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Old 03-18-2015, 08:18 AM   #1
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Portable AC/DC Refrigerator?

I'm considering buying a portable AC/DC refrigerator. I need your advice.

The refrigerator in my new 21 works pretty well, but it's still an SN-rated refrigerator designed to work satisfactorly up to an ambient temperature of about 89F (if I understand these things correctly). I just spent two days traveling down California and across Arizona with outside temperatures in the low to mid 90's, and the best the refrigerator could do, running on propane, was maintain a temperature of 43F or higher. That's not low enough.

The propane regulator may need adjustment, but I'm starting to think that the design limitations of these specific climate-rated absorption-model refrigerators make it unreasonable to expect them to work acceptably in ambient temperatures above 89F.

Sooooo, i'm considering the purchase of an AC/DC portable refrigerator to provide refrigeration backup while traveling and camping during warm summer months. On the one hand, I don't want to spend the considerable amount of money or have one more thing to haul around, but on the other hand I don't want to throw away perishable food like I did a couple of days ago.

Have any of you bought a portable AC/DC refrigerator for this reason? What has been your experience?

Thanks.
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Old 03-18-2015, 08:52 AM   #2
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I had one a few years back, that was also propane. We did not have any kind of fridge in our tent trailer.

As long as the temps were not too high, it worked fine, in fact it would freeze things in cooler temps. However, when ambient temperatures soared, it could not keep up. I think it suffered the same issues that the ones in the trailers did. It did best on propane (used a quick connect to the trailer), and decent on 120V, but was pathetic on 12V.

This was a top-of the line model, bought with our Coleman trailer, but there may be better ones now. I think having it very well insulated would be key.

I bought an Igloo Sportsman STX 54 quart Cooler early last year, to use as our beer/drink cooler, which sits outside handy for use. That sucker will keep ice with the drinks for an entire long weekend, with no problem. We usually use one block, and one bag of cubes. If we rotate in a lot of warm bottles as others get consumed, we will have lots of cold water too, but still ice cold refreshments. If you were to use it with cold foods, I would bet a block of ice would keep your food cold for a few days. Just another option.

Igloo (and others) also make super insulated coolers, that keep foods cold even longer. No reliance on electrical or propane for cooling.
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Old 03-18-2015, 10:31 AM   #3
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I installed a Norcold AC/DC compressor fridge not because of problems in hot weather, but because I was replacing an ice box and didn't want to make holes in the side of my trailer. I have used it in the hot Southwest desert weather without any issues. We are very satisfied and would do it again.
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Old 03-18-2015, 11:48 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff and Karen View Post
I'm considering buying a portable AC/DC refrigerator. I need your advice.

The refrigerator in my new 21 works pretty well, but it's still an SN-rated refrigerator designed to work satisfactorly up to an ambient temperature of about 89F (if I understand these things correctly). I just spent two days traveling down California and across Arizona with outside temperatures in the low to mid 90's, and the best the refrigerator could do, running on propane, was maintain a temperature of 43F or higher. That's not low enough.
Bummer, was hoping for better with the 2 door fridge.
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Old 03-18-2015, 11:54 AM   #5
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I don't want to rush to judgment because it may be a regulator that needs adjustment. However, the refrigerator is still designed to operate satisfactorily only up to 89F, so even at best it may not be able to keep up in weather warmer than 89F. That's why I'm considering a portable AC/DC refrigerator.
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Old 03-18-2015, 11:59 AM   #6
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In spite of having a fridge in the last three trailers, we've also carried along a Coleman Extreme filled with drinks and ice. There's no way the trailer refrigerator can keep the beer ice cold otherwise! Another trick I've learned over the years when in really hot climes is to drape the cooler with a large water soaked towel, and keep it wet. It helps, of course, to be close to a good water source. The evaporation helps even the Coleman Extreme be that much more efficient.
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Old 03-18-2015, 12:33 PM   #7
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Plusses:
  1. No auxiliary power source.
  2. Portable, cheap, available in many shapes and sizes.
  3. You can make your own ice at home.
Minuses:
  1. Requires some heavy lifting.
  2. If not well secured will tip over and spill inside truck bed.
  3. Can fall out of truck if tailgate not latched.
  4. Access difficult with truck hitched to trailer.
  5. Stays cold only for a few days.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg icechest1.jpg (60.7 KB, 12 views)
File Type: jpg icechest3.jpg (70.4 KB, 11 views)
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Old 03-18-2015, 01:05 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by padlin View Post
Bummer, was hoping for better with the 2 door fridge.
Excellent catch Bob, OP didn't mention and I assumed it was the one door unit (again).

