Saturday, July 27, 2013

Twenty Eight Days Later

2013 07 27
Somewhere's off the coast of Croatia, bound for Kurcula

No picture with this one.  Our fridge died twenty eight days ago, or maybe a bit longer.  Our new fridge is ordered and hopefully will be waiting for us at Marina di Brindisi, in Brindisi of course, Italy.  We cross the Adriatic for the final time tomorrow to pick it up and start cooling our food. 

All I can say is thank God.  We have had a month of 35 to 40 degree windless days (85 to 100 for you fahrenheiters) since the icebox went south on us.  Even buying food one or two days at a time has resulted in our meat being greasy as the fat melts and our cheese having only one shape: puddle.  Puddled cheese and greasy meat does wonders for a guy's appetite control.

Since the old compressor was a thirty year old Danfoss unit filled, or once filled, with the ozone depleting R12 coolant we did not wish to attempt repair or refill of the coolant.  So a new fridge was required.  Replacing the cooler has been an interesting process in trying to do business in Europe.

If it had not been for Germany we would never have been able to buy our Italian made fridge.  

At first it seemed to be our good fortune that two of the three major marine fridge manufacturers, Isotherm and Frigoboat, were headquartered in Italy, very nearby to the Croatian waters in which we were sailing.  The third company, Waeco, was HQ'd in Germany.

We originally pursued the option of replacing the fridge with a Croatian supplier whose quoted price seemed competitive.  Unfortunately at time to pay there appeared an unheretofore mentioned  twenty five percent sales tax, calculated on top of a five percent VAT.  Scratch Croatia.

We thought a Frigoboat unit with a keel cooler might be a good idea.  This product is well reviewed and we know boats that use it and like it.  This proved as unworkable as buying in Croatia due to the innate Italian dislike of work and service.  Frigoboat does not sell through mail order houses and you must buy from a dealer.  This increases the price because the dealer charges full price.  Not our thing especially since we do all our own installation on Meredith. 

Not that pricing was the only issue.  Our attempts to find a Frigoboat dealer in Italy did not produce results.  Our initial contact with the company resulted in polite but serious letter cautioning us that the company closed for three weeks beginning the first week of August and so we had to hurry and get my business done before that.  This is the Italian business model.  

The email referred us to a dealer who was not in town where our marina would be.  That dealer email or a website.  He also did not speak English.  This is par for the Italian course.  
 Two weeks after I contacted the Frigoboat national sales office, I received an email with a referral to a local dealer.  Too late.

What did work was the German mail order business SVB out of Bremen Germany.  Their website is at  

SVB had aggressive pricing on Waeco compressors and evaporators but we did not want a Waeco.  Waeco use single use connectors on their coolant lines so if you wish to make a system change after initial installation you are screwed.  Also Waeco received a questionable quality review in an old Practical Sailor article.  The fatal blow to Waeco wasthat it no longer sold the large O evaporator/freezer my wife loved from her old fridge.

In the end we ordered an aircooled Isotherm fridge with a BD50 compressor and large O evaporator that is almost an exact replacement for our old Waeco Cold Machine.  My wife uses the evaporator as her "freezer" and it also cools the fridge.  Very effective.

Before  you start yelling about water cooling and better efficiency hear this: Air cooling is as effective as water cooling up to about 45 degrees C or 95 F.  We used our thirty year old air cooled Waeco in Tunisia for a month in temperature which were never below 40 degrees C (105 F) and on a couple of days reached a sustained (ten hours at a go) 45 degrees Celsius (110 F or so).  The locker where we keep the compressor is below the water line and stays below the magic 35 C temperature.  Water cooling was not such a big deal for us.

The new compressor, a Danfoss BD50, is much larger than the unit it replaces.  Being larger capacity means it has a lower efficiency. It compensates for this by using a variable speed compressor motor and we are adding the smart energy controller to further improve its efficiency.  Hopefully the result will be a more effective fridge that uses less power than the original.

New evaporators, regardless of make, come with shorter tubes than the ones that came with our original fridge.  SVB had to special order extension tubes and took care of this in two days.  Exceptional service.

So now we are rushing to Brindisi where we hope to pick up our new Isotherm fridge and do a quick one day install.  Sure.  That is how it always works.

However long it takes soon our meat will be cool and our cheese will have some shape.  And the beer and wine will be cold.  

Plug for SVB

SVB did everything they could to make the deal happen.  They provided English speaking telephone assistance from people who got things done and followed up.  It was a satisfying experience.  When in the Med I will never again attempt to "buy locally" even if the darn products are made locally.  I will go through Germany.

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