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Old 01-07-2009, 20:17   #1
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Question Freezer / Fridge Space?

OK, here's a question for all the experienced cruisers (particularly those who cruise long-term).

How important is it to have lots of freezer and/or fridge space?

Some cruising boats seem to have lots, others very little. Is a big freezer something that is:

a) Essential?
b) Nice to have?
c) OK?
d) Not necessary?
e) Depends entirely on your style
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Old 01-07-2009, 20:35   #2
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Some freezer space is nice to have. You need to note that refrigeration uses more power on an economical cruising boat that almost everything else. Freezers and large refrigerators combine to make the power daily demand a whole lot higher than you may be able to accommodate on the hook. Your energy budget on a boat has one important factor. No matter how much battery capacity you have you still need to pay it all back regularly. If you can't charge it, you can't use it. The basic boat fridge is going to cost about 70 amp hours per day in warm weather. The big freezer wit the big fridge is a lot more. More insulation is never a bad idea.

Since I'm not on your boat I think I could live well with no refrigeration on it. You see it does depend about how you choose to live and not how others choose. For us we did last summer and this one with no electric refrigeration - just ice. It sucks. We will be replacing the fridge with a similar unit we used to have. It's 6 cubic ft of space with part divided so it can maintain frozen food in small quantities and spills over to the main fridge. That means we can have a few weeks of food and eat what we like vs maybe 5 days and need ice every other day with less storage space since about half of it is ice. Cold drinks are then possible.

if you resupply often ice is fine for maybe three days. Fresh meat might keep a week. Sort of depends on what it is and the setup.

So the correct answer is e. It depends entirely on your lifestyle. It also imposes energy demands you can never escape. What you need is not always what you want. A happy life is making the two get closer.
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Old 01-07-2009, 21:18   #3
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Pblais is exactly right.
We have cruised with people who didn’t have any form of refrigeration at all. They were happy eating canned and dry food.
Others we cruised with had to run their engine or generator 2-4 hours once or twice a day to freeze their cold plates . Others had to have icemakers, more engine running. They used 1-2 gal/day of diesel.
It is always nice to have a freezer for when you land that giant fish and there is no one to share it with. Or have ice to put in your drink. Or keep a nice cut of meat for the middle of nowhere.
A fridge at 33-35F will keep green peppers fresh for 3-4 weeks, vacuum packed cheeses for up to 4-6 months, vacuum packed meats 2-3 weeks.
It must be said that if you buy unblemished green-red tomatoes you can keep them for close to 3 weeks if you are very very careful with them (at room temp 85-90F). Winter squashes last forever.
We use about 110-120 AmpHrs a day all of it from the sun and wind. 50-55 is for the fridge/freezer (10/4 cuft. 6-10 inches of foam, high efficiency system). The rest , 55-65 Ahr, are for lights, music, SSB, computer, watching videos, etc.
It all depends as Pblais says on your lifestyle.
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Old 01-07-2009, 21:26   #4
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We loved our water cooled, cold plate freezer with vacuum insulation powered by our 400watt solar panel array which also gave us cockpit shade while we cruised Mexico.

It was worth every penny to NOT hear the engine running.

We could leave the boat at anchor for a week and come back to frozen stuff in the freezer, and full batteries.

Steve B.
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Old 02-07-2009, 05:10   #5
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No refrigeration...your advice?

What is your best provisioning tip?
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Old 02-07-2009, 05:26   #6
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Our boat has a big freezer that requires two hours of the generator per day. A system that is small enough to run off solar is a much more sensible system. Senormechanico's system, I think, sounds ideal and over the long run will pay for itself in saved fuel and hours on the gen or engine.
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Old 02-07-2009, 05:31   #7
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We installed the "CoolBlue" unit a few months before we left. It is a 12v with holding plate. I also reduced the size of our ref. from 5 to 2 1/2 cubic feet, tore out the old insulation and added more. We have a bit of freezer space to make ice cubes. It has served us well and our solar panel more than keeps up.

I do need ice for my sundowner, so I considered it a requirement for cruising!
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Old 02-07-2009, 06:22   #8
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Get the biggest freezer and fridge you can handle with your power consumption. You will never regret it. For some cruising is camping on the water. They live without refrigeration but this is a small minority now. However, for the majority of us, cruising without refrigeration will be quite a change from our shoreside lifestyle. Do you want to live like that?

