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Old 12-11-2007, 19:11   #1
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RPARTS DIY Refrigeration kit

I have been looking around for refrigeration online for the past year. Since I want an inexpensive, air-cooled one, I am amazed at the price variation ($700-$1700). I am looking for the radiator style condensor with housing for the fan. They are more efficient than the cheappy models. I came across RPARTS that sell a kit that you solder up yourself. Looking at their forum for the kit, there seems to be a fair amount of complaints about getting them up and running. Of course there is no telephone tech support. You have to enter a question on the forum and pray the tech answers.
My question is...Has anyone here bought one, installed it and uses it. I am looking for some feedback...Aloha
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Old 12-11-2007, 23:43   #2
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No, but there is no great cost savings with the kit compared to purchasing an icebox conversion unit from somebody like Defender. $800 for a DIY kit. $640 for Waeco compressor/condensor and $220 for a big O shaped evaporator plate... Hardly much incentive to DIY
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Old 13-11-2007, 06:33   #3
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i went with amob called ozefridge at ozefridge.com.au
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Old 27-11-2007, 11:01   #4
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My main incetive is fixing future problems my self. And boy is it nice to have cold frosty beers, or drink icy cuba libres here in PR. And at the same time beeing able to look at the high and low side of the compressor and see that pressures are good, there are no leaks, and that the evaporator is frozen. And then knowing that if any leak was to happen again, I can fix the problem the same day.
Besides the DIY kit, rparts has available other kinds of parts help me monitor and keep my system running in the tropics.
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Old 27-11-2007, 13:57   #5
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I wouldn’t think that building a refrigeration unit is a practicable DIY project for most of us – certainly not for me. I don’t lack the skills & tools, but don’t see the value.
I wouldn’t think that the cost savings (if any); nor the learning experience (if much) would justify the effort; and the potential problems to which Celestialsailor alluded.

Troubleshooting & repairing refer’ systems requires more knowledge, skill, and equipment (gauges, vacuum pump, etc) than merely a slightly experienced soldering iron.

Notwithstanding, a respected refrigeration “authority” once advised me:
Buy the cheapest (< $800), or buy the best (> $2500), but don’t get caught in between.
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Old 27-11-2007, 14:39   #6
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I decided to get involved is that we lost an off the shelf unit while in Bahamas after only 3 years of service. It was not very good, used too much electricity and we could never have ice cream. I didn't know much about refrigeration then. I hated the dependance on some local refrigeration service guy in a remote location that comes up with all kinds of prices for services that don't relly solve anything.
Then I relized that it doesn't take too much skill or money to get one going. I got that Collman refrigeration manual which helped a lot. I am still in the learning stage of everything. But including the gauges, acetillene torch, copper lines and all the other parts, I spent about a 1000 dollars. But I have a spare evaporator, and bunch of other spare parts like filters, flare fittings, lines, etc.
And now, the beers get frosty, and we can even have have ice cream in a huge freeser box. The fridge draws considerably less energy and cools much better.
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Old 27-11-2007, 14:58   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by phorvati View Post
... I got that Collman [sic: Kollmann's "Do-It-Yourself Boat Refrigeration"] refrigeration manual which helped a lot. I am still in the learning stage of everything.
Richard Kollmann:
Kollmann Marine Home: KollmannMarine Boat Refrigeration Specialist
Technical Forum: kollmann-marine.com :: Index
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Old 27-11-2007, 15:38   #8
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On my previous boat, I used a dual voltage Norcold RV freezer that ran off of 110/12volt. That boat had a 12kw Genset, and a large battery bank. Last I heard, the fellow that bought it is still using the same Norcold. My father decided to have a 70 foot powerboat built (so he could go faster than me and had some megabux engine driven units installed. Over the next 3 years he spent thousands trying to keep those things running, and finally, fed up, took my advice, bought two of the same norcold's I was using and never had a problem the rest of his life. Steaks, ice, and the other one to freeze the fish he caught. In fact one of them is still in my brother's garage in Las Vegas still merrily freezing away...going on 17 years old...

