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Old 12-07-2014, 13:50   #1
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Help with making practical use of top loading refrigeration, or switching to somethin

So here's the skinny.

We just purchased our first boat, (46' Cutter) that's well appointed, but in need some some updating / minor refitting. One item is the top loading holding plate refrigeration. I'm still troubleshooting, but the compressor is popping the breaker after it runs for 2-5 mins (just as the holding plates are getting cool). We are hesitant to pay someone to work on the system b/c we are unsure if we even want to keep it.

We are trying to get experienced live aboard / cruiser's thoughts on:

Any perspectives on top loading vs front loading refrigeration and holding plates vs continuous cycle systems.

If you use a top loading system, why? How to do make practical use of it? We will be using this as a live aboard (with plans for long distance cruising in a few years), and are trying to figure out how make use of the limited volume of the freezer/refrigerator sections. (Ie: do you tie everything to lines with labels for eggs,milk,cheese, etc, and then go fishing for your perishables, go 'bobbing for lunchmeat and mayo', or plan your week out at eat your way to the bottom?) how do you keep things at the bottom of the pile from getting squished?

If you use a front loader, how would you suggest making the conversion? The boat has very nice wood work, and it would be a shame to go at it with a saw/sledge to open up the space for a norcold or something similar (but the volume of the Norcold DE-0061 sounds pretty nice).

Thanks in advance, and with that, "you may fire when ready Gridley..."


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Old 12-07-2014, 14:12   #2
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Re: Help with making practical use of top loading refrigeration, or switching to some

Top loaders are energy hogs, front loaders are energy whales. If you are going cruising stick with a top loader unless you really really like to run a generator constantly. You'll either have to learn to live with the top loader adding shelves if there are none and getting used to limited capacity. Lots of things we habitually refrigerate like mayo, ketchup, mustard, etc. don't need to be. There are a ton of food stuffs out there that don't need refrigeration so a change in your diet can work wonders with the size of the frig. Shopping more frequently, there goes Costco, for fresh stuff works wonders. Living on a boat takes compromises and not having a 25 cu' french door frig. with freezer is one of them.
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Old 12-07-2014, 14:19   #3
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Re: Help with making practical use of top loading refrigeration, or switching to some

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Originally Posted by roverhi View Post
Top loaders are energy hogs, front loaders are energy whales. If you are going cruising stick with a top loader unless you really really like to run a generator constantly. You'll either have to learn to live with the top loader adding shelves if there are none and getting used to limited capacity. Lots of things we habitually refrigerate like mayo, ketchup, mustard, etc. don't need to be. There are a ton of food stuffs out there that don't need refrigeration so a change in your diet can work wonders with the size of the frig. Shopping more frequently, there goes Costco, for fresh stuff works wonders. Living on a boat takes compromises and not having a 25 cu' french door frig. with freezer is one of them.

Ok, we will take a look at what does and doesn't need refrigerating. It's a good place to start. It looks like there is a bracket for a shelf in the fridge, but nothing in place, so we'll have to look at putting some in.

Thanks for the info!


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Old 12-07-2014, 14:51   #4
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Re: Help with making practical use of top loading refrigeration, or switching to some

Take a few photos to post and you can get some good feedback.
Not sure what type of system you have, but the photos will help and I'm available 7 days a week for troubleshooting or advice:
Info@technauticsInc.com
or
619-609-3432

The good thing is that holding plate rarely if ever go bad and even old outdated systems can be updated pretty easily to be an efficient unit.

Front loading units are the WORST, so learn to live with the top loading box or pay the energy usage price.
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Old 12-07-2014, 15:04   #5
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Re: Help with making practical use of top loading refrigeration, or switching to some

Add some shelves and get some stainless steel baskets that fit on them. We put two shelves in and each holds three baskets.


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Old 12-07-2014, 15:25   #6
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Re: Help with making practical use of top loading refrigeration, or switching to some

Shelves and baskets -> I dig it. That should be pretty easy to do. Thanks!


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Old 12-07-2014, 15:29   #7
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Re: Help with making practical use of top loading refrigeration, or switching to some

The worst thing about front loading fridges is that the cold comes flying out when you open the door. People onshore don't much notice it, but especially in a hot humid environment, it will be very inefficient.

