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Date: 12 July 2018. Refrigerator Power Requirements (#1 in reefer series)



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 Refrigerator Power Requirements (# 1 in reefer series)


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. T
he complete series with all the information contained in the three articles here:

Powering the Refrigerator (complete series)


I am not an electrical guru by any means. The boys that know get technical real quickly. They know their stuff. I am more of the practical "what works for me" sort... Powering a refrigerator off the grid involves three things. Here is 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

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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:

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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 currently do use more power than models such as my own Haier. It is totally worth it in my view as you are 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 have the resources 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 is 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.

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 have 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 are 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 Two: Generating Power

Have a great weekend, and thanks for reading.

What refrigerator do you use?
Is it propane, AC or battery powered? 12-volt or 24-volt?


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