, the size works out better as the fridge would be larger, but perhaps I could make a long and skinny freezer along the engine.

On the other hand, the area along the hull would probably be hotter. And the holding plate covers more of the engine side.

I figure the freezer along the hull is the best bet because a long and skinny freezer would be difficult to use.
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Old 05-09-2017, 19:17   #14
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Ice Box Conversion to Spill Over Fridge/Freezer

Most connectors will seal themselves shut when disconnected.
I believe most systems are shipped already serviced, just connect the lines and plug in power.
However even if they seal, I'd likely want to have the system evacuated and recharged, so long as it's not the type with a critical orifice.
Does the system have a receiver / drier?
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Old 05-09-2017, 20:58   #15
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Re: Ice Box Conversion to Spill Over Fridge/Freezer

Just finishing a similar project on our Lafitte 44. We had a large refer box and freezer with 3 seafrost holding plates; dual circuit with a engine drive and 110 volt shore assist which we installed in 1993 and used successfully in New England, The last 3 winters in the Bahamas convinced me we needed to do better.
After a lot of muddling about it seemed pointless to do anything else without sorting out the 1978 box so thats been my life the last 6 weeks or so. This included cutting out the interior liner with a Fein tool which is the go to necessity for this sort of project.
Disassembling the cabinetry seemed unrealistic so it was all deconstructed and replaced through the hatches. I worked around the holding plates but if its practical to remove the cabinetry I would remove the plate as well.
As finished we have a a 3 cu ft freezer and a 4 cu ft frig. Where possible the insulation ( Dow pink board ) is at 8"for R 40 and 6" to R 30 where not.
Based on my recent experience in your project I would suggest:
Definitely take out all the old insulation that you can. Mine was poured 6 " thick and it was a tedious process but mine was too old to have value and even in a well built box you can find voids and wet insulation. Get rid of it.
Talk to Cleve at Seafrost, he knows a lot and is generous with his time. I would take your current holding plate out and get one ( or two ) with dual circuits. One circuit for your existing engine drive and one for a dc driven Danfoss 35 or 50 from Seafrost or who ever. Probably won't cost much more than the Vitrifigo set up you are considering. The DC units are easily driven by a modest solar bank and every time you have the engine on you are making additional cold with the engine drive. In BTU terms every hour of engine drive equals aproximately 15 hours of Danfoss time so you can make up a lot of ground when the engine is running.

Once you are done you will need a tech to pull down the system and recharge but that shouldn't be a big deal.
Won't know until we go south how successful this has been but I'm highly confident it will be much better.
Good luck
Tom
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