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Discussion Starter #1
I'm looking at fridges for an upcoming Transit camper van, something with around a 50 quart capacity, and running on 12V DC and 120V AC. Looking at units by ARB, Engel, and Dometic.

Would appreciate anyone who owns one of the above units weighing in, with positive or negative feedback.

Thanks!
 

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Not sure how "portable" you mean. I have a "TruckFridge" TF49, 49Qt capacity, 12VDC/120AC that I installed a year ago in my current Westfalia camper to replace the original three-way Dometic.

I'm VERY pleased with the TF49. Perfect fit in the old refrigerator spot in the Westfalia. Quiet, very low current draw, lots of room inside, nice interior light, auto-switches 12V to 120 when plugged in. $595 including shipping from Westy Ventures /* Parts

I see they now have top-load "portable" versions in several sizes. Also some other sizes of the built-in models.

I don't use the freezer part and it takes up a lot of room, so for my planned Transit RV I'm looking at a NovaKool R3800FL model with optional light, all refrigerator, about twice the size of the TF49 at around 100 quarts. www.novakool.com
 

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I have a Dometic CR-80 80 liter 12v/120v front opening refrigerator in my Sprinter conversion but will change to a Vitrifrigo C85A for the Transit conversion.
Dometic is very efficient and quiet. Made in China and I do not like the center latching door. Door should latch on one edge not the center. After I changed opening side from left to right door does not close completely. I was at the end of the adjustment slots so could not correct it.
The Vitrifrigo is slightly larger and has the compressor indent at the bottom instead of the top. That gives a lot larger freezer compartment at top back and reduces the depth at the bottom back. Space loss at bottom back is better because that is storage hard to access anyway.
Some think a chest refrigerator is better than a front opening refrigerator because they think cold air pours out of the door when you open it. I do not think it makes much difference since you open it so seldom. If it was really bad I would put a pan under door and pour cold air back in the top. A front opening refrigerator reduces the amount of digging to get the food you want.
Whatever refrigerator you buy, install it with additional insulation around the refrigerator in the cabinet. I have 1 1/2" of rigid insulation around 4 sides and then wrapped the whole thing in Reflectix except for the coil. I also have a hole in the Sprinter floor under/in back of the refrigerator to allow air flow from under van to pass the coil on its way out of the MaxxAir roof vent. Mine runs very little.
Locate refrigerator up high enough that you can see in it. Bottom of my refrigerator is 28" above the floor. I will do the same in Transit.

Sorry I missed the "portable" in the title until after I had replied. Left reply for some of the other points listed.
 

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I couldn't give you a more positive review on the ARB fridge/freezers.

Been running mine 24 hours a day, 8 months out of the year the past 2 years. Cheap price on amazon and next day shipping for only a few bucks if you have prime. 3 year warranty. Dealt with them once when I got water into the panel and it quit working - they were just gonna send a new panel. I let it dry out real well and it started working again so I never followed thru.

Low amp hour usage and it can keep sub freezing temps when it's 90+ outside. My battery bank charges off the alternator and I've left the fridge on for 4 days while I had to fly out of town on a business trip.... So no battery charging while the van was parked, warm temps and all the windows up. 13.8 volts when I left, 13.5 when I returned four days later. This thing sips power.

Highly recommended.

Will also say there are a number of GREAT units at that price range.... Many brands/choices, hard to go wrong.
 

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I have a Dometic CR-80 80 liter 12v/120v front opening refrigerator in my Sprinter conversion but will change to a Vitrifrigo C85A for the Transit conversion.
First of all, great idea on the floor vent behind the fridge! I'm going to incorporate a floor vent or two on my next conversion, but never considered one to prevent heat build up behind the fridge! My current fridge generates head on the side, up against a cabinet, so I cut the side out of the cabinet to get a bit more airflow. A floor vent will be a much better solution in the future.

Have you heard much about the Vitrifrigos? Looking at their website, I like the model DP150i... Are there any US dealers with a website/prices listed?
 

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My van floor vent came from my barn and house design. A bit of reading on passive solar explained the idea of windows down low and a cupola at the peak of the building with openable windows. Did that design on both my barn and house. Worked so well for those two I did not see any reason it would not work in the Sprinter. It works very well. The refrigerator is my major power use so worth some extra effort. My 205 watt solar panel with a MPPT solar controller now keeps the 255 amp-hr battery charged without any charging from van or shore.
I do not know much about the Vitrifrigo. Looks good. Anyone here have any experience with this brand?
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Thanks for the posts and discussion - appreciate it!

I'll probably be ready for a purchase late this year. I've been researching for about a month and at the moment I'm considering the ARB 50. It's a little pricey, but the reviews are good and the warranty is three years. Specifically looking for a chest for the flexibility I have in mind. Figure I have six months to research further and make a decision.

Thanks Dave for the tips on insulation and air flow - sounds excellent.

S4s, with respect to water coming into the panel, is that the control panel, and from normal use, i.e. liquids dripping off cups/sodas, etc?
 

