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Old 12-30-2022, 08:26 PM   #1
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Shake-down cruise with a Norcold compressor fridge

In a previous thread I described the installation of my Norcold compressor refrigerator. I followed with the results of a two-week "static run" of the fridge while it was sitting at home during the last half of November. Now I have more results, which are distinctly different from those of my two-week static trial.

I visited relatives in the Orlando area over Christmas. This is about 500 miles from my home. I left on Wednesday, December 21 and returned home on the following Wednesday, the 28th. I took the trailer to give it a test run with my new compressor refrigerator.

Initial conditions:

- 400 Ah of lithium batteries, charged to about 83% when I left home.
- 30A B2B charger in trailer, connected to my tow vehicle's battery with about fifty feet of AWG 6 wire.
- 355W of rooftop solar panels.

My drive down was on an overcast, misty day, limiting the input from the panels. When I arrived my B2B charger had charged the batteries to only 94% or so. My parking spot had a clear view of the sun for the critical period of 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and beyond. My location was at 28.6 degrees north.

On the downside, I drove down on the winter solstice, so the sun was low in the sky and nights were long. Orlando had the cold weather the rest of the country had while I was there but no precip. Two nights dropped below freezing. Some days were sunny and some were not. My furnace ran constantly while I was in the trailer. And I am a power hog: I watched little TV but I used my MacBook Air almost constantly when I was in the trailer, and I used my microwave once or twice a day.

The results were a bit sobering. My batteries never charged to 100% during my stay in Orlando. They would charge during the day but discharge a bit more at night, showing a gradual decrease during the week. On Christmas morning, for instance, my batteries were at 52% and charged to only 57% during the day. The next morning they were at 47%. The previous day I deployed a 200W portable solar panel, something I guess I should have done at the beginning of my stay. The morning I departed for home the batteries were at 52%. It was sunny on the drive home, and when I arrived they were at 71%.
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Old 12-31-2022, 09:34 AM   #2
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Sometimes reality is quite different than what was expected....
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Old 12-31-2022, 10:19 AM   #3
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Mike, thanks for sharing your 'real world' experience. Key points I gleaned ....
  • 8 days of off-grid travel
  • during shortest daylight / lowest sun-angle winter solstice with mixed overcast
  • fairly heavy furnace use
  • other electrical use normal to your camping style
  • your batteries were never discharged to a dangerously low level
All-and-all that sounds pretty good to me; IMO the experience suggests quite favorable performance can be expected for 3-season off-grid camping.
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Old 12-31-2022, 11:07 AM   #4
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Thanks for the update Mike.
Two things to add is that Mike was the single user in the trailer and his batteries are reasonably new.
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Old 12-31-2022, 12:38 PM   #5
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If you had to keep going with that pattern for a longer duration, it sounds like you might need to get a campsite with hookups about once every couple of weeks and get a full charge. But I think your experience was somewhat of an "outlier" situation since so many factors worked against your panels.


Shoot, I really need a relative in Florida to visit... that would be sweet!
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Old 12-31-2022, 01:35 PM   #6
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B2B charger performance

The Orlando trip and the few other short trips I've taken in my Escape are anomalies. Usually I'm in the trailer for weeks or months at a time. My usual routine is:

- camp for a week or so
- drive 300 miles / six hours to next location
- camp for a week or so, etc.

So I was hoping that the B2B charger would top off my batteries as I drive. This hasn't turned out to be the case and I don't know why. I thought 30A x six hours = 180 amp-hours of charge. I'm not getting near this. The thing does work-- when the truck is idling I can see the batteries are charging at a rate of about 13 amps. Someone familiar with B2B chargers please educate me on what's going on.
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Old 12-31-2022, 04:10 PM   #7
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All things considered, do you regret getting the compressor fridge?? I’ve seen lots of folks rave about them, but I’m not sure what makes them superior to the standard fridge that runs on propane. Reliability maybe?? Energy consumption while boondocking seems like a huge disadvantage, even with lithium batteries, but I’m curious about your thoughts, and those of any others who have one.
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Old 12-31-2022, 04:23 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Lewis View Post
...
The thing does work-- when the truck is idling I can see the batteries are charging at a rate of about 13 amps. Someone familiar with B2B chargers please educate me on what's going on.
A couple of questions if I may...
What is the charging rate at normal driving speed? (Can someone watch the amp meter while someone else runs the engine at 2000 rpm in neutral?)
What is the voltage at the battery terminals at the above 2000 rpm? (Hopefully the Lithium standard of 14.4-14.8.)
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Old 12-31-2022, 07:34 PM   #9
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I will try to figure out how to record this info while running the Taco's engine at 2000 rpm.



