Marine refrigerators are built to operate efficiently. They cool slowly and don’t have an energy hogging frost-free feature. Typically the cooling coils are in the top freezer and the cool air from the freezer keeps the refrigerator compartment cool. Like at home, refrigerators operate 24/7 for at least the boating season and sometimes year round and are usually the largest DC energy user on a boat. The cooling compressor can be powered by AC and DC, or by DC alone. The compressors are all DC powered and if you run them on AC with shore power or a generator, there is a converter that converts AC to DC. Compressors powered by DC-only run directly off the boat’s battery bank and no converter is necessary. Marine refrigerators need to be very efficient so they don’t quickly drain the batteries.
Fiddler’s original refrigerator is a Dometic AC/DC model with 8.5 cubic feet of interior volume. The problems began when the door gaskets failed, causing cool air loss, rapid build up of frost in the freezer, and continuous cycling. I searched for a replacement gasket and found that they are not offered separately and an entire new door must be purchased. Instead of falling for that scam, I went to Home Depot and found some material for sealing windows and doors which worked fairly well, but still did not adequately seal the doors. But this extended its life for a couple of years and I endured the frequent defrosting. The interior light never worked either. Then the AC converter failed and I started searching for a replacement.
I decided on the Sea Freeze brand that is made in Bellingham, WA. They are very configurable with options for AC/DC, DC-only, additional insulation, three compressor sizes, interior or remote mounted compressor, interior fan, and multiple door styles. The aluminum frame door uses commercial latches and stainless steel hinges. I chose the DC-only model with additional insulation, an interior fan, and the stainless door style. A very nice feature is that it is made to fit in the same cut-out as the Dometic (and other common marine refrigerators).
With the help of a friend, we removed the Dometic and delivered it to the local dump for which I happily paid the $35 fee. It weighs around 100 pounds but the size makes it unwieldy in close quarter maneuvering on a boat. Fortunately no damage was done to Fiddler in the process, or to my back.
Then after a quick and uneventful trip to Bellingham to pick up the new Sea Freeze, I was ready for the installation and setup. The DC-only model requires that I simply connect two wires to the compressor. The Sea Freeze requires the same sized circuit breaker as the Dometic, although the new compressor is larger, so it was nice not to have to replace that. After checking to ensure it powered up, I slid it into the cabinet and fastened it in place. The compressor is controlled by a digital thermostat and it really cools down quickly. The well-insulated box prevents the ambient air temperature from adversely affecting the cooling. The old poorly insulated Dometic would struggle to stay cool when the ambient temperature in the cabin was over 60 degrees. One feature that I wish was offered is an external readout of the internal temperature. I solved that by mounting one on the door with a wired sensor fastened inside. It works fine for now. I am very happy with the overall installation and the refrigerator’s performance. Here are some pictures: