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Old 22-01-2020, 10:08   #1
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Freezer doesn't like to go to sea

We have separate refrigerator and freezer, each with an Alder Barbour ColdMachine 100 cooling unit. The refrigerator works perfectly. The freezer seems fine when the boat is not in motion. The condenser does run a fairly large fraction of the time, but it does cycle and hold temperature. However, as soon as we get into any kind of seas we start to see the temperature climb. In 2 foot chop we will loose 4 to 5 degrees F. In 4 to 5 foot short period waves we loose 8 to 10 degrees.

I do not have any refrigeration background and have not checked much. The voltage being supplied to the cooling unit is good. The condenser coils are clean. The frost on the evaporator is evenly distributed.

We are out cruising for the next 6 weeks so I don't want to do anything that could possibly make it worse. What can I check?
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Old 22-01-2020, 11:13   #2
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Re: Freezer doesn't like to go to sea

It sounds like vibration to boat"s refrigeration wiring has a weak connection. These variable speed three field coil compressors need clean steady power as compressor runs on three phase pulse power normally you would replace all wiring positive and negative between battery and control module to correct your problem. Because you have a Adler Barbour CU 100 system I would first visually inspect the printed circuit board inside the stainless steel add on box. There are two places where this board fails lowering and increases compressor speed. Remove 15 amp fuse in front of box and look at fuse holder for signs of overheating. The second place to look is in the open back at the copper printed circuit strip for a burnt area. For picture and details on this AB problem see TECH TIP #1 on my web site at:
TECH TIP #1
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Old 22-01-2020, 13:08   #3
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Re: Freezer doesn't like to go to sea

Thanks Richard,

I'll check out all those suggestions. I forgot to mention before that there are no error codes showing in the controller LED.

It doesn't seem like a "vibration" problem like I would normally think of vibration - we don't have to be crashing through the waves for it to happen. Even smooth heave and roll motion causes it. Since the refrigeration unit sitting right next to this freezer unit is fine it should be easy to just cross-connect their power to rule out dirty power being supplied to the unit.
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Old 22-01-2020, 14:42   #4
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Re: Freezer doesn't like to go to sea

Quote:
Originally Posted by dougweibel View Post
Thanks Richard,

I'll check out all those suggestions. I forgot to mention before that there are no error codes showing in the controller LED.

It doesn't seem like a "vibration" problem like I would normally think of vibration - we don't have to be crashing through the waves for it to happen. Even smooth heave and roll motion causes it. Since the refrigeration unit sitting right next to this freezer unit is fine it should be easy to just cross-connect their power to rule out dirty power being supplied to the unit.
Troubleshooting is a process of elimination so the best approach to discovering cause of a problem is non destructive testing of known common troubles. Almost all of the boat refrigeration units have at least one weak point.
This circuit board is of poor design and the positive and negative copper strips are overheating causing phase interruptions and in the beginning will not produce a LED code. When strip burns through then the code can be 3,4,5 and even 6 flashes and compressor will not run . I am not sure the deflection of this board is not cracking the printed copper strip when tightening the power wire terminals. One other problem with this circuit board that also will not trigger a LED code is the poorly designed phone jack plug for thermostat. My experience is that rough seas do result in dynamic vibrations.
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Old 22-01-2020, 19:08   #5
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Re: Freezer doesn't like to go to sea

This problem although rare is not uncommon and is usually due to the liquid gas flow to the evaporator (should be a constant, solid flow) containing short bursts of gas vapour.. (Flash gas) This is caused by the condenser having horizontal coil passes and when not level or rocking, small pockets of non-condensed gas vapour travel to the evaporator with the liquid, reducing the evaporation ability (heat absorption)
The cause of this is unpredictable but my research found that identical systems albeit different installation factors, saw this occur with only a tiny minority and always freezers.

Our research found that the cause of 'flash gas' in the liquid line can be quite varied.
The main cause was use of crappy so called 'filter dryers mounted near level with the condenser exit and horizontal as in pic A below.. Also systems without an adequate suction accumulator as they have to run on a minimal gas charge to prevent flooding back to the compressor.
Hope that's not too complicated.

Here are some ideas for the OP;
First a temporary thing as you are heading out:
Remove the bracket holding the liquid line Aero quip coupling. Move the coupling out then it and the filter gently downwards so the liquid can be held in the dryer like a silo. Even a 30 degree slope should help. This is not a 100% fix but should give some indication.

A more permanent fix: This will require a technician. Drawing B , Remove refrigerant and original dryer then fit a proper filter dryer like a 032 or 052 as in this drawing, with filter dryer vertical and as below the condenser if possible.. (While the system is 'open' I would suggest adding another 032 or 052 to the suction like as close as possible to the evaporator. This would act as a suction accumulator)
Have the system evacuated, re-gassed and leak tested.

