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Old 03-03-2016, 08:37 PM   #1
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Two-Way Refrigerator?

my 2012 Interstate has a two way frig. It draws a lot of power from the battery when we aren't plugged in. We do a lot of dry camping and have resorted to using alternate(solar) lights at night to save batteries. Why did Airstream not put in a 3 way frig? Even our old eurovan camper had a 3 way. Does anyone think it's worth changing it out for a 3 way or is that very expensive? Also, is there some way to switch the inverter to draw less power in battery mode?
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Old 03-03-2016, 09:01 PM   #2
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The DanFoss compressor fridge uses 12V when there is no 120V power available, the inverter is not used. Perhaps you need more battery or use the on board generator to charge the batteries.

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my 2012 Interstate has a two way frig. It draws a lot of power from the battery when we aren't plugged in. We do a lot of dry camping and have resorted to using alternate(solar) lights at night to save batteries. Why did Airstream not put in a 3 way frig? Even our old eurovan camper had a 3 way. Does anyone think it's worth changing it out for a 3 way or is that very expensive? Also, is there some way to switch the inverter to draw less power in battery mode?
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Old 03-03-2016, 09:30 PM   #3
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Also when 120 VAC is available, the refrigerator inverts it to 12 VDC, a rather inefficient process. Some on this forum have disconnected the AC plug forcing the frig to always run on DC.
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Old 03-03-2016, 09:40 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Campbrd View Post
my 2012 Interstate has a two way frig. It draws a lot of power from the battery when we aren't plugged in. We do a lot of dry camping and have resorted to using alternate(solar) lights at night to save batteries. Why did Airstream not put in a 3 way frig? Even our old eurovan camper had a 3 way. Does anyone think it's worth changing it out for a 3 way or is that very expensive? Also, is there some way to switch the inverter to draw less power in battery mode?
WELCOME to AirForums!!

Those three-way refrigerators are expensive and require extra venting. It might be cheaper to add more solar capacity. You have once again hit on the weakness of the Airstream Interstate design, insufficient 12V capacity for dry camping. We often discuss this issue on this forum.

Here are some examples of what these refrigerators cost:
http://www.pplmotorhomes.com/parts/r...ator-parts.htm
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Old 03-03-2016, 09:49 PM   #5
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Adding the roof and side vents, not to mention the cabinetry modifications, make a retrofit all but impossible.

Your best option would be to add more battery capacity. Look up Boxter1971's battery upgrade or consider switching to 6v batteries in series, or ask Lew about converting to Lithium batteries.
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Old 03-03-2016, 09:57 PM   #6
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The Interstate's electric-only refrig and it's power hunger was a deal breaker for me. Otherwise, I was very interested in the Interstate. I'd much prefer a 2-way 110 VAC or propane refrig like I now have in my trailer. Battery use and capacity are non-issues for my refrig. I understand that the electric-only refrig's in Interstates are more "efficient" and less affected by being off level. These advantages don't come close to the ease of using propane for days at a time when I am off the grid with my trailer.
Sorry to sound negative. I really like the Interstate but the large battery usage requirements keep it out of my future.
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Old 03-03-2016, 11:22 PM   #7
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As I understand it, these 3-way fridges seem to have the overriding advantage of 3 power options, but their major disadvantage is they need to be nearly perfectly level to function. However, the electric-only fridges general use a compressor which does not require leveling. So whether you're dry camping on a less than perfect surface, or even in a parking lot that's not level, your electric fridge will still function perfectly.
Better to upgrade your battery capacity to cope with electrical demands.


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Old 03-03-2016, 11:34 PM   #8
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Leveling is a non-issue for my trailer. If I'm comfortable lying down in bed, my refrig is also comfortable. Cannot the Interstate level this well?
If not, why not?
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Old 03-04-2016, 08:17 AM   #9
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A few months ago, we replaced our Interstate's 8-year-old 3-way with a brand new 3-way. We paid $680 because the new one was missing its decorative front panel (which we made for about 25 bucks).

A lot of folks advocate for the newer 2-ways but the battery system is clearly the Interstate's Achilles heel so I rejected that idea. 3-ways get criticized as "old technology" but I like to call it "tried and true technology".

We noticed that our new 3-way was significantly more efficient than the old one, which carried the same model number (Dometic 2351). No more waiting 24 hours for it to totally cool down. I nicknamed it "Siberia" because it gets so cold.

Having used one or the other 3-way for over a year, we have never had a problem with levelness. I previously asked the question "How un-level does it have to be before there is a problem?" and I was told, "Don't worry about it, because by the time it gets that unlevel, you will be too uncomfortable to sleep".

However it is as my husband says - it would be difficult to retrofit a 3-way if the cut-outs and vent spacings were not already present in the Sprinter. I suspect it would be easier to solve the issue some other way.
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Old 03-04-2016, 09:19 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Mark Wiltrakis View Post
Leveling is a non-issue for my trailer. If I'm comfortable lying down in bed, my refrig is also comfortable. Cannot the Interstate level this well?
If not, why not?
Interstates do not have a tongue jack, which is the main instrument for front-to-back leveling a trailer. They do not have stabilizer jacks either.

