BEWARE - CRYSTAL COLD REFRIGERATOR

dogcrazydogcrazy Registered Users Posts: 1
We live 6 months a year totally off grid. We purchased an 18 cu ft Crystal Cold refrigerator from our local supplier who installed our entire solar system. We spent over $2600 on this refrigerator. After using it for only 6 months a year for 3 years, the cooling system failed. We had our local gas repairman come to our property (45 minutes from the city) and he told us the cooling unit wasn't working. Crystal Cold took weeks to get us another cooling unit. I can't even explain all of the communication issues between our local supplier, Kenneth Hofesteader at Crystal Cold and us. It was a nightmare. They finally agreed to send a new cooling unit even though it was under warranty. So then we had to take the refrigerator (very heavy) and transport it to the city to our local gas repairman to fix it - at our time and expense. The new cooling unit was installed and tested and we brought it back to our off grid home in January and didn't turn it on until the first of June when we moved back off grid. Within a few days, we noticed that the food was spoiling prematurely and the freezer was not keeping food frozen. We kept turning up the temperature until it reached the maximum. We then put a thermometer in the fridge and freezer and found the temp in the fridge was 43 and freezer was 25. Should be 38 and 0. We contacted our local distributor and they contacted Kenneth. Kenneth did not get back to us for over 2 weeks. We had to resort to using our smaller gas fridge in another cabin on our property and our electric chest freezer in our pole barn. When Kenneth finally returned our call, he said there was no way the cooling unit could have failed again. He actually didn't believe us. We've owned gas refrigerators for over 30 years and know when they are working and not working. He now wants us to remove all the food, tilt it on it's side and bypass the thermastat which would then make the safety feature inoperable and the gas would continue to run if the pilot light went out. This could be extremely dangerous. We are beyond furious and this is totally unacceptable for a refrigerator that was so expensive. We still have no resolution from Kenneth. We want our money back as we don't every want to deal with an issue like this again. We do not believe we should have to work on a fridge that is still under warranty and failed within the first week after a new cooling unit was installed. We don't know what kind of business they are operating, but we are beyond angry. They have absolutely NO customer service. BEWARE if you are considering a Crystal Cold product. Think long and hard. 

Comments

  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 6,051 ✭✭✭✭✭
    They were great in the 1990's when solar was so expensive. Sorry to hear this. The gas repair man is in the loop also on the repair for crystal cold. Are you sure he is in the clear? Just to be fair!

    I seem to remember having to do the tilt thing for a client but it has been way too many years.

    Crystal is an Amish company in Pennsylvania I think. Good Luck!  I would move on and not let this get to you. Easy said.....
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • JayDeeJayDee Registered Users Posts: 2
    The original post could have been written by me though I do not even know the OP. Almost the same thing happened to me about thirteen years ago....Crystal Cold was very expensive, never did work really well ....so I took it back to the dealer and he attempted to repair it after I trucked it back to his shop  two hours away. Brought it back to my off grid house and still did not work as it should. Finally quit working......would only cool the freezer to 50 degrees..Jumped through all the hoops the dealer said to do.....turning it upside down (burping it ) , leveling it over and over, etc. Finally gave up on it as the warranty had expired. It lasted a little over two years total and never did work correctly. Total junk.
    During all this I wrote to the Chrystal Cold company twice and never even received a courtesy note that they had received my letter. I asked them for some kind of owner's manual or instruction book for this reefer as the dealer didn't provide one. The dealer actually told me i didn't need any instructions.....just read all the little stickers here and there and follow those directions as that was all I needed to know!! NEVER did hear from the Amish manufacturer. Since then that reefer has been setting in my garage being used as a storage cabinet ....that's all it's good for.
    If you are considering a propane fridge, do yourself a favor and re-read the OP's last two sentences and do as he says!!!!!!!


  • 706jim706jim Solar Expert Posts: 439 ✭✭✭✭
    I've used propane fridges for 40 + years. None of the three I owned ever failed, but there's no question that for their size, they are getting very expensive and IMO are quite expensive to run. I think you are better off with a moderately sized solar system and electric fridge. The initial cost will be similar for panels, batteries etc, but the fridge itself will be much cheaper and the solar electricity can be used for other things as a bonus. Propane fridges in Canada have to be externally vented. My last one was and worked faultlessly for 20 years. But then would blow out in high winds. Defrosting is also a necessity with propane; usually at least once a month.

