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Old 11-06-2020, 05:06 PM   #1
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5.0 compressor fridge & solar

Hey all, my first post, but long time stalker...

I have a 5.0 on order and am trying to figure out my refrigerator options (other than the default DOMETIC DM 2683). My thought is that a compressor refrigerator (https://www.novakool.com/rfu9000-1) will allow for 9.1 cu.ft. storage and also be more energy efficient. Yes, it has comparable dims and will fit in the space. At 2-5amps running, a two solar panel and two lithium battery option should be plenty of juice to run that fridge along with lighting. Also, with the lithium you can power the batteries with your alternator while driving, if needed.

It sounds like this refrigerator is something ETI want's to offer, but there are supply issues. I also think that they may be able to retro fit that space so I can purchase the fridge myself and install.

I guess I don't have a direct question, more just a sanity check. I know it's not the cheapest way to go about it, but it seems like the greenest. I like the idea of the trailer being self sufficient if left boondocked for extended periods.

Cheers!
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Old 11-06-2020, 06:21 PM   #2
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I have always had great cooling with the absorption units and they are a tried and proven system.
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Old 11-06-2020, 08:18 PM   #3
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I run two different brands of chest style 12 volt compressor fridges/freezer to get our food to the cabin. They work great! You set a temperature and that is were it stays...rock solid.

However neither one would I want to sleep with. The compressor cycling on and off is very noticeable. Not sure that a built in fridge style is going to be much better. Maybe suitable in a 35 foot trailer that has the fridge in the rear and a closed off front bedroom. In a 19 your head can be only 1 foot away.

I would personally want to hear one operating in a the trailer of your choice before I committed. Much harder to change out to a propane unit in the future.
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Old 11-07-2020, 01:51 AM   #4
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We put the Nova Kool compressor fridge into our 17B this summer, with no regrets. In fact, to help with my decision making, I visited the Nova Kool factory in Coquitlam, BC, about 45 minutes west of ETI. While there, I was told they were sending multiple skids of compressor fridges to Winnebago for their units. Not sure why ETI would consider this a supply issue.
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Old 11-07-2020, 05:31 AM   #5
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My T@da had dual 12v refers that hummed while operating, I was okay but Noelia is a light sleeper. The absorption units are a lot more quiet.
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Old 11-07-2020, 10:47 AM   #6
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Just a minor point on the Novacool 9000 series. The 2.5 amps is at 24V. The rest of your trailer runs on 12V, and while it is possible to set up the batteries & refrigerator at 24V, you would need to add a DC to DC converter to un the rest of the 12V appliances & lights.

Since the refrigerators are rated at 5 amps @ 12V, I don't see the advantage of going with 24V unless you also include a 24V inverter.

In either case, since the standard duty cycle stated for most compressor refrigerators is 50%, expect to use around 60 amp hours per 24 hour day for the refrigerator. As long as the rest of your amp hour usage is reasonable, a pair of 190 watt panels would likely keep up, at least when they are in direct sunlight. Personally, I'd add at least one more battery, particularly if you park in the shade, winter camp, or don't have an additional portable panel that can make up for insufficient light on the rooftop panels.
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Old 11-07-2020, 11:33 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Tworainy View Post
We put the Nova Kool compressor fridge into our 17B this summer, with no regrets. In fact, to help with my decision making, I visited the Nova Kool factory in Coquitlam, BC, about 45 minutes west of ETI. While there, I was told they were sending multiple skids of compressor fridges to Winnebago for their units. Not sure why ETI would consider this a supply issue.
Which model did you install? Is the fridge noticeably loud in the 17B?
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Old 11-07-2020, 11:43 AM   #8
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Just a minor point on the Novacool 9000 series. The 2.5 amps is at 24V. The rest of your trailer runs on 12V, and while it is possible to set up the batteries & refrigerator at 24V, you would need to add a DC to DC converter to un the rest of the 12V appliances & lights.

Since the refrigerators are rated at 5 amps @ 12V, I don't see the advantage of going with 24V unless you also include a 24V inverter.

