Rick West Reviews Another Recommended Refrigerator Resource

The Fridge-Fix

By Rick West

Manufacturer: Smart RV Products

The Fridge-Fix is a device that circulates large amounts of air inside the main cabinet of a propane/electric RV refrigerator. By doing so, it eliminates frosting on the cooling fins.

Articles-Images08This is a 21st century product; a polished professional device both in terms of packaging to the consumer and in function. The Fridge-Fix does more than claimed and does it well. What is said on the website about the operation of the Norcold and Dometic refrigerators is correct. Because RV refrigerators have difficulty reaching interior designed temperatures, many of these units burn up trying. You all know this and their life is short as refrigerators go. Baffling and drawing off the exhaust heat helps, but not for long. The Fridge-Fix WILL extend the life of your electronic reefer, save you fuel costs and, once in a sub-40° state, will recover from loading food and multiple openings like you have never seen before. With longer life, your investment and repair costs will be significantly less.

The single door unit is listed for the Dometic refrigerator but will fit into all such refrigerators having a flat surface ceiling in the main cabinet more than 18”wide and with 4” available space in front of the cooling fins. Longer units with three fans are available for double door units. Browse their website for features and other information.

While installation instructions come with the device and all parts, I found that routing DC power to the boat electrical through the water drip tube line to be the simplest. Some housing adjustment for the overhead door light may be needed to fit the device in front of the cooling fins, but that is really not an issue. The computer pie fans draw air directly off the cooling fins through perforations at the rear of the unit. The air is then directed downward over the fins, clearing frost from the fins, creating circulation through the main cabinet. The unit has a power switch under the device with a push/twist fuse housing facing forward; both are easily and blindly reached.

From a standing start at room ambient temperature, 40° will be reached in about 6.5 hours in an 8 cubic foot refrigerator. The main cabinet temperature will be 6-7 degrees lower with the Fridge-Fix on, as tested on our two Unique brand refrigerators. When working in and out of the refrigerator during meal preparation, the recovery time to normal cabinet temperature is 15-20 minutes depending on how long food was on the counter. This could be less on thermostatically controlled refrigerators like the Norcold and Dometic units. No time test of propane use has been made, but settings are significantly lower on the refrigerator than before introduction of the Fridge-Fix.

Power use to the fans and the LED lights is 12v DC and drawing low milliamps. There is no movement on the electrical panel gauge with two units on or off. The units are operating 24/7 here and there is no impact on recharging time from the solar array. There must be some, but it is not evident.

This is a must have device with light years in performance from the D-cell battery fans of old. You will be amazed at the increased refrigeration performance—never before seen in propane units. It is on a par with standard household AC powered refrigerators.

Cost is $65-110 per unit depending on the model needed. Please note the UL listed above is to their product home page. When you link to Our Store, there is no link back to the informational home page that I can find. You can see the unit in operation on Cloud 9.

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A Message from Skipper Margot

Aloha Meadowites!

I’m so sorry I can’t attend the Pig Roast this year. It’s always been one of my favorite events.

Perhaps you will have friends and family coming, and they will see how wonderful “anchoring out” can be and will want to do it themselves!  Many of you know I haven’t been able to sell the Sow’s Ear. Evidently, the California drought has brought a flood of houseboats to the market.  However, not only is the Sow’s Ear “Meadows Ready” but she’s also an excellent cozy winter cabin on the water with a wood burning stove that heats up quickly.

She’s a 34′ Botel and has 2 – 75watt Solar Panels w/ controller and Inverter, a super Pro Mariner Battery Charger, 2 Concord AGM Batteries, 25 Horse Honda 4-stroke motor, Coast Guard approved ElectroScan toilet, NEW change-over propane regulator with NEW pigtails, 3 tanks (1 spare), Dometic Propane/Electric fridge. Maytag 3 burner stove with small oven, Galley table and cushions that make into an additional full bed.  She needs steering and a new back deck. The back can be easily decked over with a sheet of plywood. There are no “ins or outs” to be cut around. If I wanted to use the motor I’d replace the “iffy” steering with hydraulic steering. ( Or I’d sell the motor – $2500. est. – and side tie out).

I’m asking $7500 – down from $10,500 at beginning of season. The Sow’s Ear is definitely worth that and more. I’ve had lots of fun and made many good friends with the boat and wouldn’t be selling if I hadn’t moved to Hawaii.  If you know anyone who might be interested, my friend Don Heatlie will show them the boat. His number is 916-983-4364.

Aloha Nui Loa, and have a great time at the Pig Roast!

Skipper Margot
Sow’s Ear
email: mmcfedries@mac.com 

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Ranger Rick Reviews Refrigerator

The Unique Refrigerator

By Rick West

Manufacturer: Unique Gas Products
Greater Toronto metro area, Canada
Sold by Kamps Propane in Northern California

The new Cloud 9 came out to The Meadows the first of May 2001. She had two 8 cubic foot Norcold refrigerators aboard. Despite proper installations with heat venting fans, cabinets, airflow baffles over the coils and continued maintenance, they were replaced once and all four had failed by the spring of 2014.

