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Old 09-23-2014, 02:14 PM   #1
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1965 26' Overlander
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Best 12v/120v refrigerator

I'm just turning the corner from demo and cleaning on a '65 Overlander to starting the build out. We've been buying appliances and items as we find them, but haven't had any luck with a refrigerator. We're looking for something that will run well on 12v from batteries, and 120v when hooked to shore power. Ideally in the 7-8 cu ft range, and with a separate door freezer. We haven't been able to find any used, though, and the new models seem to be in the $1,400 - $2,500 range. Does anyone know of a good place to look to find something cheaper? We're in Seattle, by the way.

Thanks,
Chris
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Old 09-23-2014, 02:21 PM   #2
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Nova Kool makes several sizes of 12v/120v fridges. My Interstate only has a 3.1cf, so I've never priced the larger models. Still, it's a place to start.
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Old 09-23-2014, 02:48 PM   #3
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You might check out Backwoods Solar. They specialize in energy-efficient appliances for the solar power market. They don't have exactly what you are looking for, but you might see something interesting. I have no relationship with them other than buying some panels years ago for a work project. Also Lewster on here does solar installations and may have a line on appliances.

You are aware, I presume, that a 12v refrigerator of that size will be a significant power hog. Backwoods lists power consumption for a 5.5 cu. ft. single door unit as around 24 AH per day in a 70 degree ambient. That will only go up for a bigger unit and higher ambient temperature.

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Old 09-23-2014, 02:58 PM   #4
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Thanks for the warning Al. We have ~1,300 AH worth of batteries and 640 watts of solar panels going in, which should keep it humming along. We're also considering adding a turbine for use when we're parked, but haven't nailed that down yet.

The Nova Kools look nice, Protagonist. They're basically what we're looking for. I haven't been able to find anything like them used or even very discounted, though. It may end up being the case that we have to buy new, but if anyone knows of a good used shop, let me know!
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Old 09-23-2014, 09:39 PM   #5
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Wow! I want to park next to you! Where do you put that many batteries? Isn't that close to or over 500#?

That is a serious power system. No wonder you don't worry about power for the refrigerator. Id love to see some pictures.

Al
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Old 09-23-2014, 10:17 PM   #6
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The 12 volt compressor refrigerators are few, and very expensive. I doubt you will find a used one and will pay $1200 + for a new two door one.

With your solar and battery capacity you might consider using a 120 volt, energy efficient refrigerator operated on an inverter when you want 12 volt capacity. If you go that route, look at the yellow energy hang tags and find something in the 400 kWh per year range or lower. Also, be sure that it has coils on the back for heat dissipation, it is now common to use the sides and top of the refrigerator as heat dissipation surfaces (coils attached to the back sides of top and sides). With those units you cannot build them in as they won't dissipate heat right.
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Old 09-23-2014, 11:53 PM   #7
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I agree with idroba. You should be able to find a 2 door 10 cubic ft residential frige for less than $500. The width is about 24" and about 60" high.

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Old 09-24-2014, 09:45 AM   #8
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Thanks for the 120v suggestions. I've been thinking we may end up needing to go that route. I hate to put the constant load on the inverter, though. And if we need to run the AC, we could be maxing out our 3000W inverter.

Al, the batteries are definitely over 500lbs. We'll have them in pairs, two in front of each wheel well, and two on each side in the back. We wanted to keep the original wheels, so we ended up replacing the original tandem axles with two 5,500lbers. It was cheaper to step up the axles than to find new wheels. We're also welding in some extra support in the frame. Every time we turn around we see a way to "improve" things.
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Old 10-11-2014, 10:39 PM   #9
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I have just located a new player in the 12 volt compressor refrigerator field. It is a Grape Solar 5 cu ft refrigerator 20"W 41"h, 24" d. Unfortunately I cannot find any real specs for the power consumption, other than one mention of 45 watts.. but I am assuming that is for full time. Half time duty cycle would be a nice low 22 watts, which would be pretty good.

I also am concerned that it does not have a separate condenser but uses the cabinet shell as the cooling system radiator. If so, there is a problem with it being built into an enclosed area in the trailer. The information is simply unclear on the issue.

But at any rate here is a link to it at Costco.com price is very good at $730.

http://www.costco.com/Grape-Solar-Gl...100138438.html


I also note that the Grape Solar 100 watt panels are back at Costco, $140 each delivered to your door. I have two on my FC 20, and they work very well.

http://www.costco.com/Grape-Solar-10...100054656.html
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Old 10-12-2014, 12:24 AM   #10
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Fullstop, just wondering why you have not mentioned propane? Propane is very efficient compared to 12v. It sure is nice to have all three options. We put a 6.3 cu. ft. Norcold 3-way refer in our 64 Safari and love it. Both Dometic and Norcold have units in you size requirements 7-8 cu ft, but they are expensive as you have stated already. However they are made for our specific needs and some times you do get what you pay for, or don't pay for. Good hunting.
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Old 10-12-2014, 06:55 AM   #11
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Thanks, idroba, I'll have to check those out.

Batman, I have heard good things about the propane efficiency, but we'll have a large enough solar setup to run the fridge full time on 12V, which should keep our propane use down to the oven and the heater. I like the 3-ways, but they tend to be a lot less efficient when running on 12V.
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Old 10-12-2014, 07:35 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by batman View Post
Fullstop, just wondering why you have not mentioned propane? Propane is very efficient compared to 12v.
Actually, that's only true for refrigerators that can run on propane. A propane/electric model on electricity is also much less efficient than an electric-only model on either 12vDC or 120vAC.

Refrigerators designed to run on propane use ammonia-cycle refrigeration, which has been around ever since John Gorrie built the first one in Apalachicola, FL in 1844. But they're not nearly as efficient as any electric-only tetrafluoroethane-cycle refrigerator in terms of energy input to obtain the desired temperature.
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Old 10-12-2014, 08:39 AM   #13
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Well said Protag! And there is absolutely NO CHANCE of an ammonia based plasma leak that can cause combustion and a fire (ask me how I know).

No more inefficient cooling in high ambient temps and when you want the unit cold......... it gets COLD quickly.

Can't say enough good things about Danfoss based compressor refrigeration.


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Old 10-12-2014, 09:08 AM   #14
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just to through another idea out there:
I had Luck and purchased a Vitrifrigo 2 Drawer refrigerator from a Yacht Building company for very cheap, because of a scratch in the front stainless panel and some dents in the side, which don’t matter, as it is a build in.
This refrigerator is working out great and will be in out 34 Airstream.. It does run on 12V and 120, very quiet and low power consumption. My Wife loves this Drawer fridge , but normal MSRP is very high though..
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