Cold air sinks, hot air rises, so when you open the top of the ice chest, more of the cold stays in.

Ours is a top loading one, runs a long time 3x per day (about) thing that was made to keep medicine cold in extremely hot, boondocks situations. It has three regions: bottom, middle and top. We store medicines requiring refrigeration, and an ice pack in the bottom, and that is the preferred location for meat (no bones) or fragile stuff [boxed] in the bottom layer. The bottom has a frame in it that supports plywood boxes that were sealed in epoxy, then painted, and that have air holes about 2-1/2" dia. cut in the sides for air circulation. The middle layer has one small box and one larger (about 1/3-2/3) about 4 " deep. The top has one tall box that I use for dairy & lunch stuff and the corresponding forward larger bin has all the things that need least cold. We definitely density-pack, because to us, getting more in trumps all!

Not to start a range war here, but we have never, ever, in over 30 years cruising, refrigerated mayonnaise. And never had salmonella. It really is not necessary. Nor do eggs need refrigeration. I know it's contrary to popular myth and probably legislated health laws, just saying.

You'll work it out.

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Old 12-07-2014, 15:33   #8
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Re: Help with making practical use of top loading refrigeration, or switching to some

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Originally Posted by AndDavRos View Post
Shelves and baskets -> I dig it. That should be pretty easy to do. Thanks!


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I've always owned top loading freezers, and I used milk crates to keep it all organized. Beef in one, chicken in another, pork ribs in another, pork chops in another, fish and misc. in another, etc.

For a fridge you might want to use smaller plastic bins, or baskets - something that stacks and interlocks.
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Old 12-07-2014, 15:34   #9
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Re: Help with making practical use of top loading refrigeration, or switching to some

We used plastic bins in our top loader. They were sized so there could be a row on the bottom, and another row on top oriented opposite so they would sit on the ones below. No need for shelves. The contents of the bins were the various categories of fridge stuff--meats, cheeses, veggies (2 bins), condiments, etc.

A friend of mine had a front loader. It was not easy to access it when the boat was heeled the wrong way and the seas were rough, and the cold air spilled out every time it was opened. I really prefer the top loaders.
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Old 12-07-2014, 15:59   #10
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Re: Help with making practical use of top loading refrigeration, or switching to some

I don't have pictures, but here are some specs for the system we have:

Kenyon Crosby V-12 dc refrigeration system (1998 vintage), sea water cooled (with a dedicated seawater circulation pump).
As best as I can tell, it's R-12 refrigerant in the loop.
The motor is a 12VDC, 1/2HP, on a 50A breaker. The compressor uses a guarded belt for the PTO. There is a single cold plate in the refrigerator box, two cold plates in the freezer box, with an insulated vertical partition separating the two boxes and a spillover at the top.

Insulation thickness of the lids (one for freezer, one for fridge) is ~4" based on the thickness of the lid and surrounding woodwork. The lids are hinged and flush with the countertop.
The interior volume is (rough guess) 6 cubic feet for the fridge, and 4 for the freezer. Side and bottom insulation appears to be a combination of high density foam paneling with high density expanded foam as a gap/void filler. (This is mostly speculation based on the appearance of the area under the counter tops where some foam paneling is visible, and you can see where the spray/pour in foam expanded out of gaps/holes.


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Old 12-07-2014, 16:05   #11
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Re: Help with making practical use of top loading refrigeration, or switching to some

Ok, so organizing can be done with baskets, and I need to do some digging regarding what really needs refrigeration. Thanks for the suggestions! We had considered issues with keeping a front loader closed during rough seas, didn't think about having to open it and all the trials that might entail though.


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Old 12-07-2014, 17:02   #12
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Re: Help with making practical use of top loading refrigeration, or switching to some

Quote:
Originally Posted by socaldmax View Post
I've always owned top loading freezers, and I used milk crates to keep it all organized. Beef in one, chicken in another, pork ribs in another, pork chops in another, fish and misc. in another, etc.