The third one failed after repairs in 2009 and was replaced with a Unique 13c the following spring. The fourth and last Norcold we will ever own failed after repair while prepping the boat for The Meadows this spring and was replaced immediately with a Unique 10c in the same cabinet. It was decided after the Unique Refrigerator 1summer of 2010, considering the performance and simplicity of the Unique refrigerator, we would go with the off-the-grid design by Unique when the last Norcold reached a point of repair intolerance.

Unique Gas Products is a large but unassuming company with an expansive line of off-the-grid appliance products in freezers, ranges and refrigerators. Download the small PDF files for the various models for specifications. They have units from 2 cubic feet to 18, the largest propane refrigerator in the world.

These units are simple and well made. There are no electronics, circuit boards, thermistors or digital temperature thermostat settings. The main cabinet light is powered through a door switch from a small rack of D-cell batteries.

Temperature control is manual which changes the flame level in the burner box like we have all seen in propane refrigeration. This means that because we have swings in ambient temperatures (night, morning to mid afternoon) remote monitoring is needed. The number of door openings and meal preparations affect this too. We have learned a setting that produces 33-34° over night and 42-45 after dinner on 100°+ days works well. When unused, like away for a few days, it is sub 40° and not freezing. During normal mid 80’s days it hovers around 34-37 degrees all day.

Because we use the Fridge-Fix (another article) circulation device, the flame setting is very low and burns far less propane thanUnique Refrigerator 2 the hard working Norcold units of old. There is only a fraction of the heat generated over the Norcold. Only one inch is recommended clearance at the rear and no fans or baffling is recommended by Unique Tech Support. In fact they have asked me to shutdown the Fan-Tech on the roof that draws air from under the boat through the refrigerator cabinet in the galley. That fan used to run 24/7 during the 5 months in The Meadows. Further, they have asked me to cover the intake air vent from under the boat into the cabinet. That suggestion is still being considered.

Ventilation has been a major priority for RV refrigerators in boats. Cloud 9’s system was designed to make a Norcold happy. Unique’s Tech Support indicates that while the burner box is protected, ventilated air movement around the box can snuff out the flame because it is so low and with low pressure. Cold unit temperatures and low fuel use is a nice problem to have but the 10c had shut down on us several times. It is very quiet now in the back of the cabinet and no shutdowns since the roof fan was turned off.

The Unique 10c fits in the cabinet that housed the Norcold. It is 5-1/2” taller, which was available, and two inches deeper. The width is the same. The increase in capacity is far greater especially in the freezer.

The cost of refrigeration has been high with RV products and repairs. It was considered the fare for being here on the water. With one Unique into summer four with low temperatures and huge capacity plus zero service issues, this appears to have changed. It is for certain now that RV units are not all that are available for our style of boating.

Unique indicated that shipments to California were weekly and our 10c arrived in Elk Grove in a week. The costs are higher, about 10% when comparing an 8c to a Norcold. The 10c is AC/propane and costs closer to 2k delivered. It is worth the price in various ways. The units are not stocked here and there is no real competitive market yet. Kamps’ order was on demand and got their price. There are rebates from Unique while they are pressing for a higher market here on the West Coast.

The Servel, that we have known for years, survives as a museum piece on the Gero’s Meadow Muffin. They have had it for decades in many places including a barn. Servel is now owned by Dometic and the 400 (8c) sells for around $1400. Mike Gero would not sell his for that or any reasonable price.

We do not expect the Unique units to last like the GE household AC units that go on for generations, but it will have long life with little service hassles.

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Reminder: Bubba Fest On Saturday!

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Attention Meadowites–Bubba Fest Flyer CORRECTION

The flyer contains a clerical error.  The festivities will be held on SATURDAY August 30, NOT August 31.  Please don’t show up on Sunday; you will miss all the fun!

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2014 Bubba Fest–Save the Date!


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Helpful Information from Bill Cullen

Shurflo Water Pumps

Many boats in the “Meadows Anchorage” are outfitted with the Shurflo “Extreme” (5.7GPM or 5.9 GPM) Series water pumps. These pumps are no longer available from Shurflo.

The replacement water pump from Shurflo is the Aqua King II Supreme 5.0 Fresh Water Pump. It comes in either 12 volt (13 amps) or 24 volt models, both at @ 55 psi. The 12 Volt Pump Part Number is #SHU 4158-153-E75. These pumps have different fittings than the old pumps. The new pump comes with new 1/2″ female barbed/wingnut fittings. You will likely need new small stainless clamps for intake & discharge connections for a secure fit.

So far the best price including shipping per pump is $206.75 and comes from Wholesale Marine 1-877-388-2628.

Cat’s Meow

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