    It's unfortunate that your particular fridge was so problematic. 
    Island cottage solar system with 2400 watts of panels, 1kw facing southeast 1kw facing southwest 400watt ancient Arco's facing south.Trace DR1524 MSW inverter, Outback Flexmax 80 MPPT charge controller 8 Trojan L16's. Insignia 11.5 cubic foot electric fridge. My 28th year.
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
    I have run dozens of propane fridges in of grid locations for 50+ years.  Generally, properly managed they work flawlessly.  I have had one cooling unit failure on a Dometic, and it had been in continuous flame for 27 years when it failed. Adding vent fans, and foam to the boxes reduces the run (burn) time considerably so that they are reasonably cheap to run.

    All that said, if I was building my off grid house again, I would go with a good, small conventional energy star fridge that burns ~1.5 kwh/day.  In the days of $10/watt solar panels it didn’t make sense, but with panels now sub $1, and even less for solar, it becomes a no brainer.  Adding 1.5 kwh of PV is pretty cheap nowadays.  Of course battery considerations have to factor in to the cost as well, but if you have enough solar to charge the bank, and put out the KWHs for the fridge the battery doesn’t have to be up sized that much.

    Conventional fridge is bigger, cools faster and while it may not last as long as my experience with the Dometic they should last a pretty long time...and they cost about 1/3 as much.

    Tony
  • 706jim706jim Solar Expert Posts: 439 ✭✭✭✭
    What finally decided for me to switch to electric refrigeration was the difficulty in hauling propane tanks on a boat. I started with 100 lb bottles, then switched to 60 lb and finally 50 lb. My fridge was a 7.8 cubic foot Consul and it would run for about 40 days on a 50 lb bottle.
    And Canadian Solar panels at only $0.60/watt.
    Island cottage solar system with 2400 watts of panels, 1kw facing southeast 1kw facing southwest 400watt ancient Arco's facing south.Trace DR1524 MSW inverter, Outback Flexmax 80 MPPT charge controller 8 Trojan L16's. Insignia 11.5 cubic foot electric fridge. My 28th year.
  • EstragonEstragon Registered Users Posts: 4,495 ✭✭✭✭✭
    My cabin came with a propane fridge.  It supposedly worked, but between not being vented to outside, and what venting there  looking pretty rotten, I didn't even bother trying to fire it up.   

    LPG in general scares me, as it can settle/concentrate in low spots.  NG floats, and IMHO is more likely to find a way out through a window or whatever, or at least be noticed by someone walking by.

    That said, I can see a case for a propane fridge if a place was used just on weekends.  An electric fridge can move a solar system from minimal to medium sized, which may not make sense for a weekend cabin.  A 20lb BBQ tank would run it on weekends for most of (our - CDN) summer.
    Off-grid.  
    Main daytime system ~4kw panels into 2xMNClassic150 370ah 48v bank 2xOutback 3548 inverter 120v + 240v autotransformer
    Night system ~1kw panels into 1xMNClassic150 700ah 12v bank morningstar 300w inverter
  • softdownsoftdown Solar Expert Posts: 3,509 ✭✭✭✭
    I may suspect improper treatment by the shipping company. I receive many items that got the Tarzan treatment. Some got the mountain gorilla treatment. 
    First Bank:16 180 watt Grape Solar with  FM80 controller and 3648 Inverter....Fullriver 8D AGM solar batteries. Second Bank/MacGyver Special: 10 165(?) watt BP Solar with Renogy MPPT 40A controller/ and Xantrex C-35 PWM controller/ and Morningstar PWM controller...Cotek 24V PSW inverter....forklift and diesel locomotive batteries
  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,436 ✭✭✭✭
    edited August 2019 #9
    I started a new thread on 24” (replacement size from many L/P fridges) please have a look and feel free to comment .

    tony

    PS: (from Bill B.) Here is a link to Tony's new discussion thread for anyone reading this thread down the road.

    https://forum.solar-electric.com/discussion/354915/24-energy-star-fridges#latest
  • HorseflyHorsefly Registered Users Posts: 412 ✭✭✭✭
    We've had LPG refrigerators at our current cabin for over 40 years, and at the previous cabin for years before that. We did have one fail, but it was our second fridge in the basement (pretty much just cold beer), and we didn't replace it.  I don't even know how old the one we have in the kitchen is. It's not big, maybe 15-18 cu ft. We've also never had it vented to the outside, which I've heard is OK as long as it is in a large room (ours is in the upstairs "great room" kitchen / dining / living room).