The B2B charger is a Sterling Power BB-1230. It seems to have a good rep. There was a configuration option for lithium batteries which I used. I found configuration to be tricky though, and I might have made a mistake.
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Old 12-31-2022, 10:07 PM   #10
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The flip side..............

How did the fridge perform?

As you seem to be in a "hot" state, as am I, I'll be interested to hear about the compressor fridge performance in the upcoming 100F brutal sun summer weather..........

And yes, I have had lack of cooling problems with absorption fridges in hot / sunny climes in the past, as well as seeing the aftermath of leaks (not mine). Granted, every model and install is different....YMMV...
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Old 01-01-2023, 09:42 AM   #11
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Compressor fridge performance

It worked great on my Orlando trip. I turned it on two days ahead of time. It cooled down in a few hours, I loaded it, it cooled down again, and off I went. It behaved just like the fridge in my house. No muss, no fuss.

That being said, this was an easy test for for the fridge, being cool weather outside. I kept it on maximum (coldest) settings just to reduce the variables I was dealing with in my shake-down. I'm sure this caused it to use more power. I tracked the fridge and freezer compartments with SensorPush thermometers. The fridge stayed at around 37 degrees F, the freezer went between 0 to 10 degrees F the whole time.

In a week I'm headed to Big Bend NP, then further west. As the ambient temperature warms up I'll have better performance data. At this point I don't regret buying it. I'll know more after my next trip.
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Old 01-01-2023, 10:43 AM   #12
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All things considered, do you regret getting the compressor fridge?? Iíve seen lots of folks rave about them, but Iím not sure what makes them superior to the standard fridge that runs on propane. Reliability maybe??
My previous three-way refrigerators, the Dometic RMD8555 and the RML8555 just drove me nuts. I could not predict when they would work well and when they would fail-- there was no pattern to their behavior. I ruined food time and again with the RMD8555. So I was willing to spend the money for expensive lithium batteries and a new compressor fridge just to stop the aggravation.

I was concerned about the power issue going into this but I still don't think it is a show stopper for me. My gut feeling was that the new fridge would work fine boondocking out West in the summer where the skies are not cloudy all day, but I'd have problems in the shady, cloudy East. I tend to have campsites with electrical hookups when in the East anyway, so that's okay. And I bought a generator to carry with me when camping if I need it.
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Old 01-01-2023, 11:25 AM   #13
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Quote:
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...
- 30A B2B charger in trailer, connected to my tow vehicle's battery with about fifty feet of AWG 6 wire.
...
Mike, one question about that 6 AWG wire: Did you run a separate cable / connector between your TV and trailer for this or did you somehow upgrade (up-gauge?) the aux 12V wire through your 7-pin connector / umbilical cord?

Thanks for any enlightenment on that detail.
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Old 01-01-2023, 11:29 AM   #14
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Energy consumption while boondocking seems like a huge disadvantage, even with lithium batteries, but Iím curious about your thoughts, and those of any others who have one.
I have the Norcold DC588, a small 5.5cf single compressor refrigerator/freezer. I spent 4 months in Arizona last winter returning north late April. Most of the time boon docking from Quartzsite to Yuma. I do have 2x 12v, 170Ah lithium batteries and a little over 1Kw of solar flat mounted. Some solar is shaded by the air conditioner pretty much all the time.

The freezer compartment makes ice quickly. The temperatures in the freezer compartment and refrigerator compartment stay around 0-10 and 34-40 set a little cooler than mid point on the thermostat. I did add some insulation around the refrigerator when I pulled it to do some other work.

The only time I have been concerned about energy was in shaded campground sites or at friends next to their house under trees. Sometimes designated sites are completely shaded and when this happens, I would probably run out of energy in 4 to 6 days. Instead, I have always been able to connect to shore power.

Boon docking has so far always allowed access to open sky. Even if cloudy, the solar still works to some extent.

