Refrigerator Part 1
20 November 2020 | Stuart fl
Sally | warm in the lazarette
We got amazingly lucky the fridge parts came in on Wednesday. We picked them up on Thursday and began the assessment on how to proceed.
I should explain that a fridge on a sailboat is nothing like the one you have in your kitchen. First off, the box is, in our case, an integral part of the boat. Ours is built into the hull. Not something you can cart off and replace. The condenser sits outside the box stashed away somewhere the boat builder finds suitable. Note: suitable is not equal to convenient. The evaporator, which in our unit doubles as the freezer, is mounted inside the fridge box. The two pieces are connected via copper tubing that carries the refrigerant. This is like saying your fridge motor might be in your garage while the actual fridge is in an upstairs bedroom, a bit of an exaggeration but not much. The manufacturer does put a limit on the distance between the two by the amount of copper tubing provided. Oh and the unit runs on 12V which means it has to be wired through a circuit on the breaker panel for the boats’ 12 V systems. Confusing, yes, kind of like one of those Chinese puzzle boxes. We carefully studied the existing system and the paths of both the wiring and the cooling tubes. The cooling tubes are wrapped in pipe insulation to both protect and insulate them.
I’ll start with the wiring. The current “motor/condenser” is located in the starboard side lazarette in the cockpit. AK A, that big pit under the starboard side cockpit seat used to store all sorts of crap like dingy pumps. The condenser is mounted on a shelf on the forward side of the locker and wired directly to the breaker panel via a maze of wire that snakes through the engine compartment on its way to the breaker panel located on the port side of the boat down below. We needed to make sure the new unit would fit in the same spot and that there was enough wire to reach the terminals on the unit. Of course in the 27 years since our boat was built the condenser has changed configuration. It fit in the footprint but the connections were located on the opposite side. Of course there wasn’t a square cm of extra wire. This will require us to put in a terminal block and run a new wire from the condenser to the block and then connect the old wires to the terminal strip. All the time observing proper polarity and trying to avoid excessive voltage drops.
Remember those copper tubes that run from the condenser to the evaporator? The condenser has two very special copper fittings that connect to those tubes. Of course they’re nigh on impossible to connect as they’re located on the backside of the unit. This was going to be fun. Did I mention you get one chance to hook those suckers up or you lose all your refrigerant and you are stuck with one expensive oh shit moment. And the tubes to the evaporator? Well they wound there way over the bulkhead through a cabinet in the galley down through a hole into the fridge box and around the fridge box to the evaporator. I think the designer was related to the Marquis De Sade.
After taking a plethora of pictures and discussing the plan we disassembled the old components. I had the express pleasure of not only crawling into the cockpit lazarette and unhooking the wires and removing the plethora of screws that held the condenser in place but also sticking my head in the galley cabinet to pull the tubing out of a alarmingly small hole and shoving it over the bulkhead. What a joy. We did get the old one out before calling it a day. We need fresh clear heads before tackling the rest of this job along with a trip to West Marine for wire.
This picture is of the old compressor before we disasseembled it, yes I was in the pit with the camera. Notice the connectors that join with the cooling coils. That's the scariest part of the entire job.