Marine Refrigeration Options for Boats and Yachts: What’s Available? 

Finding the best refrigerator or freezer for your boat or yacht can be a surprisingly difficult challenge. Through our over forty-five years in business as a marine refrigeration manufacturer, Frigibar has recognized that the most difficult aspect of finding the right unit is knowing what’s available from manufacturers, and then deciding what type of option will fit your exact needs.

We’ve put together this list of all of your options for marine refrigeration systems broken down by style. We also highlight companies in addition to Frigibar who manufacture marine refrigeration systems.

Regardless of whether you’re building a vessel from scratch, just looking to upgrade your freezer, or refurbishing a historic beauty back to her original state, this guide will outline the different styles and companies in the industry, helping you to find the perfect fit for your vessel.

Styles of Refrigerators and Freezers

There are nine popular styles of marine refrigerator and freezer systems in all different price ranges and of varying finishes. Choosing the style that will best fit your boat is just the first step in finding the right freezer or refrigerator, but a very important one to make before moving on to the next step of the process, which is finding the ideal size and manufacturer.

Bench-Style

A bench-style freezer is one of the most useful types of marine freezers. They conveniently fit in many locations, including the deck or galley, provide significant storage space, and their short stature keeps them from obstructing views. Bench-style units are also common among fish boxes, dock boxes, and ice chests.

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A primary benefit of bench-style freezers is their versatility, as many can be customized to double as a seating option. Frigibar, for example, offers custom cushions as an upgrade to maximize your available seating space.

Bench-style units can range anywhere from 30-80” long and are usually around 20-22” wide and 17”-24” tall. This is the preferred style of freezer at Frigibar due to its versatility, durability, and ease of use.

Upright

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The upright freezers and refrigerators used in our homes are also manufactured for the marine industry. Pictured is an Electrolux upright freezer. Similar to the ones found in our homes, you can also find combination units that are both freezers and refrigerators.

While they bring the comfort of home to your boat, upright units require a location on your vessel with proper height clearance, are typically located in the galley, and are not designed to be moved from one location on your boat to another. They are not recommended for outdoor use on your dock or bow.

Portable

Portable freezers allow greater versatility than other refrigeration options and are among the most inexpensive options. There is a wide variety of portable units in terms of size, price, and quality.

These self-contained units are constructed from durable plastics and there are many styles available. Portable units are easily purchased online and at large marine supply stores like WestMarine.com. Many run off of a traditional outlet plug or a cigarette lighter. A built-in control panel and temperature readouts to make sure your food is kept at a safe temperature are some of the features you may find on higher end portable refrigerator/freezer options.

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Pictured above is a portable Koolatron Krusader, which can be used to both cool and warm drinks and food.

Portable options are convenient for day trips and when in a pinch when a little extra space is needed or for a simple specific purpose — like keeping a couple of packs of beer cold while fishing for a few hours. Depending on the brand and intended purpose, their lifespans, power options and power consumption levels will vary.

Compact/Mini-Fridge

Small and compact refrigeration options are popular for vessels due to the limited amount of space that is available. Compact refrigerators and freezers, also known as a mini-fridge, can weigh around 60 pounds and have mounting options to fix the unit onto your vessel. Pictured below is a Dometic CR-1050, and retails for around $1,000.

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Similar to portable options, mini-fridges have limited space, but can provide a safe and longer term cooling and freezing option than most portable units. If choosing to go with a compact option, purchase a unit intended for a boat, as it will run more efficiently than household units and traditionally last longer because they are built with materials specifically designed to be on a vessel. This option usually provides a refrigerator compartment as the main storage area, with a small freezer compartment at the top of the unit. There are, however, products in this category that come as a full freezer or only a refrigerator to suit your needs.

Wine coolers or wine refrigerators also fit into this category and are of similar size. They are designed specifically for storing wine at optimal temperatures and are a popular option for yacht owners.

Side-by-Side

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Pictured above is a Nova Kool side-by-side refrigerator/freezer. Side-by-side units are often found on houseboats and can be both compact or full size for the galley. They offer more room and versatility than a single compact refrigerator or freezer.

Drawer

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Drawer units are stylish and can be hidden behind an attractive exterior door or paneling. Premium models can provide both refrigeration and freezing options without having to find a large space to place the unit. This option has become increasingly popular and there are many styles of drawer freezer/refrigerators available. The pictured drawer unit is an Isotherm Drawer 65 refrigerator and freezer, and is available at SailorSams.com, which also offers Frigibar freezers.

Conversion Kits

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Conversion kits allow you to turn a standard icebox into a refrigerator or freezer. Pictured above are the Frigibar LectricIceman models (“EVH” left, and “A/E” right). The LectricIceman are DC marine icebox conversion kits and are highly efficient.

When purchasing a conversion kit, pay close attention to the maximum size of box the kit will accommodate and if there is a freezer compartment, which our EVH model does not have but the Frigibar A/E LectricIceman does have. There are a few important factors when converting an existing compartment into a freezer or refrigerator. Making sure the conditions of the space you wish to convert meet important requirements will determine how effective this option is for your vessel. View Frigibar’s conversion kits here.

Drop-In Freezer

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A drop-in freezer is a fully-functioning freezer system that can be “dropped-in” to an existing space fit for the freezer. Pictured above is an Engel top-opening drop-in freezer unit. Dimensions need to be carefully measured before installation and compressor mounting needs to be considered before choosing a unit that will work for your boat. Top opening freezers and refrigerators are more efficient than front opening units since the cold air does not fall out of the unit when the door is open. If you are limited on space and not able to swing open a front-mounted door, this style of top-opening freezer could be a great solution.

Custom

Every boat owner, captain, and crew are unique. To get the most out of your adventures on the water, you may prefer a completely custom marine refrigeration system. Companies like Frigibar have been making custom systems for over 45 years.

The best place to start is by knowing the exact dimensions of the space you have available and what style and material you’d like your custom unit to be. You can then approach builders and manufacturers to get quotes and feedback on what is possible. If considering a DIY project, consult with a certified refrigeration technician to avoid common pitfalls and to make sure you aren’t getting into a time-consuming and costly project you aren’t prepared for.

Pricing/Quality

Ultimately, your decision as to what refrigerator or freezer is best for your vessel will come down to the space you have available, the style of system desired, what you want to use the unit for, and price.

Consider the company you’re purchasing from and their specialized niche. At Frigibar, we’ve focused on marine refrigeration options for the marine industry for over four decades. We know what will function properly on your deck in 100-degree weather out on the ocean and what will best fit your week-long or month-long international voyage or weekend jaunt in the bay.

You should also have a firm grasp on the company’s warranty options and if their units are serviceable by any certified refrigeration technician. At Frigibar we feel the more information you have on the options available, the better decision you will be equipped to make. We are happy to help guide you towards the best solution for your refrigeration needs even if it’s not ours. If you’re looking for additional information and would like to speak with someone directly, Frigibar is here to answer your questions. Call us at 305-757-7697.

Marine Refrigeration Companies

Additional Marine Refrigeration Resources on Your Available Options:

Also watch “What Should I Consider When Looking for a Freezer for My Boat?