Crystal cold gas frig - consider repairs before buying something

abrockcaabrockca ✭✭✭✭Solar Expert Posts: 72 ✭✭✭✭
When we first went off-grid, we got a Crystal Cold propane frig. At the time, we had 8 Trojan L16 batteries, but just 12 fixed solar panels and were into cutting back wherever we could.

All was fine until its cooling unit recently broke. (Same time that we were replacing faulty batteries in our power system and our car's fuel pump assembly died ... just never fails, does it?) Anyway, to fix the frig we have to take it to a place 5 hours away, leave it for a week, and pay $750.

Since we've expanded our system over the years, we've decided to replace it with a Sears Energy Star model that is rated at 356 KwH per year (yes, we know it varies and no, we won't use the ice maker). It's costing us $1,000, but Sears delivers; they'll come onsite to fix it; it will be brand new.

Anyway, just mentioning this because sometimes, in our quest for energy conserving devices, we get devices that, if broken, are not easy to repair. Well, at least, we did that so consider this a cautionary message! The place did say that once they fixed it, if the cooling unit broke in the future they'd be able to ship us a replacement, but it just wasn't worth it to us.

If you're buying something, find out what happens if it breaks... wish we had!

Anne

Comments

  • Ralph DayRalph Day ✭✭✭✭ Solar Expert Posts: 887 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Crystal cold gas frig - consider repairs before buying something

    Considering the cost of gas to drive 10 hours, the cost of ice to keep cold your perishables while waiting for the repair, the Sears unit sounds like a good idea. \I have a Wood's 18cuft all fridge which still uses just over 500 watthrs per day and it's 2 years old (that's about 220kwhr/yr).

    Finding reliable workable appliances for off grid can be tough. Researching propane ranges on the internet showed hundreds of possibilities, but in Canada there were only about 30 to choose from (Premier Peerless...no glow bars!) Sears front load washer with ''click and clunk'' controls (no led's or push buttons). Simple is better (as I write on my 3rd laptop in 2 weeks).

    Ralph
  • SevenSeven ✭✭ Solar Expert Posts: 292 ✭✭
    Re: Crystal cold gas frig - consider repairs before buying something

    When we consider buying new appliances, the first thing we do is call Earl, the repair guy. That way we can get an idea of what is reliable, easy to fix, and cost effective. He recent advice....buy Whilrpool.

    We have been thinking on long term for every decision we make. Sometimes the wife says I look at too many possibilities, but that is kinda my thing.

    So I completely agree with your "down the road" approach to making purchases.
  • nielniel ✭✭✭✭ Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Crystal cold gas frig - consider repairs before buying something

    what is the cubic footage and model number for that sears frig? i am not aware of a sears model doing that well and almost sounds as if it's a rebranded frigidaire.
  • BB.BB. admin Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 29,629 admin
    Re: Crystal cold gas frig - consider repairs before buying something

    Be careful about Frigidaire brand... Lately (last 5+ years) they have been having a very short service life (on the order of 5 years vs the 15-20+ years one would expect for "white goods").

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • nielniel ✭✭✭✭ Solar Expert Posts: 10,311 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Crystal cold gas frig - consider repairs before buying something

    good to know bill. thanks.
  • solarvicsolarvic ✭✭✭✭ Solar Expert Posts: 1,053 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Crystal cold gas frig - consider repairs before buying something
    Leper wrote: »
    When we consider buying new appliances, the first thing we do is call Earl, the repair guy. That way we can get an idea of what is reliable, easy to fix, and cost effective. He recent advice....buy Whilrpool.

    We have been thinking on long term for every decision we make. Sometimes the wife says I look at too many possibilities, but that is kinda my thing.

    So I completely agree with your "down the road" approach to making purchases.
    When my previous fridge suffered a power surge the repairman told me to get either a whirlpool or sears and make sure it didn,t have a power computer board.. Sears is made by whirlpool. First I looked at a whirlpool model and went to sears and got it $150.00 cheaper for the sears model that was on sale at the time. :Dsolarvic:D
  • icarusicarus ✭✭✭✭ Solar Expert Posts: 5,302 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Crystal cold gas frig - consider repairs before buying something

    One could always put a cooling unit in the Chrystal Cold, takes bout 2 hours nd requires no special tools. (-Asuming they are like Dometics) Changing cooling units on absorption fridges is not hard to do. Not cheap, but they are generally thought to be good fridges.

