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Date: 18 July 2018. Powering the Refrigerator.

janice142
 

 

This is a three-part series about decadence, focusing on using refrigeration off-the-grid. It encompasses what you need to know to have it all even while anchored in remote coves. This page contains the complete series.

For those that prefer their information in smaller bites:

 


This is the complete version with all the information contained in the above three articles.
Powering the Refrigerator:
 

Part One: Refrigerator Power Requirements
I am not an electrical guru by any means. The boys that know get technical real quickly. They know their stuff. I'm more of the practical "what works for me" sort... Powering a refrigerator off the grid involves three things. Here's how I do it:
 

#1) How much power is required in
24 hours to run the refrigerator?


To find out that you're going to have to spend some money. Experts will suggest you need a fancy meter that will tell you everything except the manufacturer of your refrigerator. I don't recommend that level of detail. For me aboard Seaweed I bought a Kill-a-Watt meter. This is the one I purchased:
 

 


P3 P4400 Kill A Watt Electricity Usage Monitor

Affiliate link


You should plan on ordering this item online. When I went to the box stores meters were available. They were much more costly than the one I chose. The meters I saw locally were too complicated for me.

Frankly I don't need all the bells and whistles an expensive  unit offers. I want simple and easy to understand. The Kill-A-Watt meter meets my needs.

 

P.S. - I really appreciate it when you use my Amazon link found at the top left corner of every page. It costs you nothing and does help keep Skipper in puppy treats. Thanks!

 


First you plug the Kill-a-Watt meter into your wall socket. Next plug the refrigerator into the meter. The Kill-a-Watt gizmo will give you an elapsed time and power consumed. I would suggest you let it run for at least 24 hours.
 

Simply push the buttons under the screen of the Kill-a-Watt meter. From left to right they display Volts, Amps, Watts, Hertz and KWH plus the timer/hour meter.

 

←The middle button shows Amps.

The purple button to the far right displays
 time. My Kill-a-Watt meter is showing one
hour and four minutes elapsed time.


Now that you have your total, round up to the nearest 10. The reason you will do that is because your reefer is most likely running in an air-conditioned home. When the power goes out your ambient temperature will increase. That will cause the refrigerator to run longer.
 

 

Information on the 3.2 cubic foot Haier Refrigerator:

affiliate link

In case you wonder where the PayPal donations go, let me tell you one place. Back in 2016 Cruising Kitty donations were great. And with $120 of them, I found a Haier that fit my Seaweed. So thank you!
 

I really do appreciate the kindnesses!

Haier Refrigerator 3.2cf

 

When I started my life aboard Seaweed I used a small cube reefer. It worked okay at anchor as long as the wind blew. Then I came to this coast where the ocean breezes are not reliable.
 

The main problem with a cube refrigerator is that the darn thing won't fit a head of lettuce or a cantaloupe. Now I could put a head of lettuce under the freezer compartment where it would promptly ice up. Inside the freezer area ice cream would not stay frozen. Argh!
 

The cube was not a favorite. Finally I was fortunate enough to find someone who wanted it.

 


Aboard a boat it is easy to acquire too much Stuff. I tend to pass along items I no longer need or use. That helps keep the clutter down and the chaos at bay. It also pleases me to share what I no longer need with others
 

This is my Haier 3.1 cubic foot refrigerator. It is just inside the door to the cockpit.


My Haier uses 60Ah (amp hours) per day when it is 80 degrees outside. When it is hotter the refrigerator requires more power in order for the contents to stay cool. I suspect I'm using closer to 75 amps a day now because of the heat. I am also in and out of the refrigerator more now that temperatures have increased.
 

 

To monitor the the temperatures inside my refrigerator and freezer, I use an Ambient brand weather station. Pick Ambient because the cheap ones they sell at Walmart are only visible from dead-on. At any angle whatsoever you lose the numbers.

 


Ambient Weather WS-09 8-Channel Wireless Refrigerator / Freezer Thermometer Alarm Set


Ambient Weather WS-10-X4 Wireless Indoor/Outdoor 8 Channel Thermo-Hygrometer with Four Remote Sensors

 

I have the unit on the left, the Refrigerator/Freezer monitor. Three years on, the display is starting to fail. I only see only the bottom set of numbers. Eventually I would like to upgrade to the four channel display. That version is shown on the right side.
 

I would place three remote monitors thus:
  1. Refrigerator
  2. Freezer
  3. Engine Room
The bottom number displayed is the room temperature. I like these models because they have alarms. I use the alarms to alert me should my reefer or freezer get too warm.
 

What I like best about these two models is the alarm feature. I consider that my Early-Warning should the power be interrupted. Once I did not properly close the refrigerator. The buzzer let me know there was a  problem. Fortunately it was easily resolved by shutting the door!