Part of the reason I bought my present boat was because of the freezer and front loading fridge. I've never met a cruiser that complained that they had too big a freezer or too large a fridge. You have to remember that once you're out cruising ice is not easy to find and many times in the tropics when you get it, it's more like slush and costs quite a bit.
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Old 11-07-2009, 21:59   #9
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It does depend on what you want and size is not necessarily a constraint. Aboard our 25' Cruising sailboat (and our son's 27' cruising sailboat) we have an Engel MT35 portable freezer. The unit is about the size of a normal cooler and lives in the aft of the cockpit. My requirement is 1) Two trays of ice cubes per day 2) Two 1 lt. bottles of ice per day 3) Some miscellaneous treats.

We have a built in 2 cu ft ice box in the galley. We keep two 1 lt bottles (juice bottles like Ocean Spray) of ice in the ice box. Each morning we swap the partially thawed 2 in the ice box for the 2 completely frozen bottles in the Engel. This way we have fresh block ice every day. Power consumption is 4 amps at 12 volts. We have four solar panels providing a rated 460 watts per hr. Count on half that. Both ours and our son's Engles have run continuously since June 2005 and defrosted about every 6 months (takes 1/2 hr). Capt. Woody of Lats and Atts took the smaller MT 17 on his circumnavigation. And yes it will keep ice cream.
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Old 12-07-2009, 02:07   #10
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As said, it depends on your lifestyle and charging ability.
That said, for me, a moderate sized fridge and freezer is essential. The unit I have now, a AB cold machine will be changed out one of these years, and the box rebuilt to 2" of vacuum panels ~R60 for the Freezer at about 4-5 cu. Ft, and 1" vac panel plus 1" blueboard insulation for the Fridge at ~10 cuft. Frigoboat evaproator plate with BD50 compressor. I would have it set up so either could be used in a pinch as a fridge or freezer. Using Rparts custom vac lids, they should draw around 50 amps each, but of course will probably be a bit more in real life. I have 200 watts of solar now, and plan to have a total of 600 watts prior to leaving on the retirement cruise. I will also have either a honda or diesel genset.

Its a lot of cost to have cold food I agree. But diet is extremely important to long term comfort and mental stability. Canned for while its ok in small amounts, is incredably high in sodium, not a good thing. And to go from living from a refrigerator to living without one imo is one way quick to stop a cruise from being fun.
So design a system that will work for you, keep it as small as possible with some built in redundency, a good charging system and good battery bank, and frozen steaks, chicken, vodka, ice cream, butter, fish along with a large assortment of drinks, condiments, etc will make your first mate happy.
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Old 12-07-2009, 02:53   #11
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Fridges and freezers. My pennyworth from the more southern antipodes (Melbourne, Oz).

I think I’d answer in brief (b); nice to have. I have (had?) an engine driven eutectic system on my boat but it died. A check with a technician suggested lots of $$$ to fix. And, to boot, it was very poorly insulated.

In the end I bought a portable (Waeco) fridge which, while limited in capacity (unlike the old vast fridge/freezer) which runs off the battery. It can freeze – though I can do without the ice cream and ice for the whisky, so I keep it at fridge temp (about 3-4oC). And I select what really needs to be cold. I’ve fitted/located it where it is firmly held down in case of rough weather, etc.

According to the blurb from the company it uses about 6a/Hr, but over prolonged use can be much less (assuming you are not opening it often and its not overly hot). My experience is that with GPS, autopilot, radios, etc on, it makes little impact on the power supply/availability, which is assisted by solar panels. I think the solar panel is invaluable anyway. But I do tend to turn it off overnight (when it will not be opened), and it rises by a couple of degree by morning.

I guess the overall ambient temperature/climate in the cruising area will be a factor – I have a temperate climate which can have some very hot days in summer (high 30s-400C), but mild in winter. And I only do short (1-5 days) cruises. And, of course, if ice is available, I have the old fridge.

