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Old 07-19-2017, 08:54 PM   #1
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12 Volt Coolers

We have an exterior 12 Volt Outlet in order to use a 12 V Cooler under our awning. We have yet to purchase a 12 V cooler, and were wondering about their effectiveness. Do they cool beverages as well as the refrigerator? How do they compare with a regular ice cooler? What brands are people happy with? Would you buy one again? Thanks
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Old 07-19-2017, 09:00 PM   #2
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I read, too long ago to guarantee the numbers, that these coolers are only capable of cooling something like 36 degrees F below the ambient temperature. So, if it is 90F out, drinks will be 54F. They also suck power, so you'd best be plugged into a power bush.
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Old 07-19-2017, 09:08 PM   #3
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It depends on the cooler. If you're talking about a cooler "style" refrigerator like an Engel that uses a compressor, they cool far better than any RV fridge, even in high ambient temperatures or left in direct sunlight.

If you're talking about a thermoelectric 12 volt cooler like the Coleman Powerchill or similar, they work well indoors. They're designed for use inside a vehicle, where the ambient temperatures are relatively cool. Outdoors they can still work but once the temperature goes above 80F or so, the cooling drops dramatically, as Glenn inferred.

If I wanted to use the exterior 12V plug to power a cooler, I would probably go with a portable refrigerator like an Engel instead. Expensive, but on the plus side it will keep drinks icy cold, free up internal fridge space, and help the internal fridge cool better because you're not opening the door as much.
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Old 07-19-2017, 10:01 PM   #4
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You also need to match the power draw to the power to the 12v outlet. Find out the capacity of the wiring and fuse to the factory 12v outlet and match that to the needs of the cooler.
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Old 07-19-2017, 10:15 PM   #5
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Coolers

A fellow I know had one of the power chill type coolers. His job was to deliver cold potato salad to a large family gathering. The battery went dead, potato salad spoiled, fortunately nobody died because it was obviously spoiled. That's the way I remember the story. If the engine or power bush is supplying adequate power I think they're probably ok, if just stationary the battery would need continual monitoring.
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Old 07-19-2017, 10:26 PM   #6
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We have a compressor based fridge (Engel) in our truck, when we are at camp we plug the fridge in the trailer that has a 12V deep cycle battery (~100-ish amp hours I believe) the last trip across Nevada in ~90F weather the fridge was 33-37F the whole way (setting #1), we use the same battery to charge our phones and tablets. battery was able to keep up, we have a 100W solar panel to charge the battery when we setup base camp, I don't believe the battery was ever below 50% tho. We plan to use this fridge in our Escape too.

the fridge itself has a 10A fuse (verified)
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Old 07-19-2017, 10:50 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by caddoster View Post
We have a compressor based fridge (Engel) in our truck
Not sure if the OP is talking about an Engel at $900 or a Coleman at $149.
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Old 07-19-2017, 10:55 PM   #8
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Not sure if the OP is talking about an Engel at $900 or a Coleman at $149.
Probably the latter, since the word "cooler" was used.
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Old 07-19-2017, 11:25 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by rbryan4 View Post
Probably the latter, since the word "cooler" was used.
Thanks Guys, I'm learning a lot here! I was asking about the less expensive non-compressor coolers and this pretty much confirms why I haven't bought one yet. Things, especially beverages need to be kept 'COLD', and 36-40* F below outside temperatures is not always cold. ThankYou Very Much!
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Old 07-19-2017, 11:42 PM   #10
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We've used an Igloo KoolMate 40 for many years (decades?). Cools (or warms, if you want) on 12V DC or 120V AC. Great for keeping things cold in the vehicle while traveling, in a hotel room, for extra cold storage space inside our old EggCamper, etc. We never left it outside in the heat, so not sure how good it would do there. We've gone through a lot of regular coolers over the years, and our current is the most impressive - a simple little Igloo Island Breeze 28 Roller with telescoping handle. I don't know what Igloo stuffed in the walls, floor and lid of that thing, but it will fit two bags of ice and hold them longer than anything else we've ever had. Regarding other comments above, if you want an outside cooler that will draw lots of amps, I think it would be wise to plug it directly into a 15 amp shore power outlet and keep the load off your trailer's system.
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Old 07-20-2017, 01:46 AM   #11
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Regarding other comments above, if you want an outside cooler that will draw lots of amps, I think it would be wise to plug it directly into a 15 amp shore power outlet and keep the load off your trailer's system.
What's interesting is that the power draw varies greatly from brand to brand. The Engels for example are the most expensive option, but they use a 'swing compressor' that only pulls 1 to 2 amps per hour. Some other brands of compressor based ones draw as much as 6 to 8 amps. The thermoelectric coolers seem to draw an average of about 4 to 6. They tout the swing compressor at Engel because it can be easily run entirely on solar. Seems counterintuitive to me that a compressor fridge would draw less power than a thermoelectric cooler, but in Engel's case, it certainly does.
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Old 07-20-2017, 07:04 AM   #12
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We use an igloo portable 12v cooler. We are in Florida for 4 months in the winter- it is always outside. We mainly keep drinks in it- sometimes a few other things . It runs 24/7 for 4 months, we've had it for 3 years without a problem. Sometimes it ices up a bit and we just unplug for 1/2 hour or so. It seems to keep the drinks pretty much as cold as the fridge regardless of outside temperatures. We always try to keep it out of direct sun.
We also run it in our truck while traveling. We had a Coleman previous to this, but it didn't last as long. I would buy another one without hesitation.
i guess I should add, I wouldn't use it if I was only on battery- we use the 12v cooler when hooked up to electricity.
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Old 07-20-2017, 11:03 AM   #13
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My first electric cooler was a cheaply made one. The cig plug was on the dash so I got a whiff of melting plastic as an early warning. The inline fuse had over heated and melted the holder.