    T.
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini ✭✭✭✭✭ Solar Expert Posts: 4,750 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Crystal cold gas frig - consider repairs before buying something
    icarus wrote: »
    One could always put a cooling unit in the Chrystal Cold, takes bout 2 hours nd requires no special tools. (-Asuming they are like Dometics) Changing cooling units on absorption fridges is not hard to do. Not cheap, but they are generally thought to be good fridges.

    T.

    Tony,
    Good suggestion if it will work in an 18 cu ft box? I was told that there was a manufacturing defect in the years from 2004 to 2007 that affected quite a few of the Crystals. A product creep that can occur in anything made by man. Take a look at the roof coming off the Southwest 737 from Boeing last month. Funny how these things always happen in groups of three though...
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • icarusicarus ✭✭✭✭ Solar Expert Posts: 5,302 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Crystal cold gas frig - consider repairs before buying something

    I have no first hand experience doing cooling units on CCs, only domentics. Cooling units are pretty model specific, and certainly size specific. I know that there was one manufacturer who was buying conventional fridge shells, and installing generic cooling units in them. (Explorer if memory serves) The problem with them was they were nice big fridges, but the cooling units were way too small for the size of the boxes, so keeping them cold when the ambient temp go high was impossible. The only way we could keep them cold when the temps got above ~75F was to put fans on the condensers, and then to cover the box with quilts.

    In my experience it becomes less cost effective to replace a cooling unit on smaller fridges, as the price of the cooling units nears the replacement cost of a new fridge.

    I have also concluded that the biggest cause of failure in absorption fridges is either running out of level, causing the coolant to over heat and chystalize and plug the circulation. The second biggest failure is in fridges that are turned off and on quite often. The problem seems to be condensation builds up when the fridge cools where the tubes enter the box, in a place you can't see it. This leads to the coolant loop to rust and fail. Fridges that are run 24/7 365 seem to run forever. My neighbour has one that has been running 24/7 for 22 years. The t-stat failed this winter,, $73 and 15 minutes later, it was up and running.

    If you shut your fridge off fairly often, make sure that you try to warm it up, and get it as dry as possible before you leave it.

    Tony
  • abrockcaabrockca ✭✭✭✭ Solar Expert Posts: 72 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Crystal cold gas frig - consider repairs before buying something

    Forgot to set notifications on this thread!

    Great comments, all. I need an "Earl"! Just wish I had thought ahead when I bought it.

    The guy who fixes the Crystal Colds said because of the way they have to blow in the insulation and what not, it wasn't something we could do. Don't know about adding on a cooling box...

    My neighbor who bought a Crystal Cold also had his break; he did the 10 hour round trip drive. His broke a couple years ago and at the time he mentioned the manufacturing defect; don't know if that's what got us or if it was normal wear and tear. Ours was 2005, his was 2004...

    And someone mentioned we must be getting a Fridgidaire; you're right, but because we buy it at the Sears site I call all of their appliances "Sears"... It's model number FGUI2149 . Hope it lasts longer than 5 years!! but at least Sears will come to fix it...

    What are your thoughts on turning off an electric frig at night? Sears said not to do it, could ruin the compressor; we do turn off the little dorm-room type frig we're using in the meantime at night but not as worried about hurting it. For now, we're planning on leaving the frig on 24X7 barring more power issues.

