How to Choose the Right Boat Refrigeration System

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Choose the Right Boat Refrigeration System

For those who like to spend days on a boat or fishermen who catch big catches on every trip, a traditional ice chest or old cooler might not be enough. Standard or traditional coolers can go with you for keeping drinks and a handful of snacks cold for some hours. However, they can’t handle opening and closing regularly, and won’t cool for a long hot day. If your ice chest is full of lukewarm water then it is time for a more permanent refrigeration solution like a yacht fridge freezer.

Boat Refrigeration Options

Marine Fridge/Freezer

This refrigerator is a look-alike of your DC compressor fridge freezer at home. However, it can be scaled down to be confined in a boat. They are comfortable to install and offer the same convenience as any regular fridge freezer while on a marine trip.


  • Easy to install
  • Able to shift from cooling to freezer temperature (0° F or -18°C)
  • Visually eye-catching


  • Can be a bit expensive
  • Difficult to find a dedicated room to install in a galley area or a cramped cabin

Portable Cooler

This is an electrically powered and self-contained refrigeration system. The easiest method of inserting refrigeration into your boat. Also, it’s an ice chest or cooler with an in-built refrigeration system.


  • Requires no installation, and you can keep it almost anywhere on a boat
  • You can use it in an RV, at home, or anywhere through a power source


  • Portable but heavy; especially the larger capacity models
  • Not every model is capable to go from cooling to freezing temperature (0° F or -18°C)

Icebox Conversion

Adding refrigeration parts to your boat’s in-built icebox, thereby it can be converted into a freezer with a compressor installed an evaporator plate.


  • Doesn’t need additional space
  • One of the most effective boat refrigeration systems
  • Capable of going cooler to freezer temperature (0° F or -18°C)


  • The trickiest form of the refrigeration system to install
  • Requires only experienced “do-it-yourself” professionals

You get three options for icebox conversions:

-Refrigeration System Conversion Kit

A full kit containing:

  • an evaporator,
  • a condenser,
  • piping,
  • refrigerant and
  • thermostatic controls

-Holding Plate System

Resembles a refrigeration system conversion kit. However, it replaces the flimsy evaporator with a more strong cold plate or holding plate. Holding plates are efficient and can reach extremely low temperatures of 0° F (-18°C) or less.

Separate Condenser and Evaporator Units

You play with the condenser and evaporator units to make a tailored refrigeration system conversion kit. 

When selecting an icebox conversion method, you will need to decide whether to choose a water-cooled or an air system. Holding plate systems, conversion kits, and separate condenser and evaporator units are all available as:

  • Air Cooled
  • Water Cooled

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