 

 

Whenever estimating amps you will not regret rounding up!
 

Precision works well for Electrical Engineers. For me, it seems I always can find a new way to use power. A netbook gifted to me by a subscriber (how cool is that?!?) running Win7 allows me to write. A tablet provides entertainment and a wifi hotspot. The radio plays Frank Sinatra and Dino, Bing Crosby and Petula Clark among others. All these things take power.
 

As a gal, I can multitask. Right now I've got the VHF radio on, the depth sounder is pinging, a Verizon tablet is providing wifi, I'm writing so the netbook is on, plus the Paperwhite is keeping me occupied while pages load, the cell phone is charging, and the refrigerator/freezer is making ice.
 


 

I have a switch so I can shut off the power to my refrigerator at night when presumably it will not be opened. There are two schools of thought on switching off the reefer at night versus not doing so. Gurus will say it makes no difference in the quantitative amount of power required.

Still, I cannot help but feel it is a good idea to shut down the refrigerator when the batteries are below 12.4. Because I have a large battery bank now, plus lots of solar panels, and a wind genny... well, my batts stay pretty well charged. More on all that in the next article.


Relaxing at anchor is one of the best parts about life aboard Seaweed.

Photo taken by Island Time's Cheryl off Key West.


Refrigerators that are self-defrosting do use more power than models such as my own Haier. It is totally worth it in my view as you're living life not camping. If I had a larger refrigerator I would opt for a model that did not require me to defrost it.
 

 The inside of my Haier Refrigerator looks like this: (↓ affiliate link)

I would not be quick to run out and spend the kind of money required to get an efficient 12-volt reefer. Unless you've got it that is! If so, the Engel surely does look mighty spiffy. A Dometic would be nice too.

We had one of those aboard our boat. Our Dometic refrigerator/freezer used either 12-volts, propane or AC power, depending upon the power input we selected. It was truly wonderful to have that upgrade. I loved ice.
 

Memory Lane: I remember when I was a kidlet a writer came by our boat one day. She'd written about us before in *Motor Boating & Sailing magazine and was preparing another article for the publication. We served her a cold beer. Mother was so proud because we finally had a working refrigerator. When the article came out it said my mother had fished a beer out of the water and served it British-style. Mother was NOT HAPPY!

*Back then there were not very many children living aboard. That's why were were in a couple of boating magazines.


Having a refrigerator was a Big Event in our lives.
I appreciated it more than most can understand.


There is a level of decadence found while sipping a beverage glass filled with ice with new friends.

Ted, Sarah and Patches aboard Manatee, their 36' KadeyKrogen.

A nice toddy sure makes an evening on Manatee  delightful.
You met Ted, Sarah and Patches in the
Manatee Moves article.
 

I've been around for a while. I remember when "everybody" who could switched over to the 12-volt reefers. Prior to that cruisers either did without or utilized ice boxes. The 12-volt refrigerators were New and a better choice than drippy ice boxes. That said, 12-volt units were expensive. They used quite a bit of power too.


As technology evolved the inverter opened a whole new world for cruisers. Suddenly we could have "real" house-style refrigerators aboard our boats. Of course the inverters were terribly expensive. As with most things, as popularity increased, competition occurred and prices declined.


Save your pennies and get a Pure Sine Wave inverter if you can.


Inverters allowed boaters to switch again. The cheap, essentially disposable AC reefers became another option to consider. With the new technology of Pure Sine Wave Inverters, standard house-type refrigerators last a long time nowadays.  When a $400 fridge dies you're not having a horrible day.

Like most folks I would love to have the newest and greatest. For now though I am perfectly satisfied with my nice little Haier. The refrigerator compartment is well designed. The produce compartment fits a smaller cantaloupe with ease. The freezer has plenty of room. One day I might buy a pint of chocolate ice-cream.
 

Continuing... in Part II scheduled to be posted on the 16th.

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading.



This is Part Two of a multi-part series on decadence. Okay, really it's about how to have a refrigerator off-grid. Today's piece is
Generating Power. It focuses on powering the reefer. Here's how I do it.

Part One is titled Refrigerator Power Requirements.
 

#2) To run my life of decadence I need
to generate power. Here's how I do it:


Aboard Seaweed I have two ways of creating power. Having more than one method means that I have contingencies in place. If the wind blows my batteries are charged. When the sun shines, I get still more power.
 

 

Information on my Wind Generator and Solar Panels:

 
(similar model -- I have an Air Breeze)

 Sunforce 44444 12-Volt 400-Watt Wind Generator


 2pcs 100W Mono Watt 100W 100Watts Off Grid 12 Volt 12V RV Boat USA Solar Cells
 

A wind generator was my first purchase for life at anchor. It powered my off-grid power needs. On the east coast that was an okay decision. Here the morning sea breezes simply don't happen. Now don't let yourself think I would not buy one again. I would because at night or during thunderstorms (cloudy weather) the wind blows.
 