    If anyone knows someone who wants a 2005 Cyrstal Cold box cheap let me know! Only needs $750 of repairs....<smile>
  • techntrektechntrek ✭✭✭ Solar Expert Posts: 1,372 ✭✭✭
    Re: Crystal cold gas frig - consider repairs before buying something

    Turning it off shouldn't damage the compressor. I would be worried about maintaining a safe temperature by morning, but a few nights of tests with a thermometer sitting on the highest shelf would let you know that fairly quickly (or using an indoor/outdoor remote thermometer - lots of RVers use them to monitor the RV fridge from the tow vehicle). You should also leave an ice cube in a cup in the freezer and see if it starts to melt by morning (a trick used by those in hurricane areas if they evacuate, to see if their power was lost for too long).
    4.5 kw APC UPS powered by a Prius, 12 kw Generac, Honda EU3000is
  • abrockcaabrockca ✭✭✭✭ Solar Expert Posts: 72 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Crystal cold gas frig - consider repairs before buying something

    great suggestions re making sure it stays cold enough! thanks!
  • chevensteinchevenstein ✭✭ Solar Expert Posts: 100 ✭✭
    Re: Crystal cold gas frig - consider repairs before buying something

    A note on larger traditional fridges converted to LP, we have a large (19 cu. ft.) Diamond 'convert' and it is quite capable of freezing soda pop on the top shelf of the fridge portion on a hot summer day if turned up too high. I was very worried when we got it that it wouldn't be up to the task in the summer, but am impressed at how well this thing works.
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini ✭✭✭✭✭ Solar Expert Posts: 4,750 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Crystal cold gas frig - consider repairs before buying something

    The Diamond CC's first impressed me down in Baja Mexico in the mid 90's. There are very few that can take that ambient and just do their job. It is sad that they have this problem that hopefully is fixed.

    Boeing still is looking into their little problem that never showed on the old 737's.
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • System2System2 admin Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Crystal cold gas frig - consider repairs before buying something

    Hi,

    I realize this thread is 6 months old, but I was interested to know if there was any resolution to the Crystal Cold units failing as described previously. I have a five year old unit that is doing the same thing. Any response would be welcomed. Please advise.

    Thank you,

    Joe
  • abrockcaabrockca ✭✭✭✭ Solar Expert Posts: 72 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Crystal cold gas frig - consider repairs before buying something

    Hi, Joe H -

    My neighbor had his fixed and it's been working fine; my understanding is that the way the guy in Vallejo fixes it, if it happens again you can just replace the cooling unit; you don't need to take it in to him again, just order the part. But it should last longer than the original cooling unit. Sounds like you got yours in 2006, a year later than we did, but it must have the same flaw.

    We decided to replace ours with an electric frig rather than getting it fixed.

    I did (after a month and a half) hear back from Crystal Cold re finding a place to get ours repaired - they said to call "Kenneth Hostetler at 217.268.3330 and he will get back to you asap" so check with him if you are thinking of getting yours fixed.

    There's no way around it... if you're going to keep using it, you'll need to get it fixed. I was pretty disappointed that such a pricey frig broke after six years (in our case - 5 in yours), but just wasn't willing to get it fixed; wasn't worth the time and money for me.

    I hear that they have fixed the defect, but would be nice to hear what year they fixed it... having a frig go out after 5 or 6 years, when it's so hard to get it repaired, is a bad thing. Hopefully people buying it new this year don't have the same problem.

    Not sure if this helps!

    Anne
  • System2System2 admin Posts: 6,290 admin
    Re: Crystal cold gas frig - consider repairs before buying something

    Anne,

    Thank you for your comments. I purchased the frig from Allan in Vallejo and his tech guys have been very helpful in determining what is wrong, they mentioned that there was a period when the "boilers" were bad and that they have had to replace quite a few. Allan is away until next week so I will have to wait and discuss this with him to see what the resolution is. He is about a ten hour round trip so I am not real excited about getting the frig there, repaired and back. I need to stick with a propane unit, our electricity is almost over subscribed, so I may have to bite the bullet and get it fixed, I hope there is some warranty.

    Thanks again for your comments.

    Joe
  • abrockcaabrockca ✭✭✭✭ Solar Expert Posts: 72 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Crystal cold gas frig - consider repairs before buying something

    Maybe since you got it from Allen he can give you a break on the price; I know for us it was going to be $750. Still, cheaper than expanding your electrical capacity....

    Anne
  • soloronesolorone ✭✭✭ Solar Expert Posts: 254 ✭✭✭
    Re: Crystal cold gas frig - consider repairs before buying something

    I installed the new Crystal Cold back in an afternoon right in the kitchen, maker sends complete directions, and foam, not too much of job for any off grider, really pretty simple:<) most of us have multi skills.
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