In either case, since the standard duty cycle stated for most compressor refrigerators is 50%, expect to use around 60 amp hours per 24 hour day for the refrigerator. As long as the rest of your amp hour usage is reasonable, a pair of 190 watt panels would likely keep up, at least when they are in direct sunlight. Personally, I'd add at least one more battery, particularly if you park in the shade, winter camp, or don't have an additional portable panel that can make up for insufficient light on the rooftop panels.
I'm not setting up a 24v system. 2-3 lithium batteries at 12v. I don't believe compressor refrigerators run constantly, but based on the on/off cycle of where the temperature is set. So will it may pull 5amps at max that won't be 24/7. Two solar panels need to run at about 15-20% to cover that fridge usage. Maybe l missing something?
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Old 11-07-2020, 11:48 AM   #9
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I have always had great cooling with the absorption units and they are a tried and proven system.
Thanks for the input. We live in the PNW area and go over or are at elevation when camping. I heard that the gas may have issues at incline or elevation. Do you have any experience with that?
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Old 11-07-2020, 12:44 PM   #10
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Have not had any refer issues since 2016 models were released, earlier I did in 2012 and 2014 models.
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Old 11-07-2020, 02:37 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by DaveBukacek View Post
I'm not setting up a 24v system. 2-3 lithium batteries at 12v. I don't believe compressor refrigerators run constantly, but based on the on/off cycle of where the temperature is set. So will it may pull 5amps at max that won't be 24/7. Two solar panels need to run at about 15-20% to cover that fridge usage. Maybe l missing something?
You might find interest in the data sheets available on Nova Kool's website. We can see from the RFU9000 part list that it uses the BD35F compressor unit, and then refer to the datasheet for that unit.

Nova Kool's run an electronics package that provides for variable-speed compressor operation and thereby variable amps/watts demand. The data sheet for the BD35F compressor used in the RFU9000 shows than range to be 1.51 to 6.85 amps @ 12volts and 19.0 to 82.2 watts, when the compressor is running.

Obviously what you experience at any given moment and over any given period of time or day (in terms of both 'run time' and compressor rpm) is going to depend on a number of factors including outside ambient (cabinet heat-loss and condenser efficiency), interior thermostat setting, door opening, temperature of things you put in the reefer, etc, etc.

You can set up a spreadsheet and 'play' with various run-time and compressor speed assumptions. Based on reading a number of (largely marine) forums seeking info on these units IMO Jon Vermilye is not far-off in 'guestimating' ~50% daily average run time for warm weather camping, even a bit more if hot; and my reading suggests that much of the will be at the upper-end of the compressor speed range. The daily amps / watts can add-up in a hurry and are not insignificant.

I've posted lots on this forum expressing great interest in the Nova Kool refrigerators. Though I've had very good service (knock on wood) with the smaller Dometic adsorption unit in my 15YO Casita, I'm drawn to the Nova Kool units for several reasons. BUT, as I study the situation, I'm also realizing that to have ASSURED refrigeration in my future 5.0 I estimate I'll need, above the components that I will otherwise need to meet my anticipated electrical demands:
  • A third lithium battery
  • A third PV panel
  • A mechanism for tilting panels to optimize harvest potential outside of the summer season (accommodate low sun-angles).
OR
  • capability and willingness to occasionally supplement the battery/solar system with a generator or relocate the campsite to a place where shore power is available

Obviously YMMV depending on your anticipated other electric demands and the camping habits you want to have the flexibility to enjoy.

Refrigeration, unlike a microwave or most other power-consuming devices, doesn't lend to 'temporarily opting out' in response to a shortfall of electricity; there's no practical 'fall-back' when our refrigeration is totally dependent on electricity.

For me at least, as much as I'd love to try the Nova Kool experience in my future 5.0, I'm still unconvinced that it's the most prudent choice for me and my camping aspirations. I can't escape () the fact that my own long experience with an adsorption 3-way refrigerator has never left me worrying about or wanting for the energy source needed to keep it running without resorting to a generator or moving to a shore-power connection. Push-come-to-shove it's inevitably possible to drive the TV a bit and refill the propane bottle(s) while the trailer remains 'boondocked' (admitting I've never boondocked in one place long enough to make that special-trip necessary).

All just to suggest that you think very carefully about the pros, cons, and implications of the commitment to a single-energy-source refrigeration system.

Good luck with your decision making - I'm still short of a final conclusion insofar as mine.

EDIT to add that Jon Vermilye's Blog has been an invaluable resource for me. While his equipment, electrical demands, and camping habits are not identical to mine, he provides such thorough context that IMO it's quite possible to 'extrapolate' his real-world experience for my own expectations and assumptions. I learn more every time I go back and read his 'real-world' text after getting more 'technical' information under my belt from other resources. Highly recommended reading
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Old 11-07-2020, 03:14 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by DaveBukacek View Post
I'm not setting up a 24v system. 2-3 lithium batteries at 12v. I don't believe compressor refrigerators run constantly, but based on the on/off cycle of where the temperature is set. So will it may pull 5amps at max that won't be 24/7. Two solar panels need to run at about 15-20% to cover that fridge usage. Maybe l missing something?
A continuous 5 amp draw would consume 120 amp hours per day. I used the 60 amp hour per day figure using a 50% run time.

