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Old 06-02-2010, 11:15   #1
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Ice Box / Refrigeration Questions...

Hello!

My plans of selling the house and moving aboard are coming to reality...

Since I am getting less for my house, I have to settle for less boat for now.

Everything in my new price range has an "ice box"

Is it basically like a coleman cooler? Or is there some outside source of cooling?

If it is really just a "box", how well do they work? How long does a quart of milk last in there?

This brings me to the second part... is it possible to remove it and install an actual refrigeration unit in its place?

THANKS!
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Old 06-02-2010, 11:29   #2
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Some have a small 12V cooling device, mostly they are passive. I believe the "ice" in "ice box" refers to the ice you have to put in to make it cold
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Old 06-02-2010, 11:31   #3
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ice boxes

An ice box is just what it sounds like: A box into which you put a block of ice for the purpose of cooling the contents.

The shelf life of the contents of the box depends on the insulation of the box. The insulation of the box varies from boat builder to builder, and even among models available from the same builder. Vintage of the boat also matters since the science of insulating materials has changed over the years.

There are surely members of the forum who own older boats and have taken out their ice box and rebuilt it in the same space in order to improve the insulation.

For a given box, it will stay cooler longer if you keep it full and if you don't open it too often. Between 1988 and 1996 I had a Pearson 31 with an ice box. Finding ice while cruising between Chesapeake Bay and Nantucket was not a hardship. Between 1998 and 2001 I had a Sabre 42 with engine driven refrigeration. Because I like fresh food and was taking the boat to the Bahamas I found refrigeration to be invaluable. On the other hand Beth Leonard and Evans Starzinger, well known long distance cruisers, only have an ice box on board. I guess it is a matter of money and personal taste.

Adding refrigeration to a boat is often an option available from the builder. So, many owners have added refrigeration as a retrofit. Refrigeration can be propane, 12v DC, or engine driven. On the forum you can find lots of advice on the differences and the manufacturers.

In the meantime, keep one cold for me!
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Old 06-02-2010, 11:48   #4
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An ice box is just that, a box for ice! Ussually much better insulated than a cooler. What are your needs? Ice used to be cut and harvested from ponds and stored and shipped and used for the year. If you are going to be near a source of ice, ie stores or iceburgs, and your cooling requirements are such that you can refill when needed, they are fine and the money you will spend on installing a refridgerator buys alot of ice! Once you get into refridgeration you have to worry about power for that refridgeration. Jine for some, not for others. If you are tied to a dock with power, load aboard a regular fridge. Nothing cheaper. But if you are heading out for long periods of time something else needs to be done. Short answer, yes you can readily convert an exhisting ice box to a powered refridgerator. Now you need to look into all the options for running that. If you are planning on cruising, and away from dockside power, ussually the people happiest with their systems seem to have small and well insulated refridgerators that are simple and can be kept cold, or chilled down, depending on the method, easily and efficiently. Less complicated means less downtime and more time cruising! But it is all dependant on your personal requirements. Which, by the way, will probably change with time aboard. Like Milk. Can't see how you could live with out it in the fridge now, but most cruisers I know wouldn't even think of putting the stuff in valuable fridge space! UHT boxed milk od powdered dry milk. (Takes a bit of getting used to but becomes just fine) Eggs, forget it, they keep fine for over a month if you turn them occassionally. Go to your fridge and take out what you must have in a fridge for the given amount of time you are thinking of. Put it in a box and see how big it really needs to be. If I were you, I would start with that ice box and probably a cooler because you won't be able to believe the icebox will be big enogh! Then with time, see what you need. If you are island hopping you will want to eat what is available there and it will be fresh. If you are crossing oceans, preparing food isn't the easiest, you'll probably be looking at cans to open. Defining your needs is an important part of that question and also takes some experience.
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Old 06-02-2010, 12:03   #5
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We had an ice box for a couple years....wasent fun looking for ice then transporting to the water ...then to the boat via dingy....lasts maybe 3 to 5 days if your lucky and haven't put a case of warm beer in......
The moral of the story is "ice boxes suck"!
I suppose if you live in a marina that has ice, its another story...we were cruising.
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Old 06-02-2010, 12:20   #6
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Yes they can suck! But they also have advantages. Like cooling that warm beer! Much faster if it is loose ice.
Fridges can suck also when they need attention, recharging of the system or when the power required has to come from an expensive diesel engine or solar instalation that needs batteries replaced. This poster seems to be concerned about cost of purchasing. Cost of maintaining and opperating probably come into play also. My intention was to impress the importance of truely defining the needs before finding the solution and to suggest low cost ways of doing so. Refridgeration can be a big expense on a boat and probably not the place someone who wants to keep expenses down wants to make a mistake. It can also be a very big energy expense on a boat, meaning a big energy user. Just some things to think about and apply to your own situation, realizing that situation will probably change as you define your needs.
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Old 06-02-2010, 12:29   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ConradG View Post
Yes they can suck! But they also have advantages. Like cooling that warm beer! Much faster if it is loose ice.
Fridges can suck also when they need attention, recharging of the system or when the power required has to come from an expensive diesel engine or solar instalation that needs batteries replaced. This poster seems to be concerned about cost of purchasing. Cost of maintaining and opperating probably come into play also. My intention was to impress the importance of truely defining the needs before finding the solution and to suggest low cost ways of doing so. Refridgeration can be a big expense on a boat and probably not the place someone who wants to keep expenses down wants to make a mistake. It can also be a very big energy expense on a boat, meaning a big energy user. Just some things to think about and apply to your own situation, realizing that situation will probably change as you define your needs.
Well said Conrad
But if its loose ice that 3 to 5 days turns into 1 or 2 days.
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Old 06-02-2010, 12:47   #8
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But cold beer!!
Everything in life is a compromise.
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Old 06-02-2010, 13:11   #9
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I recently purchased an 18-quart (I think) 12-volt cooler/fridge made by Waco (I think) for my Hunter 30. It was under $300 from an RV supply store which is about half of most marine stores I saw. For good and bad, the cold plate wraps around the entire circumfrance near the top.