    I guess I'm surprised there is such problems with a gas fridge. Seems like it is pretty established technology.
    Off-grid cabin: 6 x Canadian Solar CSK-280M PV panels, Schneider XW-MPPT60-150 Charge Controller, Schneider CSW4024 Inverter/Charger, Schneider SCP, 4 x Vmax XTR12-155 12V, 155AH batteries in a 2x2 24V 310AH bank.
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 6,051 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Don't be surprised! The Crystal cold that the OP has here has had many failures in the 2000+ era. It is a good warning for others! They probably will not see until it is too late. :'(
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • NikiNiki Registered Users Posts: 21 ✭✭
    Those absorbshion fridges can be frustrating.  One thing to remember is that liquid ammonia, sink chromate and other chemicals flow down  while a gaseous ammonia blend flows up in the same tubing at the same time.  I think some methods employ propane instead of ammonia but ammonia actually works a bit better as a refrigerant.  If the unit isn’t perfectly level and plumb things don’t work right.  Of course the heat being extracted from inside the box has to be able to leave the rear mounted condenser so free air circulation and a temperature differential are important issues as well.
    now days one can buy a 19 cubic foot electric which uses 375 kWh per year or just over 1 kWh per day for $500 or so, way less than propane 
    and way less finicky, just be sure the fridge you buy has that yellow energy consumption card and read it carefully as 2 very similar fridges can have very different energy specs.  With the really low price of solar modules these days, buying more solar is a good alternative and no worries about ammonia leaks from over pressurization, carbon monoxide issues or expensive propane.  Rock hard Haagen-Dazs was a luxury I did without for my first 25 years off grid.  After another 20 off grid years with a Whirlpool I’m totally in.  Of course the electric compressor isn’t totally silent like gas but I can live with that.  Niki
  • Deveak_KaizenDeveak_Kaizen Registered Users Posts: 31 ✭✭
    Just had mine leak ammonia in my house. Its not even a very old unit. It never worked very well. I suspect they use thin steel pipes to save money. Compared to servels they are a lot lighter. Customer service is a joke, I have contacted them in the past about the poor performance but they never answer the phone or call back. Avoid. 
  • SafariParkEarthSafariParkEarth Registered Users Posts: 3
    I have worked on all these propane refrigerators including Crystal Cold, EZ Freeze, Diamond, Norcold, and Dometic for almost 20 years and Crystal Cold does not have any more problems than any other brand. Yes, they had some problems a while back when they got a bad shipment of the anti-corrosion detergent they use to keep the inside of the pipes from flaking and causing clogs, but all manufacturers have issues some time or another and my understanding is all of those customers were taken care of. I can tell you you paid Waaaay too much for that fridge. You can buy them now for $1875 and I wouldn't hesitate to buy another Crystal Cold. I have several of them in my rentals that have been going 15 years or longer with no problems. You MUST do your maintenance if you want any propane fridge to last. Clean your orifice at least every 6 months. Make sure it is perfectly level front to back. Most people don't ever do this and when the fridge doesn't get cold enough one day they complain. Cooling unit failure usually does not occur for at least a decade in all these brands. 
    Crystal Cold CC18SS, Blizzard BF-18F, Premier P4800W PV BR Solar Controller, Trojan Batteries, Sunstar ST-16RF, Sunstar ST-21F
  • 706jim706jim Solar Expert Posts: 439 ✭✭✭✭
    I suppose there are locations where solar has been deemed impractical. In my case, propane cylinders had to be carted out to an island by boat and it just got harder and harder to do as I aged. Neither the fridges or the gas is cheap. Running from bottled propane my running cost was at least $1.50 per day. If you have 2kw or more PV I would scrap the propane fridge altogether and buy an electric model. 

    From a user that ran a propane fridge from 1958 until 2017.
    Island cottage solar system with 2400 watts of panels, 1kw facing southeast 1kw facing southwest 400watt ancient Arco's facing south.Trace DR1524 MSW inverter, Outback Flexmax 80 MPPT charge controller 8 Trojan L16's. Insignia 11.5 cubic foot electric fridge. My 28th year.
  • srmdc1srmdc1 Registered Users Posts: 2
    Walk off from Crystal Cold
  • srmdc1srmdc1 Registered Users Posts: 2
    I’ve had and bought parts for my Crystal Cold refrigerator for years.  But it’s always been like pulling teeth. Never said anything...tried being civil. But no more. This the worst customer service ever. Even the Chinese offer better customer service. At least they act like they care. Ken Hofsteader simply ignores you. Even if you do get him to respond, be very privileged. You likely won’t get it again. Even if he tells you what to do, or how to order parts, he simply won’t respond. There’s no excuse....he just won’t respond. He told me to send info on the fridge and send pics of the controls. I did that...three months ago! I’ve phoned, left messages, sent more emails and nada! This has been the pattern for the past 8 years, since I purchased my fridge. If your having fridge problems, my advice is abandon your Crystal Cold fridge, take a loss and go to a more customer oriented brand. I truly believe the Amish company Crystal Cold is in no way concerned about customers. Just that simple. So, I’m done. Hopefully I can encourage just one person to either stay away or walk away! DONT WASTE YOUR TIME!
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 6,051 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I would think even without solar running a genset for 3 hours a day to charge batteries, is alot cheaper than using propane refrigerators for offgrid.