Campgrounds have been a mixed experience and complete shading could be a problem if no shore power is available. It just depends on the tree shading.

I don't carry a generator. The batteries charge fast at 24volts 70 amps so I figure if I the worse happened and I needed to recharge the batteries, I would have to find a place to plug in for a couple hours or move to where there is more solar. The batteries can be charged from nearly empty to full charge in a few hours.

Another thing, I disconnected the tow vehicle charging so rely on solar when on the road. So far that has worked. Not so good in the mountains with trees and cloudy sky.

I am comfortable with what I have and know it is not suitable/reasonable for the majority of campers. For me it is good.

Bob
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Old 01-01-2023, 11:47 AM   #15
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...
I am comfortable with what I have and know it is not suitable/reasonable for the majority of campers. For me it is good.

Bob
Another option, not for everyone of course, but for those of us "blessed" with the Dometic RMD8555: In my Tacoma I ran a 6(?) Ga wire from the battery to under the truck bed and back to a compartment that is near the tailgate. There I installed a heavy-duty cigarette lighter jack, USB jacks and a volt meter in a small box designed for that purpose. (All parts from Anderson Powerpole - powerwerx.com). Next made the decision to purchase a small-ish 12VDC-120VAC portable freezer. This setup lets me have rock hard ice cream (an absolute necessity) and to drive long distances to grocery stores for cold and frozen foods.

Someday a compressor type 'fridge may be in our upgrade list, along with more solar, more power storage, etc. But for now this solves a number of problems.
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Old 01-01-2023, 11:55 AM   #16
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Mike, one question about that 6 AWG wire: Did you run a separate cable / connector between your TV and trailer for this or did you somehow upgrade (up-gauge?) the aux 12V wire through your 7-pin connector / umbilical cord?

Thanks for any enlightenment on that detail.
I ran a separate circuit from the truck's battery directly to the B2B charger. I use a large PowerPole connector at the rear bumper. So my trailer has two umbilical cords.

I vaguely remember having to disconnect a wire from the original 7-pin setup in order to get this to work, but I don't recall right now what I did. I'm sure I have it in my notes somewhere.
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Old 01-01-2023, 11:59 AM   #17
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I’ve seen lots of folks rave about them, but I’m not sure what makes them superior to the standard fridge that runs on propane.
I have two different brands of chest style compressor fridges and they cool very fast and are rock solid on the temperature you set…no matter what is going on outside of the fridge. Recovery of air temp inside when you open the door/lid is very fast.

My propane fridge in our 2018 Escape works but is a bit of a wild card for temperature. I have a thermometer with a remote sensor in the fridge and I am always adjusting the fridge controls to keep a steady temperature in the fridge. All depends if I am driving, full sun in the heat of the day or a cool night, the temperature in our propane fridge can vary widely.

I like the compressor fridge for the rock solid temperature but the compressor does make noise as it cycles on and off and does use power.

I like the propane fridge because it is silent and uses very little power. As for having to adjust it for the time of day to satisfy my OCD…it is a all part of camping…what else to I have to do.
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Old 01-01-2023, 12:02 PM   #18
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I ran a separate circuit from the truck's battery directly to the B2B charger. I use a large PowerPole connector at the rear bumper. So my trailer has two umbilical cords.

I vaguely remember having to disconnect a wire from the original 7-pin setup in order to get this to work, but I don't recall right now what I did. I'm sure I have it in my notes somewhere.
Gotchya and thank you, that makes sense.

I suspect you simply disconnected and insulated the original umbilical 12V aux wire-eyelet in the trailer-side junction box. That would leave your truck-side 7-pin fully functional for any other trailers.

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Old 01-02-2023, 07:46 AM   #19
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I will try to figure out how to record this info while running the Taco's engine at 2000 rpm. ...
Do you have a Victron smartshunt or BVM? Monitor your batteries with their bluetooth app
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Old 01-02-2023, 03:26 PM   #20
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Mike, maybe you stated it but what tow vehicle are you using? If later model with "smart" alternator you may not be getting adequate current to your BB1230. Both of my TVs are older and getting sufficient current flow (I used 2AWG from battery to the nose box where the BB1260 is housed on our 15A) isn't a problem at highway speeds.

Not sure what your furnace draws using 12v but I have read ~15amps when its running...that can suck considerable battery current over 24-hours.
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