I was also hoping for better results from the two door Dometic.
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Old 03-18-2015, 01:22 PM   #9
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Back to the 12V portable cooler, my recollection of discussion over on FGRV is that these are only capable of cooling X degrees below ambient ( think X was 40 degrees F ). So, when it's 89F outside it will be 49F in the cooler. It will also be chewing up your battery trying to do that inadequate job.
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Old 03-18-2015, 02:11 PM   #10
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I have been using the Dometic (Waeco) CF 35 in my slide-in camper since 2010 and plan to use it to supplement the refrigerator my Escape 21. It has also come in handy without the camper on several occasions. It can be used as either a refrigerator or freezer, and is fairly efficient on power. It's a bit expensive, but I was unable to find any better options back when I purchased this.
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Old 03-18-2015, 03:16 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BCnomad View Post
Excellent catch Bob, OP didn't mention and I assumed it was the one door unit (again).

I was also hoping for better results from the two door Dometic.
Quote:
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Bummer, was hoping for better with the 2 door fridge.

Indeed not the news we were all hoping to hear. If true it pretty sad that Dometic hasn't been able fix the problem.

Just out of curiosity has anyone that has talked to Dometic been told what the issue is or if there is a solution.


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Old 03-18-2015, 03:19 PM   #12
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I don't see where Jeff and Karen has indicated that he has new two-door or old single door. Maybe comments are premature without this info?
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Old 03-18-2015, 03:52 PM   #13
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My refrigerator is the new 2 door model.

Again, I don't want to be too premature about drawing a conclusion. Reace suggested (wisely) that the propane regulator may need adjustment. I'm having it checked and adjusted in a couple of days, and I'll test it in Southern California in two weeks. It's possible that adjustment will make a significant difference. We'll see. I'll report back.

My question was more focused on any experiences members of this forum have had with using portable AC/DC refrigerators to fill in when traveling or camping in weather that exceeds the maximum temperatures their refrigerators were designed for. Since I'm sorta lusting for an Engel (and considering what Engel's cost), I want to be sure I'm making the right decision before I hit BUY on Amazon.
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Old 03-18-2015, 04:13 PM   #14
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The Waeco mentioned by NJ Joe has very good reviews, is that the one you're looking at? Keep in mind it uses 4A.
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Old 03-18-2015, 04:29 PM   #15
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Actually, I'm looking at the Engel 45.
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Old 03-18-2015, 04:41 PM   #16
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Engel units are quite nice, seem to be very popular with the off-roading 4x4 folks. I saw one installed into what had been the back seat area of a very seriously "built" off-road Tacoma a couple of years ago.
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Old 03-18-2015, 04:51 PM   #17
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We've got a Yeti Tundra. Great cooler -- keeps beer and ice for days. Haven't tried it in extreme heat, but I think it would perform well.

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Old 03-18-2015, 04:54 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jim Bennett View Post
I had one a few years back, that was also propane...
That would be an absorption-cycle refrigerator, just like the Dometic in an Escape, but in a different box.

Quote:
Originally Posted by gbaglo View Post
Back to the 12V portable cooler, my recollection of discussion over on FGRV is that these are only capable of cooling X degrees below ambient ( think X was 40 degrees F ). So, when it's 89F outside it will be 49F in the cooler. It will also be chewing up your battery trying to do that inadequate job.
That is probably a reference to thermoelectric (or Peltier-effect) coolers, which are usually not useful replacements for a refrigerator, and are not very efficient.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ericw View Post
I installed a Norcold AC/DC compressor fridge...
Quote:
Originally Posted by NJ Joe View Post
I have been using the Dometic (Waeco) CF 35 ...
These two are compressor-based refrigerators - that is the efficient alternative to absorption which is proven to perform in hot conditions.


"AC/DC" just specifies the types of power sources which can be used, and all three of these types of refrigeration device are available to run on AC and/or DC power.
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Old 03-18-2015, 04:58 PM   #19
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Certainly looks like it'll the job, as you mentioned, pricey, but you might just get what you pay for. Gets good reviews. The only ones I'm familiar are the little $100 12v jobs for inside the car, they work like Glen mentions. This is a much more serious unit.
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Old 03-18-2015, 05:21 PM   #20
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You could try putting four or five gel freezer packs in the freezer overnight. They should freeze well. Then put them into the crisper and into something else in the main compartment during the day to help keep the temperature up. Then back into the freezer at night.

Have we seen photos of your Escape and its refrigerator?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeff and Karen View Post
I'm considering buying a portable AC/DC refrigerator. I need your advice.

The refrigerator in my new 21 works pretty well, but it's still an SN-rated refrigerator designed to work satisfactorly up to an ambient temperature of about 89F (if I understand these things correctly). I just spent two days traveling down California and across Arizona with outside temperatures in the low to mid 90's, and the best the refrigerator could do, running on propane, was maintain a temperature of 43F or higher. That's not low enough.

The propane regulator may need adjustment, but I'm starting to think that the design limitations of these specific climate-rated absorption-model refrigerators make it unreasonable to expect them to work acceptably in ambient temperatures above 89F.

Sooooo, i'm considering the purchase of an AC/DC portable refrigerator to provide refrigeration backup while traveling and camping during warm summer months. On the one hand, I don't want to spend the considerable amount of money or have one more thing to haul around, but on the other hand I don't want to throw away perishable food like I did a couple of days ago.

Have any of you bought a portable AC/DC refrigerator for this reason? What has been your experience?

Thanks.
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