Refrigeration is usually the biggest drain on a boat’s power supply – and one quick way to avoid cold air loss (and higher energy use) is to make sure your compartment drain is plugged.
The condensation drain in your compartment box should always be closed when the refrigerator is in everyday operation otherwise the heavier cold air will run out at the bottom to be replaced by lighter warm damp air from the boat bilge.
Double check – are you suffering from refrigeration drain drain?
While you don’t find refrigeration compartment drains on most new boats, it wasn’t so long ago that many boat refrigerators were built with a drain in the bottom or converted from ice boxes with drains that allowed any condensation to drip into the bilge.
So double check your box… there may be an unsuspected drain culprit letting cold air escape your refrigerator and warm air from the bilge to enter the compartment.
Plug it! Some Easy Options
- For a temporary solution, roll duct tape into a ball and lodge it into the drain hole (careful – it may leave a sticky residue).
- For a removable solution, use a wine cork in the drain hole. If it doesn’t fit, trim it down a bit, using a knife.You want a tight fit and enough of the cork protruding that you can remove it.
- Try a rubber stopper or jar lid gripper to keep the cold air in.
So how do you deal the condensation?
Condensation forms in every fridge – even your home refrigeration. It begins when moist warm air enters the box from leakages (seals, drains, etc) and every time you open the door. The moisture in that air will 'condense' and turn to liquid on the coldest surface available to it (which happens to be your evaporator plate).
Dealing with a puddle? Mop it up with a sponge or use a turkey baster or even a small hand pump to suck water from the box and any bits of food or spilled liquids.
Keeping condensation down to a minimum
- Check your door seal. Does is shut securely?If you close the fridge on a piece of paper and can pull it out without a problem, the seal could be too loose or crushed and may need replacing.
- Make sure your fridge temperature isn't too high (too cold); it should be between 32-41°F/0-5°C
- Always close the fridge door as quickly as possible after opening it. Leaving the door open allows warm air to enter and increases the possibility of condensation.
- Install a lift tube with a small fan inside the compartment to improve air circulation and prevent cold spots prone to condensation. (Note: not for spill-over systems)
And keeping the smell down too…
While most importantly you can lose a lot of cold air through an unplugged drain, there is another problem many boaters encounter: yucky fridge smell.
Any little bits of food or spillage can collect in the drain and hose and it is very difficult to properly clean it. And the spillage may pool and start to rot in your otherwise clean and dry bilge. That’s when you will notice those funky smells.
One way to avoid the smells is to create a trap in your drain hose by making a loop in it and holding it together with zip-ties. This creates a water lock so there's no air exchange with the inside of the fridge.
To protect your clean bilge, pull the drain hose out and cut it off before it reaches the bilge. Insert the new shortened end of the hose into a small bucket with a hose-sized hole drilled in the lid (so it doesn't spill when you heal). This will contain the water and smell and is easily removed for emptying. Alternatively, you can pipe the hose into the gray water/shower collection tank.
But for the most foolproof drain smell avoidance method.... Plug It!
And yes, remember to unplug it when…
When you are finished and the compartment is completely dry, Plug It! before putting food back in.