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Old 08-19-2018, 11:18 AM   #1
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1972 23' Safari
Placitas , New Mexico
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 294
Anybody replaced refrigerator with ARB or similar 12v chest fridge?

After getting sick from eating the food out of my inconsistent temperature Dometic in my 1972 Safari I'm looking at other options. Before my trip a friend made sure the vent was clean and did everything else to make sure the refrigerator was functioning as well as possible. I even got a refrigerator fan to move the air. It works barely ok on shore power but the interior stays about 45-50 on propane.

I camped with some friends who have a Scamp and when their fridge died they bought an ARB said it's the best camping decision they've made. It's a 110/12v only and they power it with a small solar panel when dry camping for days. it keeps food at a consistent temperature and is designed for rugged use. Norcold makes a similar product.

The ARB and Norcold's are pricey but still in the range of a full replacement of a conventional 110/propane fridge. The drawback of conventional rv fridge is the cold falls out every time you open the door, whereas with a chest-type fridge the cold stays in. Plus, in my researching new fridge options I came across the disturbing statistic that the leading cause of RV/trailer fires is the propane fridge.

Looking at my friend's ARB with the nice digital readout of 34 degrees and drinking a truly ice-cold beer out of it really got me wondering about a better refrigerator option. So, anybody else ditch the traditional fridge for another option?

Airylle 1972 Safari featured for 5 nanoseconds in the movie Wild Hogs
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Old 08-19-2018, 11:28 AM   #2
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2014 20' Flying Cloud
Long Island , New York
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We have thought about getting an ARB for the tow vehicle.

FYI -- "ARB fridge" search of this AF site:




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Old 08-19-2018, 11:44 AM   #3
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2015 30' FB FC Bunk
Ayer , Massachusetts
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I have an ARB 50. Overall I really like it but it has been inconsistent at times with temperatures and I understand there is a calibration process which I have not done yet.

If we downsize to a smaller camper and go more remote areas, we most definitely will use a refrigerator/cooler unit such as this.

They are expensive but I think well worth the money. Even if you don’t use it as your main refrigerator they are heads and tails better than a cooler because you don’t have to deal with ice and soggy food.

We typically keep it in our total vehicle and make sandwiches from it and other snacks and drinks as we travel.

It will run all night off the tow vehicles battery plugged into the cigarette lighter with no issues. It has a circuit that detects if the tow vehicles battery is running low and it shuts down its operation.
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Old 08-19-2018, 12:02 PM   #4
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2018 16' Sport
Charlotte , Vermont
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This looks cool (haha). Where would you put it--in your trailer or your TV? And how would you power it? (Newbie here, and a girl, who understands electrical things not very well, but just bought Electricity for Dummies, so I'm learning!)
Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy...

Charlotte, VT
2010 F-150, 5.4l, V8, 3.55; Bramble: 2018 Bambi Sport 16
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Old 08-19-2018, 02:32 PM   #5
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1972 23' Safari
Placitas , New Mexico
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 294
I was thinking of pulling out the old Dometic and putting it in that space, maybe on slides so it could be pulled out and then "locked" in place for travel. If I did that, I could maybe use the outside access space for a battery dedicated to the ARB. The other thing I like about a chest-type fridge as opposed to the traditional upright is that no matter how carefully I try to pack it something always falls out when I open the door after traveling.
Airylle 1972 Safari featured for 5 nanoseconds in the movie Wild Hogs
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Old 08-19-2018, 02:59 PM   #6
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2012 23' Flying Cloud
Irmo , South Carolina
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I bought an Engel fridge/freezer a few months ago. I'm not replacing my rv fridge with it - it's just a back-up and something to use with or without the Airstream.
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Old 08-20-2018, 12:48 PM   #7
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1967 22' Safari
West Fork , Arkansas
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 283
I went with a marine type Isotherm Drawer 65 Refrigerator that runs on 120 V AC or 12V DC and have been very pleased with its performance. It's not cheap but operates efficiently and it runs even on the road. See size on attached.
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File Type: pdf iwm-ds-drawer-marine-refrigerators-and-freezers-eng.pdf (148.4 KB, 35 views)
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Old 08-20-2018, 05:10 PM   #8
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2015 30' International
FREDERICK , Maryland
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Originally Posted by OTRA15 View Post
We have thought about getting an ARB for the tow vehicle.
Though the fridge in our 2016 International, we also have a 50 quart ARB in the backseat of our tow vehicle. It is great being able to reach back and have a cold drink on the road. Plus, we spend time away from our trailer, hiking and sightseeing etc. and it is nice to come back from a hike and have ice cold drinks waiting in the tow vehicle at the trailhead (and even lunch meat, cheese, etc. for a snack or lunch). We have had it 4 years now and a 12V fridge is far superior to a cooler, especially in the heat of the summer in the desert, no more having to remember getting ice each morning or evening, no more soggy sandwiches! Best camping purchase ever for our need (besides the Airstream).
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Old 08-27-2018, 11:25 AM   #9
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2015 27' Flying Cloud
Friday Harbor , Washington
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Engle portable as a replacement option

We have and use a large Engle portable as a back up and drinks cooler. We have used it for 6+ years, carrying it in the back of the TV truck. I am constantly amazed at it's efficiency. We typically power it from the TV battery, but if we are boondocking for an extended period we use a long extension cord and plug it into a remote solar panel.
The Engle uses a swing compressor which is similar to a Danfoss BD-35, but does seem to be more efficient.
Engle also makes smaller "built-in" refrigerators which function on 12V and/or 120V. They are similar to the smaller Norcolds common in smaller trailers.
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Old 11-19-2019, 07:17 PM   #10
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2019 22' Sport
Sebastian , Florida
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My wife was not happy with the small and erratic Dometic that came with our 22' Sport, even after the dealer replaced the original dud. We bought a Stakol from Amazon. We liked it so much we bought a similar Ausranvik and keep it set below freezing. I wish Airstream allowed buyers to choose the compressor style fridges - they are a much better value than they used to be, and performance suffers much less when it's warm outside. (BTW, Dometic warranty does not cover "inadequate performance", and as a second owner, I was denied coverage even though the unit had been used less than three days! I don't feel they believe in their product.)
A secondary advantage is we can take cold dry food along when we aren't using the trailer.
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Old 11-19-2019, 07:28 PM   #11
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1973 31' Sovereign
Mantua , Ohio
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We picked up a unique 290L. It runs on 12/24v dc and uses very little energy. It looks like it’ll barely fit through the door, but it fits... barely! The price seems right and it’s a danfoss compressor so it holds temperate well.
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Old 11-19-2019, 07:54 PM   #12
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Very Interesting...

So this must be the one - a 10.3 cu ft. unit. Unique UGP290L1DCSS

This would also be great for an off the grid fridge on solar....
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Old 11-20-2019, 01:29 AM   #13
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1973 31' Sovereign
Mantua , Ohio
Join Date: Oct 2019
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Yes, that’s the one! It’s well insulated and seems to be built well. I know the propane refrigerators use a different refrigerant that requires more electricity. This refrigerator uses a more traditional refrigerant. Not that any of that matters if we can’t keep the 3 boys from opening it all day long! lol! Btw, we picked ours up from a Home Depot because they wound up having the best price. It’s a little heavy to load and unload so make sure you have friends. Cheers.

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