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 is the first article, entitled
Clicking through is not a favorite of mine. I want all the information on
one page. Thus I put the three decadence afloat articles together.
They detail how to have refrigeration off-the-grid.
The complete version with all the information contained in the
three articles here:
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
#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:
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.
meets my needs.
P.S. - I really appreciate it when you use my
link found at the top left corner of every page. It costs
you nothing and does help keep Skipper in puppy treats.
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.
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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:
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
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
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
would be nice
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.