Monday, March 7, 2011

Frigoboat Repairs

Many of my blog followers have absolutely no interest in the Frigoboat refrigeration system, although they have been forced to wade through numerous entries over the last two and a half years as we have dealt with it. I write this treatise for those who have this system or who might be considering the purchase. Others can move on.

In the Spring of 2008 upon the recommendation of numerous Hylas owners, we acquired two separate Frigoboat units, one to run the freezer and the other the refrigerator, with a box dedicated to each unit. The installation was done by a fella who was highly recommended, but not a “refrigeration guy”--- the procedure is supposed to be a no-brainer for those of you more mechanically inclined than us so we doubt that this was the cause of our woes. Although we had frequent mishaps with the frig, a weird wiring snafu was the cause so we cannot fault Frigoboat. But the freezer has caused us to spend several thousands of dollars and lost cruising time.

Immediately upon launching after installation, the freezer would run hard, reaching its set temperature for only minutes in a 24 hour period, and set at 12 degrees usually ran in the upper teens. Trips back to the installer and to our nearby location by him did not turn up any solutions, although several things were tried. Eventually we were directed to go to Annapolis to visit the distributor, Rob Warren of Veco, Inc. Mr. Warren would see us only in a slip, and was not available for several days upon our arrival.

He reviewed the equipment and installation and found no serious faults, suggesting we had an insulation issue. At his recommendation we hired J Gordon to move the thermostat, without any effect. By this time our hopes of getting to Maine for the summer were dashed.

We returned to Zahnisers in Solomons, where we have found we have received excellent service. Zahnisers does not have a dedicated refrigeration guy, but Chuck their top-notch electrician reviewed the insulation and found it adequate. He did not like the noise the evaporator plates were generating, and suggested we evacuate the refrigerant. Once done, the unit performed as advertised.

This lasted for about a year and a half until the compressor failed to chill but continued to run while we were in the Bahamas. After a shut down period of an hour or so, the unit returned to functionality and continued to operate well until we returned to the States. A repeat of this problem became weekly, then daily, as we worked our way up the coast. We exchanged emails with Frigoboat who immediately identified the problem as debris or water in the system, and directed us to J Gordon in Annapolis. While there, J Gordon installed a filter dryer that they found had cured the problem which they had observed numerous times.

After leaving Annapolis the hard running compressor failing to reach set temp condition continued, with the compressor now shutting down frequently and restarting after it cooled. More communication with Frigoboat resulted in their blaming J Gordon for installing the incorrect filter dryer (despite their earlier recommendation). Frigoboat would accept no responsibility for the labor or material cost for this wasted exercise.
Frigoboat now directed us to go to Washburns. Once we had made those arrangements, we asked the technician, Chip, to contact Frigoboat. The repair was discussed and carried out as Frigoboat directed, and Frigoboat did supply the new filter dryer at no charge to us.

As of this writing, all seems to be working fine, although the compressor does seem to shutdown if it has been working hard, say, when a large amount of room-temperature food is placed in the freezer. It restarts without any intervention on our part.

For the record, we love our Frigoboat system. Our refrigeration is set at 42.5 and nothing spoils before we use it. Our freezer is set at 10 degrees, and everything is rock solid, including ice cream. But, if you consider Frigoboat, we recommend the following:

1. Insist upon the installation of a filter dryer with each unit. There is a kit available, suggesting the frequency of our problem.
2. Before undertaking any repair, be sure the technician speaks directly with Rob Warren or Courtney, a knowledgeable Veco technician, to detail the procedure to be undertaken.
3. Consider a spill-over system (one compressor with a fan installed for the frig box) to save money. Everyone we talk to with this installation can still freeze ice cream and what could be a better goal?

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