My second unit (different brand) I've had no trouble with, the peak draw seems less, heat wise anyway. Still don't trust it completely but I have stopped watching it like a hawk.
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Old 07-20-2017, 07:22 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by rbryan4 View Post
Seems counterintuitive to me that a compressor fridge would draw less power than a thermoelectric cooler, but in Engel's case, it certainly does.
"Solid state" (for those of us old enough to remember the term) sounds higher-tech, but that means nothing to efficiency. Most of the energy which goes into a thermoelectric cooler is dissipated as heat due to resistance; it has about 1/4 of the efficiency of a compressor-driven appliance.

Engel's products are well-known and may be among the best made of their type, but won't be fundamentally much more efficient than any other brand. Any compressor-based refrigerator should easily beat any thermoelectric cooler. Perhaps even an absorption refrigerator (when it is working ) would beat thermoelectric; they're available in portable cooler form from our friends at Dometic.

If you want to see really poor efficiency, look at thermoelectric generators. Some remote industrial sites use propane-heated thermoelectric junctions to generate power, but they're only about 5% to 8% efficient. Just like the coolers, they are used only where extreme mechanical simplicity is valuable.
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Old 07-20-2017, 07:38 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by rbryan4 View Post
What's interesting is that the power draw varies greatly from brand to brand. The Engels for example are the most expensive option, but they use a 'swing compressor' that only pulls 1 to 2 amps per hour. Some other brands of compressor based ones draw as much as 6 to 8 amps. The thermoelectric coolers seem to draw an average of about 4 to 6.
This might just an inconsistency in specs. A cooler drawing 6 amps when running, but only running 1/6th to 1/3rd of the time, would average 1 to 2 amps (or 1 to 2 amp-hours per hour).

A typical Engel blurb includes
Quote:
Highly efficient, it typically draws around 1 to 2 Amps per hour (check the specs below), about 40% less than a traditional compressor.
This is inexcusable from a manufacturer. "Amps per hour" is nonsensical. Are they saying that it draws 1 to 1 amps when running, or averages 1 to 2 amps (and thus uses 1 to 2 amp-hours of charge per hour elapsed)? An "amp per hour" isn't a measure of any physical quantity other than the rate of change of current flow rate, which certainly isn't what they mean.

The same model's specs say
Quote:
Power Consumption: Variable from 0.7 - 2.8 Amps (12V DC)
which actually makes sense. So it uses almost 3 amps at full speed... in this particular size of portable cooler. That is less peak current than a typical RV refrigerator using the "other" common brand of compressor (Danfoss), but if it has to run all the time it doesn't mean any less energy use.

Anyone comparing compressor-based coolers might be interested in this:
Fridges - Waeco Vs Engel
Essentially it says that Engel coolers with the Sawafuji "swing" (which should be "bounce" - see below) compressor only use less power than Waeco coolers with the Danfoss because the Sawafuji compressor is smaller (less power, less capacity), so the Engel has to run more and no net energy is saved.

Compressor types:
  • Daikin - swing versus scroll compressors (both driven by rotating motors)
  • Engel - Sawafuji Swing Motor (which doesn't rotate, but actually bounces; the motor doesn't swing and is not a swing compressor)
  • Berg - The Science Behind Refrigeration (not about small compressors, but the "Refrigeration Components" page shows various types of compressor, including the piston, rotary, and scroll types that are common in small sizes)
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