Here is a TV Show We'd Love to See!
The squad of designers and hot shot marine technicians, armed with a load of tools and parts descends on your boat, simultaneously ripping out the soggy, mildewed old galley while ripping off insults about the old design and your personal tastes!
But then, after the half hour show is done, you are reduced to being the gushing and delighted boat owner now totally overwhelmed by the incredible new galley in your old boat.
"Oh my gaaaawd!" you squeal when they take off your blindfold, "This is amazing!"
Well, today's modern yacht designers have overlooked none of that excitement. We are seeing tremendous improvements in galley design and equipment on the new boats.
But, for the vast majority of us who are still enjoying the summers aboard an older boat, you are probably living with a pretty marginal galley where the refrigerator was jammed into the tightest possible space.
Before the mid-90's, the galley was secondary to the desire to add an aft cabin or big dinette. Things were crammed in and such tight mounting sometimes compromises the airflow and therefore the cooling capacity of those old refrigerators while also using more energy.
Even good installations still suffer wear and tear. Door shelves get cracked and broken, freezers frost up and strain the systems and the internal workings struggle to keep food at the right temperatures.
Then, after each season of hard work, the refrigerator gets stored for the winter and eventually; twenty years have passed, and you have a mildewed, smelly energy hog of a refrigerator. It is a turn-off, every time you open the door.
Luckily, there have been dramatic improvements in refrigeration efficiency in the last few years and far superior cooling is now available with lower energy consumption and better energy management. We contacted the major marine refrigeration manufacturers: Nova Kool, Thetford Norcold, Waeco, Isotherm, Dometic, U-Line and others. Almost all of them are now using the new Danfoss variable voltage compressor.
The Danfoss BDF Compressor
The Danfoss BDF compressor can work on various voltages in DC with amazing flexibility. The unit can function on as little as 9 or 10 volts or as much as 24. In addition, this compressor can operate at different speeds.
In practical application, this means that you can have either refrigeration or by increasing the compressor speed, turn a Danfoss BDF equipped unit into a deep freeze. As several of our contacts told us, customers want more versatility. The Danfoss BDF delivers that versatility even at low power levels while the older refrigeration units that used to be installed on boats simply couldn't tolerate a low voltage level.
What You Should Know About Refrigerators
- The key behind cooling capacity is the size of the evaporator plate and compressor in the refrigerator
- There has been little change in the insulation values of the refrigerator boxes
- Where manufacturers used to offer a few models, there are literally hundreds of different sizes, styles and shapes available for any refrigeration need
- Exterior styling and interior layout have improved greatly
- Next to new engines, a renovated galley probably does the most to raise the resale value of your older boat
Key Customer Benefits of New Refrigeration
- Electrical efficiency when you are "on the hook" running with 12 volt
- You want a robust unit that is well built, has sturdy doors and fasteners
- Many customers want the "professional" kitchen look of stainless steel
- Of course, you want the largest food storage space available
- But you want reliability and a maintenance-free product.
One manufacturer noted with a laugh, "In short, customers just want it all!"
That is a tall order in the marine environment. Unlike home refrigerators, a marine refrigerator could be asked to deal with cabin temperatures down below freezing or as high as 150 degrees F. It's a demanding environment.
When Do You Replace Your Refrigeration?
Usually, you look for replacement refrigeration when your old refrigerator dies!
The problem is that usually happens when you are using the boat–probably loaded with food and away somewhere on your summer vacation!
It is smart planning to avoid lost boating time in high season by renovating your galley in the winter or spring. Here are a few key considerations.
Firstly, the older refrigerator cabinets were often well built-in and had insulation similar to modern units. Those cabinets are usually still good unless the shelves have been broken, but the compressor does wear out and lose efficiency, using too much electricity. The amperage draw could rise to be as high as 5.5 amps on an old unit compared to new ones drawing only 2.2 amps, so a new unit can be much more efficient. That's a key benefit.
In some cases, you can add new workings to the old cabinet.
The new interior layouts are similar but now there are bigger units available for similar size holes. Also, most newer boats have more space for retrofitting.
Just be cautious when you start to consider new refrigeration. Some boat builders installed the galley and refrigeration units before they put the deck on the boat and it may be impossible to get a new unit in there! Before you go any further:
- See if your old unit can be removed
- More importantly, see if you could get it out of the cabin
- Most importantly, see if a new unit can be gotten into the cabin!
If the answer is yes, new refrigeration is a terrific upgrade for an existing boat.
Here are your options:
- Replace the old unit with a new one fitted into the same old cabinets
- Install new cabinets and add a new, larger refrigerator – the full galley Reno!
- If you can't get new equipment into the cabin, install a new refrigeration system to the existing box
- Create a custom box in an under floor space or other cabinet by adding insulation and refrigeration to supplement the existing unit
- Supplement your old refrigerator with a Danfoss BDF equipped portable refrigerator / cooler
When you consider replacing the refrigeration system in an old box, remember that some replacement systems allow you to move the compressor 13 or even 18 feet away from the unit itself. That could be important if the old cabinetry has limited ventilation.
We were told boat builders now provide much better refrigeration ventilation but normally if you want to have a 30 in.2 single door fridge, then you need 30 in. 2 of ventilation bottom and top for a chimney affect to help the cooler run efficiently. One of the biggest issues is that vent.
Some units now have designed-in ventilation in front that, in effect, can both suck and blow.
You have far more choice now.
The best place to start is to discuss your existing systems with your marina technicians to get their advice and expertise. If they say you can get old stuff out and new stuff in, you could be on your way to making your old boat a far better place to spend this summer.