All in all, I am really happy with the outcome, and the fact that I don’t need to listen to the motor for an hour or so each day is heaven. And if you like cold beer – perhaps the answer is (a): essential!
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Old 12-07-2009, 12:29   #12
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Turning the fridge off at night to save energy does in fact the opposite: you waste energy. Because the power needed the next day to cool it down to normal temperature is more than the energy needed to keep it at the right temperature during the night.

With solar panels, it's a little different. They don't work during the night so you have to use power from the batteries. The next morning, the solar panels deliver power which partly goes straight to the fridge and partly to charge the batteries. The charging+discharging of batteries is less efficient than directly feeding solar power to energy consumers.

In short: your fridge will consume more power when switched off during the night but you might re-gain that if your solar panels deliver enough power in the morning when you switch the fridge on again. But better check if the panels deliver enough that early in the day.

The other side is the food in the fridge. More deviation to higher temperature means that it spoils quicker. Throwing away spoiled food is also a waste of resources ($$$) so it's better just to let the fridge run at night.

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Old 12-07-2009, 12:46   #13
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To get a rough idea of what works with solar. Our old PDQ we had a small fridge (no freezer), probably about 3 cu ft or so and 325 watts of solar more than kept things topped off, even on cloudy days. Our present boat has 110 liter freezer (4 cu ft) and 130 liter refrig from Frigoboat. 700 watt panels keep everything nice and topped off quite well. The key with refrigerators is not just having them well insulated as the difference in heat loss between 3 inches and 4 inches isn't really that much. The key is the location of the compressor. The compressor must be in a cool, well ventilated compartment. Some compressors are on the back of the refrigerator and then sit against a bulkhead with a small vent hole. In the tropics, that small compartment will quickly heat up and once the temp goes over 100 degrees it's really not going to be able to bring down the temperature of the refrigerator to what you need it to be. Having a unit with a remote compressor that can sit in a low locker near the bilge and have a directed vent of it's hot air immediately outside the locker can make the difference between the compressor running 30% of the time and 100% of the time.
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Old 12-07-2009, 14:31   #14
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Originally Posted by schoonerdog View Post
The key with refrigerators is not just having them well insulated as the difference in heat loss between 3 inches and 4 inches isn't really that much. The key is the location of the compressor. The compressor must be in a cool, well ventilated compartment. Some compressors are on the back of the refrigerator and then sit against a bulkhead with a small vent hole. In the tropics, that small compartment will quickly heat up and once the temp goes over 100 degrees it's really not going to be able to bring down the temperature of the refrigerator to what you need it to be. Having a unit with a remote compressor that can sit in a low locker near the bilge and have a directed vent of it's hot air immediately outside the locker can make the difference between the compressor running 30% of the time and 100% of the time.
The energy that can be saved by proper placement of the compressor and condenser are very significant. If you have the condensing unit crammed in a locker somewhere you may be using 50% more AmpHrs/day.

Condensor Temp F deg.......... AmpHrs % increase
95................................................ ..... 0
105............................................... ... 11%
115............................................... ... 25%
130............................................... ... 57%


Splitting the compressor and condensor and using an over sized the condenser (by a factor of 4 or 5) also has dramatic effects. You may not need a fan if you pay attention to where and how it is located.

Insulation is also important. Adding 1 inch of insulation to 3 inches reduces the AmpHrs/day by 25%, adding 2 inches reduces the AmpHrs/day by 40%. Though going from 4” to 5” only saves 15%. But it still saves 15%, of course you loose some space.

Thickness inches...... AmpHrs % decrease from 3".... AmpHr % Incremental decrease per in
3
4 ........................................25% .................................................. .25%
5........................................ 40% .................................................. .15%
6 ........................................50% .................................................. .10%
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Old 12-07-2009, 21:44   #15
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First thing to deal with is the insulation, so I have to disagree with Schoonerdog on that. As mesquaukee writes, the extra inch saves 25% on energy consumption.

Dealing with the condenser is much easier, especially when using Frigoboat. Use the keel cooled option, problem solved. Metal boats have the advantage here as they can build a miniature tank in the bilge (integral with the hull), put the keel cooler in there and fill it with coolant. Fiberglass and wood need a hole for each keel cooler.

The foto are the 3 keel coolers under Jedi's belly ;-)

cheers,
Nick.
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