A few months of hauling ice blocks to cool the fridge got old real fast.
The original system was run by a large 30amp compressor that supported both the refrigerator and freezer cold plate systems. The refrigerator was controlled automatically via a thermostat and the freezer was manually controlled via a 60-minute timer. You could not cool both the refrigerator and freezer at the same time, you had to time running the freezer in between the refrigerator cycles. While this set up worked for the previous owners it would not work for me, both the refrigerator and freezer needed to be automatically controlled.
For about 3-4 months after buying DON’T PANiC the refrigerator ran fine. I didn’t use the freezer too much. On a weekend trip the refrigerator stopped cooling. It was later found that there was no coolant in the line, there was a leak somewhere.
Since the system used R12 and used a lot more power compared to current compressors I was looking to upgrade the system rather than repair. I was hoping to retain the cold plate system but that turned out not to be cost efficient.
After researching options for a while and getting tired of lugging ice blocks I found an installer to do the work. I had though about performing the work myself, but I knew it would take me longer to do and I was tired of hauling ice.
So while I would have liked to keep the cold plate system, I went with an evaporator system by Frigoboat for both units. The refrigerator would be cooled via BD35F compressor and 160F evaporator and the freezer by a BD50F compressor and 200F evaporator.
I removed the old 30amp compressor and cold plates were removed in preparation for the installation. One and a half days later I had a working refrigerator and freezer. The installation went very smoothly without any issues. I know if I had done this it would have taken much longer.
While it was initially not my idea to replace the cold plate system but upgrade it with more environmental friendly refrigerant and efficient compressors, the new evaporator systems definitely appear to cool better than the cold plates did before they stopped working. It may have been age or that they were close to failure, but I’ll never know now.
The refrigerator insulation seems to be very good the compressor doesn’t run too often and I dont see any condensation on the outside. The freezer is not so lucky. The lid isn’t sealed very well, ice forms around the lid opening rather quickly, plus the lid get condensation on it. I updated the seal around the list using 1/8″ and 1/16″ sealant tape, it made a huge improvement on the amount if ice forming inside. As for the lid itself, that will be a weekend project to crack it open and redo the insulation inside.
Over all the upgrade was a huge improvement over the previous system. Each unit is now run by its own compressor and can be run at the same time. The two compressors draw less power combined than the old compressor did, combined they draw about 10-12amps, more than half less than the old compressor. The cooling is very effective so far and with improvements made to the freezer lid it should be even better. The last thing I would like to add is a fan inside each unit to circulate the air inside to balance the temperature better.