Taking care of your marine refrigeration systems
Last updated: 01/09/2016
Of all the essential products we use in our lives every day, the refrigerator is one that often gets taken for granted. Being able to go and grab some cold milk for a bowl of cereal isn’t normally something we consider a particular luxury – but when you’re dealing with a broken-down fridge, it quickly becomes one.
The ability to store chilled and frozen goods aboard a superyacht isn’t quite as simple as fitting the same kind of fridge-freezer you’d have in your kitchen at home. In fact, marine refrigeration is quite a specialised field.
Avoiding the most common yacht refrigeration problems
Three of the most common problem areas regarding marine refrigerators are around spacing, power consumption, and durability.
Power consumption in particular is very important to the successful running of a marine refrigerator, as Shuly Oletzky, president of Frigibar Industries Inc., told us: “You need to consider what the unit you plan on using was made to do and how much power it will consume. Not having enough power available for the unit that’s installed will cause the freezer/refrigerator to not run properly, as well as affect other components that rely on that power supply, or cause them to not work at all.”
Spacing-wise, many people find that they end up having to ‘upgrade’ after choosing a yacht fridge that soon becomes too small. It’s often smart to fill as much of the available space you have with as big a unit as you can – there is never a time you’ll regret having that extra space.
Frequent servicing of your marine refrigeration systems is essential
Losing function of a refrigerator at sea is a particularly problematic issue to experience, and one that can be very difficult to resolve without a qualified HVAC/R technician on board with the proper tools and equipment.
Shuly explained, “There are regulations with regard to the refrigerants that are required for freezers and refrigerators to function. Unless there is a crew member that holds the proper certifications to work on HVAC/R systems, crews should plan to have a licensed marine HVAC/R professional perform a service on all refrigeration units during your seasonal maintenance, or in the event of an equipment failure.”
Quick tips for marine refrigerator maintenance for crew
Serious problems with your marine refrigeration systems should always be handled by a qualified HVAC/R technician, but there are things crew can always bear in mind to help ensure a working marine refrigerator remains as such for as long as possible.
Shuly recommends the following basic guidelines should be followed at all times:
- Maintain two to three inches of space around every cockpit freezer / refrigerator vent.
- Be aware of bottom and side air vents; carpets and astroturf can cause problems here, as can the unit being directly up against a wall.
- Do not use easily available automobile refrigerants in marine refrigeration equipment, ever. These are designed for AC systems in vehicles and contain additives very detrimental to the delicate internals of refrigeration equipment.
- Keep the condenser on all marine refrigerators clean and free of dust and debris. Dirty or blocked condensers will inhibit sufficient airflow, which will lead to failure of the unit.
- Ensure the sealing gasket on any marine refrigeration equipment is properly sealed and making good, airtight contact. Air getting inside will lead to ice build-up, and will cause the unit to work too hard to maintain correct temperature.
- When keeping a unit outdoors, spraying an anti-corrosive such as CRC or WD-40 will contribute to a much lower rate of corrosion than typically experienced in a salt-air environment.
Finally, avoid complacence. It’s too easy to take a working marine fridge for granted!
You won’t know the true horror of a refrigeration failure at sea until it happens. The equipment plays a major role in the every-day enjoyment of a vessel. By taking care of the basics and ensuring your marine refrigeration systems get some TLC every now and then, you can focus on what’s most important during your journeys.If you own or operate a marine HVAC or refrigeration company that deals with the superyacht industry, you can add your listing to our business directory for free.