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Old 03-18-2015, 09:18 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, 09:52 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, 11:31 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, 12:48 PM   #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, 12:54 PM   #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, 12:59 PM   #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, 01:33 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, 8 views)
File Type: jpg icechest3.jpg (70.4 KB, 7 views)
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Old 03-18-2015, 02:05 PM   #8
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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, 02:22 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, 03:11 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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