For a fridge you might want to use smaller plastic bins, or baskets - something that stacks and interlocks.
I have a top loader and suspect most boats do. Mine came with clear plexiglass shelves with holes which helps circulation. Baskets as well.

What caught my eye in the post I quoted was this:

"Beef in one, chicken in another, pork ribs in another, pork chops in another, fish and misc. in another"

I have never been on a boat, including mine, that had beef, chicken, pork ribs, pork chops, and fish in the fridge at the same time. In fact I seldom have a lot of meat in mine. I do keep milk, cheese, cottage cheese, jelly/jam, yogurt, and leftovers. You may want to get some type of secure containers for left overs.

Or not, some folks simply throw away left overs. There is really no right or wrong about what you should keep in a fridge and I am sure you will probably have a different list of items than one in the post I quoted or my list.

So how you set up your fridge will to some extent depend on what foods you like that need to be kept cold.

In addition to my Frigoboat in the galley I also have an Engle in the cockpit that I use for drinks, a couple of cups of yogurt, and other things I consume on a daily basis. I open the Engle several times a day and try and limit opening the Frigoboat to once a day or less.

Best of luck.
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Old 12-07-2014, 17:25   #13
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Re: Help with making practical use of top loading refrigeration, or switching to some

Everything I have ever read says top loading is the way to go. It is pretty much impossible to not have to do some digging to get at stuff at the bottom. My icebox had half inch ridges on each inside edge so I modified some plastic bins to rest on them. Everything at the bottom is in one of two shallow plastic boxes to catch any leaks.
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Old 12-07-2014, 17:32   #14
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Re: Help with making practical use of top loading refrigeration, or switching to some

Quote:
Originally Posted by tomfl View Post
What caught my eye in the post I quoted was this:

"Beef in one, chicken in another, pork ribs in another, pork chops in another, fish and misc. in another"
The variety is what caught your eye? What caught my eye is that he was able to fit over 5 milk crates in his freezer!

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Old 12-07-2014, 17:43   #15
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Re: Help with making practical use of top loading refrigeration, or switching to some

Quote:
Originally Posted by AndDavRos View Post
I don't have pictures, but here are some specs for the system we have:

Kenyon Crosby V-12 dc refrigeration system (1998 vintage), sea water cooled (with a dedicated seawater circulation pump).
As best as I can tell, it's R-12 refrigerant in the loop.
The motor is a 12VDC, 1/2HP, on a 50A breaker. The compressor uses a guarded belt for the PTO. There is a single cold plate in the refrigerator box, two cold plates in the freezer box, with an insulated vertical partition separating the two boxes and a spillover at the top.

Insulation thickness of the lids (one for freezer, one for fridge) is ~4" based on the thickness of the lid and surrounding woodwork. The lids are hinged and flush with the countertop.
The interior volume is (rough guess) 6 cubic feet for the fridge, and 4 for the freezer. Side and bottom insulation appears to be a combination of high density foam paneling with high density expanded foam as a gap/void filler. (This is mostly speculation based on the appearance of the area under the counter tops where some foam paneling is visible, and you can see where the spray/pour in foam expanded out of gaps/holes.
Organization is going to depend highly on the shape of those volumes. Rectangular will allow shelfs, baskets, etc more so than trapezoidal or irregular.

As for your refrigeration system, you will have to make a choice as to whether to keep it or get a new one. It is tough to have refrigeration problems when out cruising - little access to parts or expertise and a crash shortly after stocking up for a few months can really hit your wallet hard as you give it all away before it spoils. Then you have to go somewhere to get it fixed.

If your system is R-12 with mineral oil, it is unlikely you will be repairing it if something happens out "there". It isn't made anymore, so nowhere to turn for any special parts it may need. It is also unlikely that you will have an easy time replacing it out "there".

Your current system is also an energy pig - you will be constantly monitoring your power usage and worrying about charging the batteries.

We have a 4cf freezer with spillover into a 6cf reefer. There is 6" of insulation all around, and the system is a Danforth BD50 with an evaporator plate surrounding the freezer compartment. We use ~50Ahr/day. So these systems do not need to be energy hogs, and can easily be managed with modest charging abilities.

Mark
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