I do agree that the ability to build the system on your boat insures not only that you'll have a good shot at repairing it, I think you're going to be a VERY popular fellow around the docks out in the boonies....You might want to stock up on std fittings and hoses heheh

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Old 27-11-2007, 16:13   #9
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I 2nd the DIY refrigeration idea. It's very comforting for the refrigerator to be something you can fix, adjust and modify. I, too, used the Richard Kollmann DIY Refrigeration book with great success after buying a half-broken unit second hand. With that book, I was able to get it up and running again and it worked perfectly for 2 years since.

The great thing is that book teaches you what you need to know... all the details.

If my current land refer wasn't running on propane, I would have built Kollman's refer from the compressors in car air conditioning units. For almost no money, he takes you through how to build a refer that can out-cold most anything on the market. Cool stuff!
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Old 27-11-2007, 17:02   #10
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Some great input going on here in this forum now. You all make very good points. I have what I consider a nice boat on a kraft dinner budget. I currently have a Seatek 12vdc/110vac drop in unit that would be way too ineffeciant for any ocean crossing. Hence the search for a good compromise unit. There are good websites to find less than $900 units that will chill 10 cu ft and under with a fan cooled condensor.
I would not mind having a DIY unit for the mere reason of having better knowledge of what is going on. It would'nt hurt to have guages and a small ace/oyx boittles on board, knowing the investment is minimal. One could lend a hand in an anchorage somewhere and be well liked. The reason I hedge at the DYI path is if I shell out $900 and run into problems, or worst, screw something completely up, then I am $900 out...more kraft dinners. Looking at the Rparts forum, better men than I are having problems and the tech does not always write back to them. Although I have an engineering background and have been a toolmaker/machinest most of my life, I can screw up the Lords prayer on a Sunday given half a chance.
Looking forward to hearing more...especially if anyone has used the Rparts DIY.
By the way...Seeratlas...What is the amp draw of the Norcold. I have seen them for years and never a dead one.
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Old 27-11-2007, 17:29   #11
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Piping in about the Norcolds:

I have one right now because I needed one that ran off propane on land. The refrigerator has been going strong for 2 months (not a huge track record) but I know others that run them for 10-20 years without incident.

It's very simple and works well for my land application. Not serviceable, but in this case.... I'm on land and can just grab a new one if it fails.
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Old 27-11-2007, 18:34   #12
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I think I read in Calders book that the Norcold used a 'wobbler pump'. Just wondering their efficiency and capacity. Do they have a site with specs?
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Old 28-11-2007, 02:47   #13
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Thetford-Norcold are particularly unforthcoming with technical information.

Thetford’s “Norcold” refrigerators:
HOME
Specifically: Norcold Inc. Refrigerators
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Old 28-11-2007, 10:51   #14
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"The reason I hedge at the DYI path is if I shell out $900 and run into problems, or worst, screw something completely up, then I am $900 out"

Celestialsailor, don't look at it that way. You are never going to be 900 out. The most important single piece of equipment that you can break is a danfoss compressor 180-205$. And there is the power module for it for 160$. the thin plate evaporator is around a 100$. So those are the single items that you can screw up. I did fry the power module while testing my old seized compressor.
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Old 28-11-2007, 18:43   #15
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Celestial, I'll have to call my brother and have him get the specs for me. Will take a day or so as he's out of town at the moment.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Celestialsailor View Post
Some great input going on here in this forum now. You all make very good points. I have what I consider a nice boat on a kraft dinner budget. I currently have a Seatek 12vdc/110vac drop in unit that would be way too ineffeciant for any ocean crossing. Hence the search for a good compromise unit. There are good websites to find less than $900 units that will chill 10 cu ft and under with a fan cooled condensor.
I would not mind having a DIY unit for the mere reason of having better knowledge of what is going on. It would'nt hurt to have guages and a small ace/oyx boittles on board, knowing the investment is minimal. One could lend a hand in an anchorage somewhere and be well liked. The reason I hedge at the DYI path is if I shell out $900 and run into problems, or worst, screw something completely up, then I am $900 out...more kraft dinners. Looking at the Rparts forum, better men than I are having problems and the tech does not always write back to them. Although I have an engineering background and have been a toolmaker/machinest most of my life, I can screw up the Lords prayer on a Sunday given half a chance.
Looking forward to hearing more...especially if anyone has used the Rparts DIY.
By the way...Seeratlas...What is the amp draw of the Norcold. I have seen them for years and never a dead one.
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