In retrospect, I should have started with solar panels.
 

Renogy is my choice for solar panels. Aboard Seaweed I have one 75 watt panel ($150 in 2010), two Renogy 100 watt panels from Amazon ($330 in 2013) and two 85 watt panels gifted to me by Larry and Eva. That totals 445 watts of solar. Unless there is a long stretch of overcast days, I should be okay.

 


Two Renogy 100 watt panels on pilothouse, two 85 watt panels over galley and one 75 watt panel above cockpit.

An Air-Breeze wind generator is mounted on strong thick-walled stainless pipe over the cockpit.


When underway every engine I know has an alternator. Seaweed is no exception. Except mine does not do anything. The alternator is not wired up (at all) thus I get no benefit from the power made by said alternator. Argh.
 

At the St. Pete Boat Show I spoke with Rick of Beta Marine.

Beta is the marinized version of my Kubota.

One of the best parts about attending a boat show is meeting the vendors. Rick was in the booth representing Beta Marine engines. Because Betas are built on a Kubota base I was hoping I could utilize his expertise.


To his credit Rick of Beta Marine did attempt to help me understand how those wires attach. It all seemed so simple at the time. Then I got home my mind drew a complete blank. What is particularly frustrating is that I know that at one time I would have comprehended it all with ease.


Such is life. Getting old is not for sissies!
 

I have a great engine. She starts every time. That makes me happy. It is such a blessing to be able to start the engine and know all will be well. I can be underway in just a few minutes. I am very fortunate.



Gulfport at dusk... the anchorage is just off the pier.
 

Unfortunately the alternator currently on my Kubota does not charge the batteries. I don't know how to set that up. Yes it has been explained to me. More than twice. And no, I still don't have a clear understanding. Thus, when I am underway I'm not doing a thing for my batteries.

I told you about the alternator fiascos in the Upsizing the Alternator - My Mistake article.

 

The 15 amp alternator was originally mounted to the engine
 with a single bolt. Then I improved things until I broke it.


Because I do not know how or where the wires from the original alternator attach, they aren't hooked up to anything. Instead the alternator is mounted so the fan belt will drive the raw water cooling pump. This is of course not ideal. But it works.

Were money no object I'd have a serpentine belt too...


Yes, life is truly wonderful aboard Seaweed.

I went over to the Madeira Beach American Legion to enjoy the sunset.
 

Though I wish the alternator was wired, I do have both wind and solar power charging my batteries. Life aboard Seaweed truly is wonderful.

Thanks for reading. The final part will be posted on the 18th.
 


 

This is the final installment in the three-part series about off-the-grid decadence. It covers what you need to know to have it all, including refrigeration, while anchored in remote coves. Today's article is Part Three in the series. It focuses on batteries and is entitled Storing the Power (battery charts).

Part One is titled Refrigerator Power Requirements.
Part Two is titled
Generating Power.

 

#3) The power provided by wind, solar
and your alternator is stored in batteries.

 

First, please note that I am specifically speaking about the lower cost lead acid batteries sold at places such as Walmart. That is what I have aboard Seaweed. Decades ago we had Lead Acid on our 40'er too. Details on her can be found in The Fishing Boat article.
 

Though in my dreams I have those spiffy new Lithium batteries, that won't happen for many years. For those with the funds and knowledge to install lithium batts, gosh, you're fortunate. I'll be following in your wake eventually. My research (see Calder's 4th Edition) says the charging system is quite finicky. You've got to get it correct!
 

Life is wonderful just as as it is though...

Photo of a rainbow off Manjack Cay in the Bahamas taken by my friend Irene.

 

Old-timers would say you need four times the charging capacity as a minimum for batteries. Because I have 445 watts of solar, the panels generate approximately 150 Amp hours per day. Therefore, at a bare minimum, I should have 600 Amps of battery storage available.
 

BATTERY SWITCH, ELECTRONIC FUEL PUMP, RACOR and COOLANT OVERFLOW.

At the top of the picture and bottom, you can see batteries tucked outbound of the engine along the stringers.
 

The more power I have stored in batteries, the better. The goal is to have power to spare in case of overcast skies. Having lots of batteries gives me wiggle room (aka time). That means I can wait a few days for the sun to reappear and recharge my batts.
 

There is a level of confidence in knowing that even if I the batteries do get low, eventually they will recharge without any intervention from me. The wind will blow. The sun will shine. With either or both of those things I'll soon enough have plenty of power.
 

My batteries are fully charged in absorption mode at 14.2 volts.

