Imagine discovering a way to cut daily amp consumption in HALF! Like most boats, our refrigeration takes well more than half the amps we need in any given day. We were used to using 6 amps an hour every hour the compressor condenser was running, which was about half the time or 72 amps a day. Right now, as I write this, it’s drawing 3 amps an hour and running half the time … that’s only 36 amps a day. And it’s not the insulation. Of course, it’s only been a few hours, so the verdict remains out, but here’s the story —
Last week it abruptly quit and we called a service company, Blue Ice Marine, in Punta Gorda, Florida (for those boats that might be near by looking for a good marine refrigeration company). But when David installed our new starter battery, the fridge fired right up and has been working since.
All these years we’ve wished for a “real” refrigerator on the other side where the ice box was originally on our 1985 vintage boat. David drilled holes in the wall allowing the cold air to seep over from the freezer side and I can use it as a cooler, but not really a refrigerator. (more on this in another post very soon).
We had Blue Ice David (call him at 941-626-8040 if you’re near Punta Gorda, FL) come out to consult about the amp consumption and if there was anything we could do inexpensively to make the other side a “real” refrigerator. We’re glad we did becaus, even though we’ve had the boat almost 15 years, we learned all sorts of important new facts today:
1. The ColdPlate we have, unlike the Adler Barbour ColdMachine, runs for hours and then shuts off for hours – all along we thought it wasn’t cycling, but it was, and is, functioning exactly right.
2. He checked the ColdPlate with a special sensor that told him it was too warm… at this point I’m thinking — “oh crap, a new ColdPlate is big money — I think last time I looked, over a thousand dollars”. 🙁 But then he climbed into the lazarette in the cockpit to check the compressor condenser.
3. The condenser unit we installed two years ago had too much refrigerant, causing frost to form too far along the lines from the condenser to the ColdPlate. So Blue Ice David bled off some of the excess refrigerant. Sure enough the ColdPlate almost immediately dropped from 26 degrees to 21 degrees, and later fell to 15. WooHoo, who would have thought bleeding off a little excess refrigerant would save us over a grand in not having to replace a ColdPlate that was running too warm!
4. Blue Ice David was also concerned about our 6 amp an hour comment – said it shouldn’t draw more than 2 1/2 – 3 amps/hour. Nope, it’s always drawn 6 amps whenever the condenser is running.
Then came the biggest shock — would we like it to draw 3 amps an hour instead of 6 amps? Mr Amp Ogre (that would be my David) LIT up. Of course, but what would need to happen and how much would it cost?
Surprisingly enough, he said there’s a speed resistor located either close to the condenser or by the thermostat – ours happened to be on the thermostat because it’s the original thermostat from 1998. He explained that the speed resistor tells the condenser to run at full speed or slower — his analogy was a cadillac and a vw bug will both get you to the mall, and both will get you there in the same amount of time, but one is a V8 and one’s a V4, the V4 uses smaller amounts of energy.
In the refrigerator’s case, the speed resistor was telling the condenser to run V8 anytime it was on. Taking the speed resistor out, immediately caused our amp consumption to drop in half — we watched as he removed the resistor and the amp meter dropped from 6 to 3.
So me, being the “if it’s too good to be true” sort, asked what the downside is … apparently initially without the speed resistor, it will take longer for the ColdPlate to get down to temperature and freeze/cool, but once it’s down to temperature, it will freeze and cool exactly the same, except we’ll be using 3 amps an hour when it’s on versus 6 amps.
So we just CUT THE BOAT’S BIGGEST AMP DRAW IN HALF! Maybe we don’t need another 200 watts of solar panels after all!
The saddest part is, in 15 years no one else has ever mentioned this minor possibility? We didn’t know to ask the question, we always assumed it should run at 6 amps/hour. I looked in the manual & couldn’t find any mention of it either.
Time will tell if it continues to keep everything chilled and frozen. Blue Ice Dave left a sensor on top of the ColdPlate which will automatically read it every minute for a day & a half. When we return it, he’ll plug it into his computer & it will tell him exactly when the condenser was running and the temperatures on the ColdPlate – just to make sure removing the speed resistor didn’t screw anything else up… Can you tell I’m impressed?
SO, if you have an Adler Barbour refrigeration system, it might be worth a call to AB tech support to find out about the speed resistor – as I said, ours was connected to our thermostat, but Blue Ice David said the newer models often have them close to the condenser unit.
Plus he made another recommendation which we’ll share when we accomplish the next project! Things are looking much chillier aboard Winterlude!
Happy refrigerating! Any other experiences? Please leave a comment and share! Cheers! Jan