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Old 31-10-2021, 11:02   #1
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Refrigeration on a budget

Sfter reading this bruiser of a thread:

https://www.cruisersforum.com/forums...te-187702.html

I dont have the budget for high end solutions. The original install had thin plate fridge of about 6sf and thin plate freezer of about 4cf. These are leaking. There are 2 frigomatic VA35 units, one for each side we assume.

The original thermal barrier looks like bagged insulation common to jeannaeu production boats of the mid 90s but getting to any of it proabably means dismatling all the very nice cabinetry with no visible fixings and a nice stainless counter top. There are two top loading doors, and an ankle level door for the fridge. The interiors are stainless and well crafted.

The 12v VA35 units appear to work, but I assume all the refrigerant is gone. I further assume these pumps are not effiecient and need to be tossed. I have an inverter that can run a modest fridge so I bought a small household dorm fridge which has a duty cycle >50% and claims to be super efficient and consumes about 45w. Its insulation <1in.

I need a COST EFFECTIVE way to make use of the built in cold boxs. My original idea was to tear out the guts of the consumer fridge and stuff them into the built in box. This would require cutting, brazing the coolant pipes and extending them and probabl finding bigger replacement plates for inside the boxs. That is daunting

I probabl can only afford one new pump, both in unit cost and in watts per da with the solar setup and battery bank. I dont want to close of the option for a freezer, but I also consume very few frozen items.

One idea I had was to apply insulation to the INSIDE of the boxs rather than tearign the boat apart to get to the outside of the boxs. There are some glassed in cabin separators abot an inch thick wood that may even prevent removing the original insualtion or extending it to 5in. Is not clear how much improvement could be made without serious surgery.

Im not looking for high performance because I cant afford it.
I am looking for links to cost effective parts, recyclable domestic products, re purposing affordable compressors 12v or 220v or ideas to get somethign reasonable up and running. $800 catalog items are out of the question. Perhaps it is possible to conver the frigomatic units to a modern energy efficient design?
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Old 31-10-2021, 12:43   #2
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Re: Refrigeration on a budget

When were the units last charged? Are you sure of massive leaks?
If you have access to a vacuum pump and refridgerant gauges, you can try to pull a vacuum on your existing system. If you can pull a vacuum, you donít have massive leaks. Next try to see if your systems can hold vacuum overnight. If yes, you might try recharging your systems to see if they cool.
Why do you think the existing insulation is bad? You might try an ice test to see what kind of existing insulation value you have currently:
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Old 31-10-2021, 12:52   #3
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Re: Refrigeration on a budget


Last charged > 5ears ago, possibl much more
ran the system for hours. No cooling
How do you pull a vaccum exactly?
Ice test? whats a good number for ice to melt? how much ice? how many hours? need comparable numbers to know if what I have is acceptable or worthless )
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Old 03-11-2021, 03:40   #4
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Re: Refrigeration on a budget

Hi Rotan, unfortunately there are no worthwhile low cost, long term options. I build systems which brings me into contact with many cruisers with similar fridge requirements and know that it is not possible to refrigerate your fridge and freezer at less than $800. That is to do it properly with an efficient long term solution. But I think you know that!!

You appear to have some nice cabinets so may I suggest refrigerating the fridge cabinet only then perhaps the freezer later as the budget allows. The best and lowest cost option would be to install a stainless steel forced air cyclic system to the fridge side. This should cost about $1100 but at least it would be a good investment instead of throwing good money after bad trying to find short cuts.
There is only one way to refrigerate and that is the proper way, especially in a marine environment.

Good luck with your project. Louie
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Old 03-11-2021, 04:47   #5
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Re: Refrigeration on a budget

Thanks for the response, but this kind of defeatest thinking is exactly what is wrong with the leisure yachting inductry. The entire community has been conditioned into bnelieveing that because you put a fridge into a floating caravan, it must cost 10x

THIS IS PERFECTLY VIABLE SOLUTION
https://www.currys.co.uk/gbuk/househ...06315-pdt.html

£389.00
Product features
177.2 x 54 x 54 cm (H x W x D)
Fridge: 148 litres / Freezer: 85 litres
No need to defrost with frost free technology
Fast chill rapidly lowers the temperature inside the fridge
Digital display to easily check your settings

It will service my needs just fine for longer than I wioll own this boat.

The plan, is to simply and intelligently, swap out the guts.
No not optimal. No not perfect. No not worthy of lengthy bragging rights in an internet forum, but It will work just fine for 90% of the environments it encounters.

FYI, all the 3k fridges were failing to keep ice cream frozen this summer, so all those superlatives are just retail sales hyperbole in practice. Frankly Im sick of it!


If the next owner believes the only way to cool a wooden box in a boat is to spend 3000 thats up to him. I didnt drink that coolaid
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Old 03-11-2021, 06:04   #6
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Re: Refrigeration on a budget

I had very good luck making ice in a portable 12v freezer unit (Dometic, Waeco, Engel and the like, NOT an actual icemaker,) and tossing it into the existing icebox. I had to be careful about opening doors too often, but it worked. I had frozen foods in the dometic and chilled foods in the icebox. I was able to purchase the Dometic used for about $300.
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Old 03-11-2021, 06:42   #7
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Re: Refrigeration on a budget

That evaporator plate looks like it's damaged so that may be the source of your leak. you might be able to get away with replacing the evaporator plate and recharging the system since it sounds like the compressors are fine. Note that involves evacuating the system with a vacuum pump before charging.
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Old 03-11-2021, 07:30   #8
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Re: Refrigeration on a budget

A couple of my friends bought used mini fridges for $50, gutted them, and stuffed them in/ around the ice box. Worked well.
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Old 03-11-2021, 07:38   #9
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Re: Refrigeration on a budget

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tetepare View Post
A couple of my friends bought used mini fridges for $50, gutted them, and stuffed them in/ around the ice box. Worked well.
That’s the way to save money. Either find a spot for a mini fridge and make it stationary, or tear it apart and use it to cool your existing space.