As to the solar, 380 watts will certainly supply enough to run the refrigerator, however my concern is if a string of 4-5 cloudy days will overwhelm the battery storage. With 480 watts of panels tilted rather than flat, I've seen as little as 10 amp hours to as much as 106 amp hours collected per day. I have a pair of 100 amp hour lithium batteries. A couple of 10 - 20 amp hour days in a row can hurt.

Here is a graph of the solar output during the month of December in Quartzsite, AZ. Ignore the first 9 days - I was on hookups. Again, this was with a pair of rooftop 160 watt panels tilted to the proper angle for mid winter sun in Quartzsite, and a portable 160 watt panel that I moved 2-3 times per day chasing the sun. To convert to amp hours, divide the Watt hours by 14 (a more realistic voltage that 12V for lithium batteries).

The white portion of the graph shows bulk charging, the light blue narrow band absorption, and the dark blue float. Obviously, if the batteries were lower, there would have been more time in bulk & less in float, resulting in more amp hours harvested, but there was more than one day that the system never got out of bulk, resulting in a drop in the stored energy in the batteries.

If I had to depend on stored electrical energy to run my refrigerator, did not carry a generator, and dry camped for extended periods of time, I'd prefer 300 - 400 amp hours of lithium storage.
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Old 11-07-2020, 04:52 PM   #13
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Thanks so much for your in depth responses. It's is very helpful!

Overall it sounds like the Domestic absorption fridge works well and is quiet. The compressor has many advantages but running it solely on batteries may have some downsides with only 2 panels and 2 lithium batteries.
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Old 11-09-2020, 03:43 PM   #14
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Dave - If you don't mind me asking, where did you get the indication that ETI is 'this refrigerator is something ETI want's to offer, but there are supply issues'?

I am in a similar position (E5.0, delivery in late May 2020, build finalization date around Feb 15)- and had suggested Nova Kool RFU9000 to their design team earlier. But, what my sales person is saying that all they have to offer this point is Norcold DC558 compressor fridge in all trailers except the 17’ Escape. If there is flexibility / further thinking on their part, they are not giving any indication of that to me.

To me, the stiff investment in Lithium batteries (300-400Ah, like Vermilye suggested) only makes sense if one is getting something like RFU 9000 or one size less. It surely doesn't make any sense with the 5.5 cf Domestic refrigerator...

Thanks!
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Old 11-09-2020, 04:39 PM   #15
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Dave - If you don't mind me asking, where did you get the indication that ETI is 'this refrigerator is something ETI want's to offer, but there are supply issues'?

I am in a similar position (E5.0, delivery in late May 2020, build finalization date around Feb 15)- and had suggested Nova Kool RFU9000 to their design team earlier. But, what my sales person is saying that all they have to offer this point is Norcold DC558 compressor fridge in all trailers except the 17 Escape. If there is flexibility / further thinking on their part, they are not giving any indication of that to me.

To me, the stiff investment in Lithium batteries (300-400Ah, like Vermilye suggested) only makes sense if one is getting something like RFU 9000 or one size less. It surely doesn't make any sense with the 5.5 cf Domestic refrigerator...

Thanks!
I had a conversation with my build lead at ETI. I proposed a few different fridge choices other than the Domestic. She stated that there are some like the NovaKool that they would like to make as an option, but are not there yet. They said there is an issue with supply for NovaKool. Which I am assuming NovaKool doesn't have the capacity at this time to take on a new vendor. I am able to get this fridge via 3party though. I am also in the manufacturing sector and supply can be an issue with covid, there's a ripple effect on parts.

However, ETI said they would look into retro fitting the fridge space such that I could fit the NovaKool RFU9000 into it and remove the propane line and what not. They have not confirmed this, so please don't take it as their new policy. My idea was to have them retro fit the area and I would have the fridge shipped to me to install. The wife is an electrician so there's no problem if I need to get creative. ETI will not accept delivers of a 3rd party fridge for good reason. It would be a nice option that ETI could offer for the time being and I said I have no problems being the test subject.

I think that given all the input we will most likely stick with the Domestic fridge. The newer models seem to work just fine and it will reduce some battery stress.
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Old 11-09-2020, 05:00 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by DaveBukacek View Post
I had a conversation with my build lead at ETI. I proposed a few different fridge choices other than the Domestic. She stated that there are some like the NovaKool that they would like to make as an option, but are not there yet. They said there is an issue with supply for NovaKool. Which I am assuming NovaKool doesn't have the capacity at this time to take on a new vendor. I am able to get this fridge via 3party though. I am also in the manufacturing sector and supply can be an issue with covid, there's a ripple effect on parts.