 

 

12-volt Battery Chart

 

Size Dimensions
Length x Width x Height
Weight Amp Hours
approximate
Group 24 10.25" x 6.75" x 9" 38 lbs. 70-85 Ah
Group 27 12" x 7" x 8.75" 65 lbs. 109 Ah
Group 29 13" x 6.75" x 9.5" 62 lbs. 115 Ah
Group 31 13" x 6.75" x 9.5" 69 lbs. 95-125 Ah
4D 20.75" x 8.75" x 10" 135 lbs. 180-215 Ah
8D 20.75" x 11" x 10.25" 162 lbs.  225-255 Ah
 

In the United States most boats have 12-volt systems. European boats often use 24-volts as their standard. Some boats have a mixture. It gets real "interesting" when it is that complicated. I am grateful my Seaweed runs on 12-volts at present.

Many chose golf cart aka 6-volt batts. With 6-volt batteries you must wire them in series. When batteries are wired in series the amperage stays the same and the voltage increases. (connect + to -) Details can be found in the Diagnosing a Bad Battery article.

 
6-volt Battery Chart
 
Trojan T-105's 10.5" x 7" x 11" 62 lbs. 225 Ah
Trojan L-16 11.75" x 7" x 16.75" 123 lbs. 390 Ah
 


I have Group 27 batteries aboard Seaweed. Each weighs 65 pounds.  Although I have ten, only nine are in my House Banks. The Start Battery is sitting under the step in my pilothouse, starboard side. Having such a sizable house bank allows me the freedom others might not have.
 

Aboard Seaweed I don't much worry about having sufficient power. That's because I have a lot of batteries.
 

Living on my Seaweed is wonderful. I am truly fortunate.

The views change however the sunsets remain wondrous.

 

Because Seaweed is relatively light weight, the 650 pounds of batteries in bottom center of my boat have helped with her *pitching. She rides better now with the additional weight. The downside is I've lost about 1 mph of speed. That's a lot to lose in a small boat.

*Pitching is when your boat rocks fore and aft. Imagine a porpoise leaping through the waves. Another way to think about pitching is to picture yourself on a teeter-totter. That's pitching. Rolling is when  you rock side to side. That motion is likely to cause seasickness.
 


There's a porpoise just forward of the out-rigger pole. Photo taken when I was on DoodleBug, a 40' Viking.


Life aboard Seaweed is lots more relaxed now than it was in the past. Years ago I could only dream about having the setup I now have. The 445 watts of solar translates to 150 Amps of power on a sunny day. By noontime my batts are full.

Afternoons I watch a DVD movie and have a bowl of popcorn. Details about nuking popcorn can be found in the Popcorn for One (and Stone-wave Update) article. 



Life off the grid is so tough. Somehow I manage... (wink) (wink) Popcorn anyone?


Side Note: Though I have a lot of batteries I didn't buy them all at one time. They were accumulated over time. The Experts will say buy all at the same time, with identical dates on the batteries. That is the Ideal. I do not live in an ideal world.


Because my batteries were purchased over time, I split them into two banks. Bank One has the batteries that are between 5-8 years old. The second bank has batteries that are all two or three years old. This is not perfect. It is Good Enough.
 

One thing I am meticulous about is checking my batteries on the first of each month. Because my batts are easy to get to, this is not a problem. When you shop for your Last Boat, having easy access to the mechanical bits will make a world of difference.
 


This is Paul from Sunrize Marine. He finished the work of getting the Kubota up and running. Thank you Paul!
You met Paul in the
Getting Betsy Ready-to-Go article. Every time I start the engine I'm grateful.

But I digress... Seaweed runs and that's because of friends met out here.


As for this life of decadence, it is because of three things.
 

  1. Patience: No boat has it all right from the get-go. Every vessel requires additional tweaks, improvements and upgrades. The home I have now is far superior to the one I bought over ten years ago. She is my comfortable oasis. Each year I save for another improvement.
     

  2. Ability to make power without fuel: The wind generator provides some power, especially at night. Primarily however it is the solar panels that keep Seaweed in juice aka power. When I had 275 watts, that was not enough. At 445 watts, I never run out of power.
     

  3. Storage is Critical: Having plenty of batteries means that when the sun doesn't shine for a few days it's okay. I can still keep my life running smoothly. After I install that last battery I'll have over 1kw of battery power. How cool is that?!?
     

Having "regular" storage for life's fun things is important too. It's not just mechanics that makes a boat a great choice. Contentment includes having the things that please you aboard too. I've got both and know I'm very VERY fortunate.


Decadence works for me. I enjoy a
 comfortable life aboard Seaweed.
 

For more information on power, please also read so the Solar, Batteries and an Inverter article.


Thanks for reading.


Do you have a Kill-A-Watt meter for determining power use?
What sort of power generators do you have? (wind, solar, portable, built-in)

COMMENTS:
 

2018

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