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It got into the front panel... To be fair, I WAS spraying it off, upside down...with a garden hose. It's water resistant, just be careful around the electronics on the outside!
 

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I been debating this issue regarding Ice box vs refer. A marine or truck 12v refer is lighter and uses less current than the 3ways for rv's. I've been lucky to pull one from a junk yard for $50, they are around $800 and up. If I didn't find this I would have built a custom ice box as it is less weight and ice is simpler and cheap. I remember dealing with the refer in the motorhome I used to own, is it on?, is the coach level enough? did it switch from 12v to gas? etc…. And it cost me $2k to replace.
 

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I been debating this issue regarding Ice box vs refer. A marine or truck 12v refer is lighter and uses less current than the 3ways for rv's. I've been lucky to pull one from a junk yard for $50, they are around $800 and up. If I didn't find this I would have built a custom ice box as it is less weight and ice is simpler and cheap. I remember dealing with the refer in the motorhome I used to own, is it on?, is the coach level enough? did it switch from 12v to gas? etc…. And it cost me $2k to replace.
Simple: Forget 3 way and buy a 12vDC/120vAC. It automatically switches to 120v AC when it senses that it is available. Otherwise runs off 12vDC house battery. You do not have to touch it. I have two inverters. One the normal inverter powered by the house battery and the second pure sine powered by the Sprinter 12 v. system. So I have two sources of 120 volt power. One shore and the other "shore" from the Sprinter powered inverter while engine is running. I can run mt largest power user (refrigerator) off 120v power while driving to conserve house battery capacity.
 

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I been debating this issue regarding Ice box vs refer. A marine or truck 12v refer is lighter and uses less current than the 3ways for rv's. I've been lucky to pull one from a junk yard for $50, they are around $800 and up. If I didn't find this I would have built a custom ice box as it is less weight and ice is simpler and cheap. I remember dealing with the refer in the motorhome I used to own, is it on?, is the coach level enough? did it switch from 12v to gas? etc…. And it cost me $2k to replace.
I've also thought about this and ice does seem like the way to go for me, plus nearly everywhere sells ice if you need ice on the go.
 

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3 ways use heat to cool, 120/12v use a compressor. Mine runs at less than 4 amps @ 12v. Thats why the runs a little higher in cost.
 

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I have an ARB 42qt fridge that is at least 15 years old, maybe 20. It runs 24/7 in my garage on 110v, keeping beers cold, and often goes camping with me, run off a cigarette lighter. I can go two days on a single car battery, and still be able to start it at the end of the weekend. It is getting old and isn't pretty anymore, but it still works fine. I'd buy another ARB fridge. Mine was actually made by Sawafuji in Japan. Their fridges have also been branded Norcold, I believe. Not sure if the newer ARBs are also Sawafuji. I bought my ARB fridge from Gary Kardum of Mudrak Custom Cruiser in Sonoma, CA. (I also have an ARB roof rack, ARB front bumper and Old Man Emu (ARB) suspension in my '94 Land Cruiser.

This is my first post here. I have been scheming to buy a Sprinter, but after meeting Dave Orton and hearing what he had to say about the Sprinters and the Transits, I'm now considering getting a Transit.

Morgan
 

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I've also thought about this and ice does seem like the way to go for me, plus nearly everywhere sells ice if you need ice on the go.
Same here.

A 35 qt Pelican is going into my new build.

Keeping it simple. One less system to maintain.
 

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Same here.

A 35 qt Pelican is going into my new build.

Keeping it simple. One less system to maintain.
Exactly!
I think the key is to just to plan out your trip properly if you want to be extra sure that you will have ice available where ever you go.
 

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Exactly!
I think the key is to just to plan out your trip properly if you want to be extra sure that you will have ice available where ever you go.
I vote ICE also. Simple w/good coolers +portable+easyto clean
I have 2 to use (the 5 day ones)
 

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I've also thought about this and ice does seem like the way to go for me, plus nearly everywhere sells ice if you need ice on the go.
As some others have noted, ice is a viable option for many DIY designs. My wife and i are happy with our "Ice" cooler choice in our current rig. The reason we may go with an ice cooler in any possible van2 is our dispersed camping style in our native Pacific Northwest simply doesn't allow for enough sun on rooftop to keep up with a typical 12v fridge AH demand from what i've researched.

Our current set up is utilizing (and this is waaaay overkill for just my wife and i) one white 80 quart Engle Deep Blue ice cooler for vegies/fruits/dairy and a brown (same model) for meat/freezer type items. If we put a 20 lb bag of ice in each they will stay at 32 to 34 degrees for 5 to 7 days easy...and we then would go into the nearest town to restock on food and grab another couple bags of ice. So far this has worked out during the last 7 years of practice.

Cheers,
Thom
 

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FWIW, you might enjoy this well written article (November 2011). It is very informative and might give you some further data in your research.

_LINK to 12v fridge review_

Thom
 
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