However, ETI said they would look into retro fitting the fridge space such that I could fit the NovaKool RFU9000 into it and remove the propane line and what not. They have not confirmed this, so please don't take it as their new policy. My idea was to have them retro fit the area and I would have the fridge shipped to me to install. The wife is an electrician so there's no problem if I need to get creative. ETI will not accept delivers of a 3rd party fridge for good reason. It would be a nice option that ETI could offer for the time being and I said I have no problems being the test subject.

I think that given all the input we will most likely stick with the Domestic fridge. The newer models seem to work just fine and it will reduce some battery stress.
Thank you very much, Dave! I am just trying to understand the situation and not taking your post as the ETI policy or offer to the customers.

We are not in a position to install the fridge ourselves but are in a position to afford ETI or a third party to do that for us. Also, RFU 9000 might require removal of doors to be fitted into the door.

The decision on the fridge and batteries is, however, intertwined in mind. That's why I am trying to gather as much information as possible.
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Old 11-09-2020, 05:42 PM   #17
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Today was the final acceptance day on our 5.0TA build, and I vacillated for a couple months over the refer. Standard absorption refers were in our last two RV trailers, for us, worked flawlessly. What made our decision to stay with the absorption was how,where and when we camp. We estimate that we have full hookups a third of the time, so life is good there. Taking advantage of national/state parks, national forests, and BLM locations, we generally seek out a shady location for the comfort, inside and out. The style of our camping as well as cloudy days simply is not conducive for us to operate a DC powered fridge. One solar panel with a portable 100w solar charging one lithium should keep the lights on for us. . . Matt
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Old 11-09-2020, 09:11 PM   #18
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I recently installed solar and lithium batteries. On our last camping trip two weeks ago, I did a few more tests with the new system that included running the fridge off of DC only. Fridge was already cold when I started but didn't have any issues. Left it on in DC mode for the 2 hour trip home and was still cold upon arrival. Am currently knocking out the top step mod, but will make a video of the electrical system within the next two weeks. Tested the A/C for several days off of batteries (through the inverter) only. Will do the fridge and A/C running off of batteries and solar for something longer than a week shortly.
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Old 11-11-2020, 08:53 PM   #19
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Originally Posted by DaveBukacek View Post
Hey all, my first post, but long time stalker...

I have a 5.0 on order and am trying to figure out my refrigerator options (other than the default DOMETIC DM 2683). My thought is that a compressor refrigerator (https://www.novakool.com/rfu9000-1) will allow for 9.1 cu.ft. storage and also be more energy efficient. Yes, it has comparable dims and will fit in the space. At 2-5amps running, a two solar panel and two lithium battery option should be plenty of juice to run that fridge along with lighting. Also, with the lithium you can power the batteries with your alternator while driving, if needed.

It sounds like this refrigerator is something ETI want's to offer, but there are supply issues. I also think that they may be able to retro fit that space so I can purchase the fridge myself and install.

I guess I don't have a direct question, more just a sanity check. I know it's not the cheapest way to go about it, but it seems like the greenest. I like the idea of the trailer being self sufficient if left boondocked for extended periods.

Cheers!
We have a 2019 E19, we opted to go with the Novakool compressor fridge. While the 9 cu ft model would fit the cabinets, it wouldn't fit the door unless you removed the door casing, so we opted for a similair model but 7 cu ft. *we installed ourselves(. We also added 4x100A Battleborn Lithium batteries.
The noise of the compressor coming on and off is very minor, at least for my wife and myself. We really like the fridge. Completely effortless, and if you are in the camp where you don't want to run your absorption fridge while towing, this solves that problem
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Old 11-13-2020, 12:27 AM   #20
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We have a 2019 so obviously we have the absorption fridge. One thing we were able to do last year on our travels was to carry a couple of plastic 1 liter bottles with us which we would ask to place in the freezer whenever we were in a campground with power, By the time we left we would have two rock solid chunks of ice and leave one in the freezer and one in the top shelf of the fridge for our road trips, worked great even over a couple of day trip (obviously when we stopped at night we would turn the propane on which would at least partially refreeze the bottles). Our frozen goods would stay frozen and the stuff in the fridge was nice and cold. When we were out for longer boondocking stretches, I carry an extra bottle of propane although we never used it. I personally love the fridge in the trailer, it's quiet and runs really well!
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