Click on picture to expand

Click image for larger version

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Cheers Pete
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Old 22-01-2020, 21:05   #6
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Re: Freezer doesn't like to go to sea

The key to most small 12 volt refrigerator problems are solved by non destructive testing of electronic systems first avoiding shooting yourself in the foot by calling a technician. Connecting pressure gauges to this small system or opening refrigerant lines is destructive testing and done only as a last resort by today's smart trained technicians.
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Old 22-01-2020, 21:46   #7
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Re: Freezer doesn't like to go to sea

99% of the issues I see in my 20 years of building, designing and installing these 12/24vdc refrigeration systems are due to electrical problems.
Any refrigerant issues not related to the o-rings or someone sticking a sharp object into the evaporator usually occur within hours of the original commissioning.
The others are usually a blocked condenser, dog hair, seawater growth, lack of cooling air due to a failing fan, again, all are common.
If I see an undisturbed set of access fittings on a system that has been in service for years with no issues..then I start small, look close, and work my way to what Richard refers to as "destructive testing"
Once you hook gauges to it...then there is no going back.


I don't see an insult here.
I use this same method on tiny little toy systems like this, and on the huge very complex systems I work on nearly everyday.
Horses for courses I guess.
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Old 23-01-2020, 07:17   #8
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Re: Freezer doesn't like to go to sea

Peter is correct larger filter dryers are used to compensate for lack of assembly quality control and anytime purity of refrigerant is in question. Refrigerant filter dryers are always located in the coolest area of high pressure line in order to capture the most moisture. It moisture is detected in refrigerant an ice pack placed on dryer before changing it will capture more moving moisture. If you must use an over size dryer flow must be assist by gravity in keeping a steady stream of saturated liquid moving toward capillary tube expansion device.

Gougweible, Sorry we drifted away from your request for electrical problem help.
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Old 23-01-2020, 15:41   #9
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Re: Freezer doesn't like to go to sea

Is this a water cooled system or air cooled?. If water cooled, you may be getting interrupted water flow.
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Old 23-01-2020, 19:27   #10
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Re: Freezer doesn't like to go to sea

Quote:
Originally Posted by Captndave1 View Post
Is this a water cooled system or air cooled?. If water cooled, you may be getting interrupted water flow.
The Adler Barbour CU100 condensing unit is air cooled only.
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Old 24-01-2020, 14:49   #11
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Re: Freezer doesn't like to go to sea

Thank you Richard, Peter and Coolerking

I will look into all your suggestions as time permits. Getting at the unit involves pulling a LOT of stuff out of a lazarette and my wife has said it is time to shift to a ratio of more fun stuff and less boat work since we are in fact in the Exumas and supposed to be having fun. Also any poking around that could make the performance worse would be highly frowned upon while the freezer is full of food. Replacing food here is inconvenient and expensive.

I am particularly interested in Peter's suggestion. I know that due to the routing of the lines to/from the evaporator the bracket holding the fittings was removed from our units. I did not particularly look at the filter/dryer but now I am wondering if it is tilted rather than horizontal and in fact sloped the undesirable way!

Peter, to clarify you suggest that the filter be tilted so that the compressor end is higher and the fitting end is lower, correct?
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Old 24-01-2020, 17:57   #12
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Re: Freezer doesn't like to go to sea

The suggestion I posted should resolve the problem. The first option will most likely improve the performance enough, simple and hopefully without going to the more dramatic option of opening the system . If the filter is as in pic A (my previous post) you should be able to ease it downward as the copper from the evaporator to the dryer is annealed. (soft)

The sketch below better indicates what is happening:
A: When level refrigeration is normal, liquid refrigerant passing through the filter without vapour pockets.
B: No issue on this angle as the liquid still exits the filter without vapour pockets (Flash gas) This is the way it should be specially for freezers.
C: Here is the problem. On this angle pockets of vapour can enter liquid line as the liquid travels to the evaporator.

As only liquid refrigerant can expand in the evaporator (not vapour) the refrigeration effect (heat collection) is impaired resulting in loss of cabinet temperature.

(Click on pic to expand)

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Cheers Pete Mackay
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Old 24-01-2020, 21:32   #13
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Re: Freezer doesn't like to go to sea

If anyone looks at the left picture on his post of the Adler Barbour CU100 condensing unit in question they can see how risky his advice is trying to tilt the filter. Bob, You decide if give this kind of advice to a boater with a full freezer, 500 miles away from a refrigeration repair person is good advice. Peter's theory only has merit for replacement oversize filters, as in right hand picture, this is do to producing vapor as pressure drops inside oversize filter.
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Old 25-01-2020, 07:34   #14
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Re: Freezer doesn't like to go to sea

I certainly would personally look for electrical problem before some physical one. Wouldn't it r eally be easy to find out just by tracking whether the compressor is running more/less underway?

Is it possible that the problem is just in the power supply wiring and batteries? That is why it shows up underway as the compressor it shutting down on low voltage. Happens more in bigger seas because the autopilot runs more.
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Old 25-01-2020, 07:48   #15
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Re: Freezer doesn't like to go to sea

I might suggest that the op while at the dock boat level, if possible, un bolt the unit itself and tilt it so it sits like Pete's picture with the spun bullet drier at an angle, then see if his theory is correct?
Seems like an easy way to eliminate possible cause.
We have used literally thousands of these driers in our educational aquarium chillers we sell to schools and fish and game departments worldwide, never had this issue, and they end up tilted at all different angles once they get out in service.
That's not to discount Petes theory at all, just curious to see if you can make this happen at the dock.
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