Tuesday, 17 November 2015

The Fridge Rebuild (or keeping the Champagne cold again)

There comes a time in every woman's life when the only thing that helps is a glass of champagne - Bette Davis
In 2004 when we bought Tientos, the fridge/freezer was an aluminium empty shell, that just held ice. Given we do NOT camp, a working fridge/freezer was a necessity! So we fitted an Evaporator plate for the fridge, a Lemellar unit for the freezer and two compressors, all 12v WAECO. The freezer just this month gave up the ghost, so we decided to completely rebuild the whole system! This was a seriously scary task initially but with only a couple of hiccups not too bad. For some of the photos, I seriously apologise; wrong setting on the camera, and you can't go back..but you get the picture!
The original fridge/freezer
With its old aluminium box. The hatches remained the same design
Definitely time for a change!
Old compressors removed
This was the original fridge/freezer, both with individual lift out hatches. The rebuild was also going to allow us to expand the capacity of both.
The mess begins. Everything has to be removed from the top down and it was quite exciting seeing what was there (or perhaps exciting is the wrong word?) 
We knew we already had a problem as moisture appeared to be seeping through the bulkhead but were taken aback with the saturated open cell foam. 
The demolition begins
Mountains of sodden foam

The old Lemellar unit
Keith took away 27, yes 27 bags of sodden mess. 
So much landfill from a fridge
Once the aluminium (corroded by now) boxes were out, the timber shell was in fact not too bad. 
The old box is out
Surprisingly, the old shell was pretty good
So a total dry out then the box was fibre-glassed to seal it.  Next was the closed cell foam. Each side has 2 layers of 50ml foam, with each layer covered with aluminium vapour seal. This gave insulation all round of 100ml (4"). The joins in the foam panels were staggered and any small air pockets zapped with spray foam. Nothing was going to leak again!
Foam, foam and more foam
The dreaded fibre-glass

Once the new insulation was in place, it was time for the new 'box'. Marine ply was cut to fit and once again, fibre-glassed, then painted with two-pack paint. The box was completed as one unit with the 'centre' panel of fibre-glassed covered foam build separately. This was inserted into an aluminium extrusion which allows us to increase either the fridge or freezer space as needed.
The new hatches were the same design to fit in nicely and seal from the top. 
We had intended to install evaporator plates on both the fridge and the freezer; unfortunately the plate could not be bent to suit the freezer, so back to the Lemellar unit. We still have extra capacity though not as much as we originally hoped for. With foresight, we waited until we knew the dimensions before ordering the units. 
The new evaporator plate for the fridge
Lemellar unit for the freezer
The installation of the plate and the unit meant drilling the holes necessary for hose access to the compressors, but once finished were sealed and waterproofed. 
We had originally built the compressors in under our chart area and we would leave them there but decided to add a venting system for the hot air. Bearing in mind there is not a lot of air, but we wanted a more even distribution. One was directed through the old marine air-conditioning vent to a saloon locker; the other vented to the engine room which has its own vent system. Keith installed the door to the system originally (it has its own 'lint' liner to prevent dust and cat hair getting to the units and just needs a wash periodically). The door is actually bought from an air-conditioner supplier; it is an air intake with a dust filter.
Compressors in place
Also a cool place to store our vacuum on the right

Keeps the catz and the hair out!
The door to the freezer was left as a lift out, but the fridge door now has hinges and it is now so much easier to  rummage around. New larger access hinges were installed on both. 
New hinges on the new hatches
With the fridge/freezer now up and running, the best news is they are drawing less power. Just the backboard to replace and another big job ticked off the list.
The total capacity of the new fridge/freezer is 130l or 65l each. With my 'what-if' philosophy coming into play here; should a compressor fail, each individual unit is able to keep the other going.

The centre piece actually allows us to increase fridge/freezer space
And the champagne is cold again!
May all your bars be wooden and well-stocked! 


  1. Wow Keith I wish I had your Patience, what a huge job, we have the exact same problem, the fridge freezer looks ok, but the compressor was removed and we just use the for storage and have a fifty let waeko which does help, part of being pensioners, but we just love living on our yacht, I guess that’s maybe part of the reason we haven’t gone further afield, we love hearing about your way of life.

    1. Thanks James. A nightmare project to start but just carried on slowly. On the age pension ourselves now, projects depend on the budget.