Duncan Kent looks at the options for marine fridges on the market and picks out six of the best for your boating needs
Fridges can use a fair bit of power – some more than others. The most energy efficient 12Vdc fridges are the compressor-driven, top-loading type, with thick insulation and good lid seals. Thermo-electric or absorption fridges are the least efficient and can draw up to 200Ah from your batteries in 24 hours.
Many older yachts have simple cool boxes, basically a poorly insulated box with an ill-fitting lid, but they can often be upgraded using an easily available fridge conversion kit, especially those that allow the compressor to be mounted remotely.
Top-entry fridges are ideal for sailing yachts as their contents won’t fall out if opened when heeled. They also retain the cold inside when you open the lid, like a domestic freezer.
As with top-loaders, drawer-style fridges help prevent cold air escaping when opened and keep their contents safe when heeled. They also avoid the need to
empty half the fridge out to reach items at the bottom.
Some install domestic 220Vac fridges to save money at purchase against a good quality DC marine fridge. All are front opening, though, and require an inverter to be running permanently when away from your berth, greatly diminishing any savings made.
Commonly, marine fridges have air-cooled condensers, sometimes fan-assisted, which vent into the cabin. Fine in a UK winter, but not in hotter climes so venting them outside will improve efficiency and reduce the cabin temperature. Bluewater cruisers are better off installing a water-cooled condenser, which usually has a bronze cooler plate fixed to the hull underwater.
Best top-opening Marine fridges
ISOTHERM CRUISE 41L
The Isotherm 1410G Cruise is a well-insulated, 41-litre fridge box with a stainless- steel wall liner, a single wire basket and a well-sealed and insulated lid.
It comes with a fan-cooled compressor that can be mounted on the side of the box or remotely within 1.5m of it, making it ideal for retrofitting into an existing cool box area. Clever gas pipe couplings with integral valves enable easy DIY installation and ensure no gas is lost during the process.
Featuring dual fridge and freezer control systems, the fridge is said to draw only 270Wh over a 24hr period and can be set, via the manual thermostat supplied, to operate within a temperature range of between +10° to -10°C.
Buy it now from Cactusnav
DOMETIC COOLMATIC CB40W
The Coolmatic CB40 is a ‘ready to instal’ 40l capacity fridge with a sealed and insulated lid and single wire basket.
The air-cooled, compressor-driven chiller unit features the ubiquitous, low-power Danfoss BD35F compressor with integrated low voltage protection, electronic fuse and automatic polarity protection. The chiller can either be attached to the bottom of the fridge box or remotely within 1.5m of it using integral valve gas pipe couplings.
With a range of cooling from +10°C to -12°C, it comes with a simple to use, built-in manual thermostat.
Buy it now from Dometic
Available with or without remote couplings for water cooling and with a self-sensing 12/24Vdc compressor, this 43l top-loading fridge box is designed to insert into the existing cool box cavity on a small to medium sized yacht.
The compressor cooling unit can be attached to the box or mounted remotely within 1.4m away and a mechanical thermostat controls the temperature between +10°C to -10°C. The smooth, injection-moulded plastic inner lining also has a small compartment for making ice cubes.
Power consumption is quite miserly at 45W, which at 12V over a 24hr period should only draw around 30-40Ah, depending on the ambient temperature.
Buy it now from Vitrifrigo
Best front opening marine fridges
On medium to large cruising yachts, it’s often nice to have both top-, and front- opening fridges, the latter often being reserved for use when static.
ISOTHERM CRUISE ELEGANCE
Designed to offer flexibility and efficiency in mobile environments, Isotherm’s Cruise Elegance front-opening fridge comes as standard with smart, brushed aluminium doors that are two inches thick, thereby providing ample insulation where it is most needed.
Unlike most top loaders, this fridge also sports a magnetically sealed freezer compartment for making ice and keeping a limited amount of frozen food in top condition, avoiding the cold air leaking into the general fridge area and icing it up.
As with a domestic fridge, there is space to store tall bottles upright in the door itself. Available in 49l, 65l and 85l capacities.
RRP from: £890
Buy it now from Marine Superstore
KIRAVANS DC50 50L
For those willing to sacrifice a few features to save money, this 50l budget fridge is primarily designed for the caravan/camper market but is equally suitable for small boats.
The main downside being the compressor is permanently attached to the unit and cannot be located remotely, but it fits into the overall box shape so installation shouldn’t be problematic.
The thermostatic controls are almost identical to the more expensive marine models, as are the power requirements (45W @ 12/24V), and they are said to run almost as efficiently.
There’s plenty of room inside for provisions, although no salad box. It also has a large icebox at the top, albeit not double-skinned and sealed like some.
RRP from: £525
Buy it now from kiravans
Best drawer type marine fridges
Drawer-style fridges are not only a great space-saving idea, but they also make finding items much easier than delving into the depths of a top-loader. They can be an expensive option for general use, however.
The Ocean range of stainless-steel drawer fridges and freezers from Vitrifrigo are elegantly designed with an aesthetically pleasing, brush steel finish.
The DW35 (35l) single drawer fridge or freezer is the latest addition to the range and is ideally sized for a small sailing yacht’s galley. It has a meagre 35W power consumption with autosensing for either 12Vdc or 24Vdc power supplies, plus LED indicated thermostatic control.
They are available in volumes ranging from 35-300 litres, with or without integral iceboxes and a choice of water-, or air-cooled condensers. They also come with a magnetic catch plus a secure latch to prevent them accidentally opening at sea.
RRP from: £1,332
Buy it now from Vitrifrigo