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Old 09-09-2008, 19:19   #1
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Chemical smell in reefer boxes

I have a strong chemical smell in my refrigeration ice boxes. It is reminiscent of Acetone or MEK, though I have not opened those up to double check.
Is there a strong smell associated with refrigerant or its lube?

Someone shut off my shore power (I'm hauled out) and the battery voltage dropped enough, current rose and the breaker blew, after the motor got pretty hot. I had figured they were related, but the system seems to cool down more or less the same as before.
The only thing new for sure is the smell. It nearly knocked me down when I first opened the boat. Now its strongest in the iceboxes themselves. Can't figure out what it is. Any ideas?
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Old 11-09-2008, 14:29   #2
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Originally Posted by chienbizarre View Post
I have a strong chemical smell in my refrigeration ice boxes. It is reminiscent of Acetone or MEK, though I have not opened those up to double check.
Is there a strong smell associated with refrigerant or its lube?

Someone shut off my shore power (I'm hauled out) and the battery voltage dropped enough, current rose and the breaker blew, after the motor got pretty hot. I had figured they were related, but the system seems to cool down more or less the same as before.
The only thing new for sure is the smell. It nearly knocked me down when I first opened the boat. Now its strongest in the iceboxes themselves. Can't figure out what it is. Any ideas?
What kind of compressor do you have? One like in a household fridge, or a seperate motor and compressor?

If it is the first type, and it got way too hot, it might have got so hot that it melted something, and that is what you can smell. Look round the back of the fridge. If that is the case, then don't run it, get a technician to have a look.

Regardless of what is done, repair/new oil or a new compressor, make sure they install a "Burn out filter" in the system. The hot oil carbonises, and any new system will soon get this into the moving parts, and will damage the compressor.

Without this a new compressor will only last a couple of years. Leaving the burn out filters out is a good money making system that too many companies use.

Hope this helps

Regards

Alan
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Old 12-09-2008, 08:33   #3
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Thanks for the reply.
I have a separate motor and compressor driven by a V belt.
Is there much chance I can service the compressor? Is there much chance at 30 yrs old anyone can service it?
The "burn out filter" you mention; is that in the refrigerant circuit?

When you mention "hot oil carbonizes" do you mean oil in the refrigerant or in the compressor?

The smell is stronger in the ice boxes than in the compressor enclosure, but the compressor is much better ventilated (since I've had the lid off looking at it.)


I hope I can find a good refrigeration guy in Washington, NC. Small town.
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Old 12-09-2008, 08:57   #4
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The burn out filter is placed in the refrigerant low pressure/suction line to the compressor.

A technician can easily tell if the compressor is done for by looking at the suction and discharge pressure when it's running and opening/closing a couple of valves.

Refrigerant carries oil around the whole system, so if the compressor has been really hot, the oil detriorates, and can form small solids that are abrasive.

I can't say if you can get the compressor repaired, don't know the situation where you are, but replacement units aren't very expensive (relatively speaking)

Any signs of stuff being distorted/heated too much? Like where the insulation to the icebox is. That can give you the weird smell.

Is you refrigerant ammonia or Freon?

I'm sure you can find somebody nearby, it is after all an area with lots of aircon use..

Good luck

Alan
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Old 12-09-2008, 09:38   #5
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There does not appear to be anything between the evaporators (cold plates) and the compressor intake.
After the condenser (seawater cooled) there is a tank, 3"dia x 8" lg, then a grey, filter looking tank 2"dia x 3" lg, then a glass eye thru which I can see the liquid refrigerant when running. It is perfectly clear, and after pumping down no bubbles. The little eye inside is green for what that is worth.

It seems like the compressor should not have gotten hot. There is a thermal protection switch (I think) because if the seawater is not flowing it shuts the system down. I figured what really got hot was the motor, but when operating the enclosure is not ventilated so the box could have gotten very hot. The condenser may be liquid cooled, but the compressor is sitting in a hotbox.

I am guessing the refrigerant is freon but I don't know for sure. I have not been able to find any tags. Someone sprayed paint over nearly everything long ago.
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Old 12-09-2008, 09:45   #6
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Good news on the compressor side then! All seems to be in good order.

If the motor is also working, then everything should be in good order. The smell could also come from the overheated motor, if it is close to the coolbox?

Does the motor smell? If yes, then get an insulation test done on it, if that is OK, then no worries

I don't have any other suggestions as to where the smell comes from. No electrical cables going through foam that were too hot?

Wash the boxes with a weak chlorine solution and hopefully all is well.

Alan
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Old 19-09-2008, 13:07   #7
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Update: It was the motor.
The insulation had melted off the wires and one was starting to detach from the armature. It is being sent off to see if they can fix it. They should be able to rewind it, but I don't know if there are brushes available. I'm sure it will get new bearings too. Will have to wait to see how much it will cost and if spares are available. If not I'll look for a new motor.
Thanks for your help Nordic Cat!
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Old 19-09-2008, 13:22   #8
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Glad I could help.

Get them to give the whole motor an extra layer of the insulation coating, we used to call it "tropicalisation". Maybe they call it something else in your part of the world.

All the best

alan
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