Marine Refrigeration Fit: How to Determine What Size Freezer or Refrigerator is Right for Your Boat or Yacht

A house isn’t truly a home without the right appliances, and your boat isn’t your dream vessel until it’s complete with the best features; meeting your wants and needs.

When looking for a marine refrigeration option for your boat or yacht, the available space on-board, along with your price flexibility and style preferences, will determine what unit will be best for you. Because of the spacing needs of a refrigerator or freezer and their design, finding the right unit is not as easy as taking out a tape measure and selecting the cheapest unit that will fit the space. For marine refrigeration units, purchasing the wrong one or putting it in the wrong place on your boat can cause many problems, from overheating the unit to damaging your boat. Freezers and refrigerators are made to enhance your experience, not take away from it.

At Frigibar, we create fiberglass freezers and refrigerators that are built to last and can accommodate trips from a few hours out on the water with friends in 100+ degree weather to an international trip lasting several weeks or months. While working with builders, captains, refit yards, and individual boat owners, we’ve seen firsthand that one of the biggest obstacles to knowing if a Frigibar will accommodate our customer’s adventures is determining the space they have available to put it. To help you get the most out of your freezer or refrigerator regardless of what option you choose, here are seven important considerations and tips.

How to properly measure the space you have

You can never have too much cold storage space on your boat or yacht. When looking for a freezer to accommodate long trips or a fish box for exciting days where the fish never stop biting, you want the most capacity possible within the space you have available.

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To get an accurate measurement of what size freezer you can comfortably fit in the space you have available, you need to make three measurements: 1. Length (measure on the floor of your boat from one end to the other), 2. Width (measure on the floor from where the back of the unit will rest to where it can safely face forward), and 3. Height (measure from the floor to where the top of the freezer will be, with respect to the lid opening, which we’ll cover later).

Style options

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Depending on the measurements of your available space, an upright freezer (#1) or a bench-style (#2) refrigerator may be more appropriate and convenient. Upright freezers are counter-top height and can leave a small footprint while offering a lot of storage space. If packing full, contents at the bottom may be hard to access. Bench-style freezers are perfect for fitting with custom cushions to double as additional seating. This style is also common among fish boxes and as dock boxes to store equipment.

Refrigerators will most often open in the front, but freezers can feature a top or front opening. To get an accurate measurement to accommodate for the lid, add the width measurement on top of the height measurement to make sure you will have enough room to open the lid.

Lid types and their importance

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Offset lids

An offset lid allows the top of the freezer to open without needing additional space behind it to open. If the unit is fixed into place, you will need a little bit of room to service and clean behind it even though you don’t need room for the backside of the lid.

Non-offset lids

Non-offset lids need additional clearance. Two to three inches of space should allow the freezer lid to open properly without damaging the wall behind it or preventing it from being opened all of the way. This space (2-3 inches) will also give you the proper room needed for airflow, which allows the freezer to properly function.

Exhaust Vent

Placement of the unit’s exhaust vent will determine where it can and can’t be located. An exhaust vent cannot be blocked in any way, such as placed against the wall, resting cushions against it, or using a cover to protect the entire unit without a cut-out for the vents. There needs to be 2-3 inches of space between exhaust vents and anything. Frigibar’s Standard freezer will have a side and rear vent. The Frigibar SW Class units have side vents, and bottom vents under the unit. Your freezer or refrigerator will need proper airflow, meaning if your unit has a vent beneath it, it cannot be placed on AstroTurf or carpet.

Access and Safety

If your freezer/refrigerator is your only access to food on a trip, you want it to be easy to get to while underway from the cabin. For example, fly bridges that don’t have a railing may not be the safest place to get to when you’re on the move.

The cockpit isn’t your only placement option

Typical installations are mostly in the cockpit, but the fly bridge, sundeck, and the bow are also becoming popular places to put a freezer to maximize the space on a boat. Just because you have limited space, does not mean you have to place your unit in the cockpit.

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Keeping it Level

Refrigerators and freezers must remain level during transport and while on your boat or yacht. If placed on a curve, use chalk to mark where the unit has to be stabilized at. If you will need to level off the freezer by raising one side of the box, make sure there is proper clearance to house and open the unit with the increase in height.

Additional Marine Refrigeration Sizing Resources:

Now that you know what will fit the space available on your vessel, it’s time to find the perfect unit that will add value to your yacht and your exciting adventures. We’d be honored if you would consider an American-manufactured Frigibar freezer or refrigerator. Here are our top sellers:

View Frigibar’s full line of products here!