Off the shelf, mass produced products save a fortune.

One of the core tenets of my build was to do this as much as possible.
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Old 03-11-2021, 08:02   #10
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Re: Refrigeration on a budget

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rotan View Post
I need a COST EFFECTIVE way to make use of the built in cold boxs. My original idea was to tear out the guts of the consumer fridge and stuff them into the built in box. This would require cutting, brazing the coolant pipes and extending them and probabl finding bigger replacement plates for inside the boxs. That is daunting
As has been suggested by previous posts, yes, you can "gut" an existing unit and install in your boat.
However, at some point/place, you're still going to have to cut/braze/solder, and then evacuate/re-charge,, one can usually only save $ if one will take-on the "daunting" tasks.
If your existing condensing units are operable, it is possible to replace the evaporators, but some tubing and solder work is still needed.
https://www.rparts.com/index.php?cPa...vm5hjef7u99ci5
Having refrigeration on a boat has never been an easy/cheap piece of kit, not 30 years ago, nor today.
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Old 03-11-2021, 16:05   #11
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Re: Refrigeration on a budget

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rotan View Post
Thanks for the response, but this kind of defeatest thinking is exactly what is wrong with the leisure yachting inductry. The entire community has been conditioned into bnelieveing that because you put a fridge into a floating caravan, it must cost 10x

THIS IS PERFECTLY VIABLE SOLUTION
https://www.currys.co.uk/gbuk/househ...06315-pdt.html

£389.00
Product features
177.2 x 54 x 54 cm (H x W x D)
Fridge: 148 litres / Freezer: 85 litres
No need to defrost with frost free technology
Fast chill rapidly lowers the temperature inside the fridge
Digital display to easily check your settings

It will service my needs just fine for longer than I wioll own this boat.

The plan, is to simply and intelligently, swap out the guts.
No not optimal. No not perfect. No not worthy of lengthy bragging rights in an internet forum, but It will work just fine for 90% of the environments it encounters.

FYI, all the 3k fridges were failing to keep ice cream frozen this summer, so all those superlatives are just retail sales hyperbole in practice. Frankly Im sick of it!


If the next owner believes the only way to cool a wooden box in a boat is to spend 3000 thats up to him. I didnt drink that coolaid

If you had the answer why this enquiring OP?

So you are going to buy a new $500 fridge and transfer the mechanics to your cabinet, is that correct? Then run it off an inverter? After all that fridge is AC!
This is going to be an interesting project, please keep us up to date as the project evolves....
And don't discard the Kool-aid, I think you will need it!
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Old 03-11-2021, 16:49   #12
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Re: Refrigeration on a budget

Quote:
Originally Posted by JimsCAL View Post
That evaporator plate looks like it's damaged so that may be the source of your leak. you might be able to get away with replacing the evaporator plate and recharging the system since it sounds like the compressors are fine. Note that involves evacuating the system with a vacuum pump before charging.
Yes this is the source of the leak.
Where do i buy an evaporator plate?

The only problem with continuing to use the compressors is they are from the mid 90s. Old and old technology. They will use a lot of power, probably more than I can generate with solar.
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Old 03-11-2021, 16:50   #13
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Re: Refrigeration on a budget

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tetepare View Post
A couple of my friends bought used mini fridges for $50, gutted them, and stuffed them in/ around the ice box. Worked well.
As I suspected. More details please. did they sever the pipes to get the cooling plate into the box?
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Old 03-11-2021, 16:56   #14
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Re: Refrigeration on a budget

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bowdrie View Post
As has been suggested by previous posts, yes, you can "gut" an existing unit and install in your boat.
However, at some point/place, you're still going to have to cut/braze/solder, and then evacuate/re-charge,, one can usually only save $ if one will take-on the "daunting" tasks.
If your existing condensing units are operable, it is possible to replace the evaporators, but some tubing and solder work is still needed.
https://www.rparts.com/index.php?cPa...vm5hjef7u99ci5
Having refrigeration on a boat has never been an easy/cheap piece of kit, not 30 years ago, nor today.
Great response and a link! fantastic
Brazing hydraulic pipes is not that hard. Done many hydraulic fluid pipes, but not hvac.
I assume you need to find a piece of pipe a little larger than the pipe you cut and of a similar material to sleve the join?
How is that usually done?
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Old 03-11-2021, 16:57   #15
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Re: Refrigeration on a budget

Quote:
Originally Posted by OzeLouie View Post
If you had the answer why this enquiring OP?

So you are going to buy a new $500 fridge and transfer the mechanics to your cabinet, is that correct? Then run it off an inverter? After all that fridge is AC!
This is going to be an interesting project, please keep us up to date as the project evolves....
And don't discard the Kool-aid, I think you will need it!
Apologies for the tone of that post.
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