Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Fridge Optimizer: Boat refrigeration enters the 21st century

Immediately after we repowered last Spring I decided to replace Compadre's refrigeration system.  The compressor unit was installed in the engine room, and because the ambient temperature was often in the 80s, the unit was very inefficient.  Just before installing the new unit in a better spot, I came across a review for a new product called the Fridge Optimizer.  It's manufactured by a small company here in Seattle with the unlikely name of Stainless Lobster.  I don't make a habit of doing product reviews, and I have no financial interest in Stainless Lobster, but this gizmo is one of the best things I've ever put on a boat, so I feel compelled to spread the word.

Fridge Optimizer control head.

Simply put, the Fridge Optimizer manages all aspects of your on-board refrigeration system.  It is a thermostat, compressor speed controller, humidity sensor, automatic defroster, energy-usage monitor, and more.  All in a nifty little control unit with a multi-screen display.  It plugs into the terminal strip on the front of your existing compressor unit, with no modifications or special tools.  Very elegant, and it works like a charm.  It sells for $250 and is worth every penny.

Gone are the days of fiddling with that mysterious little round refrigerator-control knob: The one with arrow that just says "colder"; the one where you make an adjustment because things aren't quite cold enough, only to find 12 hours later that the milk is frozen.  Now if I want my milk to be 37 degrees, I set the temp at 37 degrees.  Pretty clever, eh?

And gone are the times when you would open the fridge door and find the evaporator unit (cold plate) caked with ice ("I know that salmon is in there somewhere, but all I see is ice").  The fridge now defrosts itself.  Really!

How many times have you wondered how many amp-hours your refrigerator was using -- "Honey, it seems like this darned thing is running constantly.  Is it supposed to do that?  Why is the house battery so low."  The Fridge Optimizer tracks the energy used by the refrigerator over a 24-hour period, and shows the percentage of time the compressor is running -- on a nifty graph.  OK, my science background is showing through here, but this is actually very useful. For what it's worth, our new system runs roughly 37% of the time, and is a whole lot more efficient than our old system, which DID run most of the time.  

The statistics:  All you need to know!

The thermostat is mounted on a small fan, which helps even out the temperature in your refrigerator and aids in the defrost cycle. The thermostat-fan unit is connected to the compressor unit by a small cable (included), and the control head is connected to the compressor by an ethernet cable (also included).  The whole thing is very well thought out and easy to install.

So that's my pitch.  Check out the Fridge Optimizer at the  Stainless Lobster website.   Accept no more frozen milk.

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