    It made sense 15+ years ago to use propane for refrigeration with the idea that it was temporary.

    This is an old issue on this forum with CC.  If you search it you will see we have been warning folks off on this (CC) for over 13 years.

    Good Luck!
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • EmmickEmmick Registered Users Posts: 1
    I have a Crystal Cold 15cf  that I bought in 2000. I use it 4-5 months a year at my cabin on the Mississippi river. It has been great. Getting ready to purchase another one very soon.
  • AlexanderAlexander Registered Users Posts: 1
    I have been a customer  of Crysral Cold since 2014 and have purchased several 18 cu ft propane refrigerators. My first unit had a minor scratch on the freezer door caused during the shipping evidenced by the outside packing material. I reached out to Kenneth owner of Crystal Cold who responded within a couple of days. He said the shipper would be no help to me and Kenneth immediately offered to send me a replacement  freezer door which I replaced within 60 seconds!!! No questions no excuses were stated indicating it wasn't their fault they just wanted me happy with the unit. Thank you Crystal  Cold. Following that experience I continue purchasing other units from Crystal Cold and view  them as a great supplier. Work with Crystal  Cold and do your share as a customer and you'll  have a super solution.  
  • SaggysSaggys Solar Expert Posts: 124 ✭✭
    I have a Unique LP fridge that has been trouble free for 7 years. I recently added a Crystal Cold LP fridge I bought used and it has been trouble free for 6 months. There is bad actors in all products, it is how the company stands behind their product that matters.
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 6,051 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Yes there are bad actors. The problem here with almost all propane refrigeration is that when it fails, and you are offgrid, it is major issue.

    The great part of propane is that it saves $ and time to be sized properly for electric refrigeration offgrid. Propane moves all of that to another day. The bad part is you would have to ship or drive it a long way, and wait weeks + to get a replacement or repair. 

    There also is a huge history of the failures here on the forum and not just in this thread. I think if you planned to replace it down the line, propane is a great start if you can't build a proper charging/storage source at this time. 

    It will bite you one day, your significant other will tire of manual defrost, and electric refrigeration is extremely reliable long term. As long as your eyes are wide open on this, go for it! 
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 9,393 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I'm currently in the process of swapping out a propane fridge, for a compressor fridge, The inefficiencies of propane are driving me to that,
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • SaggysSaggys Solar Expert Posts: 124 ✭✭
    I do admit that manual defrost and the yearly burner and flue cleaning can be tedious. At this time we are not full time living at our off grid residence and you are probably correct that we will move to an electric fridge, but at this time propane is used for heating, cooking and water heating and that is how our ever evolving system design is set up. Used propane fridge market at this time in our area is pretty good, they sell fast.
  • 706jim706jim Solar Expert Posts: 439 ✭✭✭✭
    All propane fridges sold in Canada now have to be vented through an exterior wall. I had one of these for several years 1995 until 2017. It worked fine for most of that time, but towards the end, the burner would blow out if there was wind. Only solution was to disconnect the vent pipes when we weren't there. I figure the airflow must have gradually changed around the building as vegetation grew.

    But my main reason for changing to electric was the cost and inconvenience of hauling gas cylinders on my boat. Started off with 100lb, then 60lb and finally 50lb bottles. And gas cost worked out to nearly $1.50/day.

    One real advantage of the electric fridge is the automatic defrost cycle. Anyone with a propane fridge knows what a pain it is to haul everything out once a month to melt the ice of the cooling fins.

    Surprisingly (to me) I had no problem selling the old fridge. Could easily have had 6 or 7 buyers.


    Island cottage solar system with 2400 watts of panels, 1kw facing southeast 1kw facing southwest 400watt ancient Arco's facing south.Trace DR1524 MSW inverter, Outback Flexmax 80 MPPT charge controller 8 Trojan L16's. Insignia 11.5 cubic foot electric fridge. My 28th year.
  • geosierranevadageosierranevada Registered Users Posts: 42 ✭✭✭
    I have run a Consul propane fridge for 34 years. At first I had to clean the burner and tube at least once a year. About 12 years ago I did some research and figured out I was running the wrong orfice for 6500 ft elevation and purchased the proper one. I have in 12 years cleaned the tube and burner once and never have ice on the cooling fins. The fridge is unvented in a 6' x 8' room with a water heater, water booster pump and a water softener and the fridge keeps the room above 40 ° when it is 0 ° f outside .
    George.        Have a nice day
    Off grid for 18 years. 5KW panels, Trace sw4024, Bergy XL1 wind generator, GB forklift battery.  3 SQF 2 well pump, 12kw back up gen.  Not easy living in the wilderness but it keeps you busy
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