All they have is wheels on all four corners, and the only way to level is to block up the low corners. Which can be as many as three corners, two of which might have duals on them if a front corner is the highest one.

I carry some Lego-style leveling blocks, but I only use them if the Interstate is far enough out of level that the shower won't drain right. It can be a royal pain trying to find just the right combination of leveling blocks under FIVE tires, with all of the maneuvering around to get up on the blocks, check the level, get off the blocks, adjust the blocks, get up on the blocks, check the level, etc.

But perhaps the main reason for an electric-only fridge in an Interstate is, look at where the fridge is inside. Then go look at the outside of the van behind it. I can't speak for the Grand Tours, but on mine, there are plumbing fittings right behind the fridge exactly where you'd have to cut a great gaping hole for venting and maintenance access. Meaning that not only would I have to butcher the van to install a three-way fridge, but I'd also have to relocate my municipal water intake and my fresh tank fill port.

Disconnecting the 120vAC power so the fridge always runs on 12vDC is not hard. I suspect that the only reason both were hooked up in the first place was that someone at Jackson Center saw that there were two electrical connections and thought that both of them had to be hooked up, not realizing that only one had to be hooked up.

I've lived with my electric-only fridge for four years with no particular problems. Admittedly I don't boondock very often or for very long at one stretch. But if I was a dedicated boondocker, disconnecting the 120vAC plug (or better, wiring a switch in so I could manually switch off the 120vAC when on inverter power and on when on shore power) would be a simple next step after tripling or quadrupling my solar capacity so that my solar panel wattage exceeded my house battery amp-hours— which is a much more necessary modification if you want to wean yourself off daily use of the generator. You can boondock for extended periods in a factory-stock Interstate, but only if you're a masochist.
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Old 03-04-2016, 11:01 AM   #11
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......
I've lived with my electric-only fridge for four years with no particular problems. Admittedly I don't boondock very often or for very long at one stretch. But if I was a dedicated boondocker, disconnecting the 120vAC plug (or better, wiring a switch in so I could manually switch off the 120vAC when on inverter power and on when on shore power) would be a simple next step after tripling or quadrupling my solar capacity so that my solar panel wattage exceeded my house battery amp-hours— which is a much more necessary modification if you want to wean yourself off daily use of the generator. You can boondock for extended periods in a factory-stock Interstate, but only if you're a masochist.

Well said Protag! It very unfortunate that Airstream is not keeping up with other RV conversion vans and offering bigger batteries and more solar. Adding more batteries and solar changes the Interstate into a very flexible vehicle. I just completed a month traveling in the south to warm up. Had the refrigerator on continually and went many days between hookup on several occasions. Having 400 watts of solar and 440 AH of batteries gave me new freedom when traveling.


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Old 03-04-2016, 12:41 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mark Wiltrakis View Post
Leveling is a non-issue for my trailer. If I'm comfortable lying down in bed, my refrig is also comfortable. Cannot the Interstate level this well?
If not, why not?
Agree with everything Protag and Boxster say above. And as you can gather from their comments, you cannot compare a travel trailer with an Interstate; the Interstate can be used for a variety of things, all with the fridge running: as a day traveller, for boon docking, etc. So its often going to be parked on a slope. Hence the preference for a compressor fridge.
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Old 03-04-2016, 02:40 PM   #13
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With a properly sized battery bank and perhaps the addition of a few solar panels, one can (and many do) operate the Danfoss compressor based refrigeration units with no issues. There are many benefits to these marine-type fridges (they should be called 2-way COMPRESSOR fridges, as in the RV business, simply referring to a 2-way fridge implies LP/electric gas/absorption unit):

• works up to 30º off level
• high outdoor ambient temperatures have little effect on the units
• cool down from room temps to 34º*in an hour or so as opposed to 8+ hours for an absorption fridge
• keeps the beer cold AND the ice cream FROZEN…….no more RV soft-serve!!!
•*needs no LP, so there are no issues with operating the fridge while under way, while refueling or while traversing restricted roadways like tunnels

Problems with '2-way' or 3-way' absorption type fridges
* requires a certain degree of 'level' to operate (the standard now is 'comfortable to walk in')
* requires a minimum of 8 hours to cool down
**requires any items placed into the unit be pre-cooled or pre-frozen
* cooling process is extremely INEFFICIENT on either LP or 120VAC
* the 3-way option (12VDC heating element) will NOT cool down the unit but only will maintain the interior temps….while putting a significant drain on your battery system
* interior temps are extremely hard to maintain in high ambient temperatures as it tends to overheat the condenser coils, which severely impact the gas/absorption process
* requires 1 hour to replenish the loos of cold air for each MINUTE that the door is open (a fact courtesy of Dometic)
* I won't even go into the danger of fires with gas/absorption units

Of all the marine units that I have installed……100% of the owners have been either extremely satisfied with their operation or have been raving about them (in a positive way….of course! )

That's all I got…………..
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Old 03-04-2016, 04:29 PM   #14
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Pros and cons well summarized above

Your best next move at this point would be to figure out a way to add more battery capacity. You may find that you don't need much to make a difference.
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