The energy draw is pretty good, but I can't remember the specs off hand. (check the fridge threads on this forum) I have no solar or wind power at the moment. 1 to 1.5 hours of idle engine twice a day keep things cool. 3 straight hours will produce ice.

I'd have gotten the next size up if I'd had the space. The energy use was almost identical.
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Old 06-02-2010, 13:55   #10
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The portable refridgerators available today are wonderful and convenient. Ussually you can do better thermodynamicly by removing the hot parts of the system from the cold and by using better and more insulation than they have. In otherwords building one in. The inexpensive and pretty universal 12v Danfoss compresors and system can convert your icebox easily. Some cruisers are fine with running an engine for an hour or so twice a day. Some don't see it as a problem and don't mind the potential damage it can cause to an expensive piece of equiptment. Running an engine, especially a diesel, at idle or fast idle and without load isn't the best for it. Some people opt for gensets instead. A small electric fridge installation can use about 60 amp hours of electricity per 24 hr day. It can easily be met by solar and battery storage. It all depends on what your budget is and where you want to spend it. With some the engine is used for great periods of time each day anyway so why not? Others don't want to use the multithousand dollar engine to just generate a little power each day. Some don't have engines at all. I still recomend figuring out how much refridgeration you will need before investing time and money if you want to be budget effective. If you can, try ice first as it doesn't cost much and will let you get the experience you will need to answer the other questions for yourself.
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Old 06-02-2010, 13:56   #11
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Also, the term "ice box" can be misleading. I have seen more than a few boats advertised as having an ice box which actually had refrigeration. For some people it is simply a traditional term for the place where you keep food cold on a boat - regardless of how you make it cold.
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Old 06-02-2010, 14:20   #12
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Thanks for all the replies!

It seems there are a few options for installing a refrigeration unit for less than $1k, so that will suit me just fine.

thanks!
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Old 06-02-2010, 14:50   #13
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A quick and easy fix is a small 110v "dorm room" type fridge sold at Lowes or Home Depot for around $100. Most even have a small freezer. Run off shore power they are great and when out for a day or two the inverter can be used - but it'll be a power hog. It's not a long term fix or suited to cruising, as they are not marine grade and will only last a few years. Yet $50 a year for cold beer is a bargain. Alternately, check out the 12 v Engel line at marine and RV suppliers. I used this method for awhile until I could get my cold box compressor and plates upgraded.
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Old 06-02-2010, 15:28   #14
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Living without refrigeration is no big deal, did it for 4 years. With the cruising life you have the time to buy fresh every other day or so. Most foods will go at least two days without refrigeration and even longer in temperate zones with relatively cool water. Amazing how good food tastes when it's at room temperature. Block Ice will last 2-3 days in a poorly insulated Ice Box, 4 days in a well insulated and built one. Crushed or cube ice never seems to go more than two days no matter what the quality of the box. The exercise in getting ice is just one of the rewards of cruising if you have a need for cold. Ice is not readily available once out of the US, however, and is expensive when you find it.

Refrigeration is fine but expect to pay at least 2 boat units to get it up and running and another couple of boat units to feed it. Depending on the size and quality of construction, you can be running your engine anywhere from 1-2 hours a day to almost constantly to keep a freezer frozen and a frig cold. In windy anchorages, a windmill may supply your electrons but with a bit of noise. Solar panels are silent work horses but you'll probably need 300 watts of generating capacity and 400 amps of battery storage to have any hope of keeping up with consumption. All in all, to do a refrigeration right, even a small one will run 4-5 boat units and more if you want a capacity anywhere near a small home reefer.

Then there is the problem of keeping the refrigeration working. Many decades ago, we could always tell the boats with refrigeration. They were the ones tied up at some hot, sweaty, windless, commercial dock so they could get their refrigeration worked on. Hopefully, it's more reliable now, but they still are energy hogs. The thought of having to run an internal combustion motor for anything but getting in and out of harbor is anathema me. No better way to screw up a serene and peaceful anchorage than have someone run his generator at all hours and especially late into the night.

If you are going to live aboard at dockside, one of those cheap bar reefers will work nicely for keeping the beer cold and storing reasonable amounts of other freshies. You can keep it in the cockpit and off load it when you go sailing. Personally, I really don't see a need for refrigeration. Adjusting to living without it is not that big a thing. If you can't live without refrigeration, better have deep pockets. In any case, have enough responsibility to have a silent generating system
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Old 06-02-2010, 16:55   #15
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Roverhi has the best plan for fully adapting to livingaboard and cruising. I like to think that I could adapt as well, but my wife's uncompromising when it comes to cooling food and drink. We lived aboard for twenty years with ice only. It was beneficial to have the same abilities underway as at the dock. We had a few years with a system that required 110V,-shore power or generator, which I found to be as much of a burden as carrying ice. For the last twelve years we have had a 12V air exhanged freezer/refrigerator system (technaitics). I reduced the size of the ice box with excess insulation using Nigel Caulder's advice from his marine refrigeration book (highly recommended). It seems to me that the manufacturers that use the Danfloss compressors are offering the best units,-'highly recommend the 12V Danfloss compressor with air heat exchange. This keeps us at an average continual use of 1.5 amps. I still favor Roverhi's advice, 'take care and joy, Aythya crew
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