Monday, May 14, 2012

More Off-Grid Refrigeration

I've previously tipped my hat towards Ammonia Absorption Refrigeration, but Thermo-electric fridges are another option for portable refrigeration, provided one is aware that they have significant limitations. The big issue is that you often get what you pay for, and "Cheap" seems to be a big factor. For example, a normal on-sale unit from Canadian Tire or Walmart will most likely have these two limitations;
First, it only cools to about 20c below the ambient air temperature and simply put, this is not good enough. Why? Well, in many summer camping situations sunny campsite or "in-car" temperatures often exceed 30c. That means the fridge temperature will exceed 10c, not good for your wife's coveted coffee-cream...ask me how I know.
Second, most cheaper units have no type of thermostat or temperature control, causing two more drawbacks: If the campsite temperature falls to 20c or below (not uncommon in eastern Canada), things will freeze. Also, with no type of control, they run constantly, pulling 5-7 amps from your 12v power supply. Older units from Koolatron once came with a thermostat, but constant cheapening has almost put an end to those.

Canadian Tire to the rescue? Perhaps. They now sell a Mobicool unit marketed under the label of "Professional Series" that seems to address my otherwise hatred of these devices. It's impressive features include:
  • thicker insulation than the usual units.
  • bigger heat-sink/cooling unit that delivers a 30c temperature reduction. (50% more)
  • 7-stage electronic thermostat
  • additional interior fan that shuts off when lid is opened
  • tall enough to stand up 2-litre bottles

This unit is not apparent on the Mobicool web site. That's likely because they don't really make it. It's actually a re-badged Dometic / Waeco unit.
Generally, this unit is adjustable, so you can turn it up when it's really hot out, and down when you need to, maintaining better temperatures and  saving precious battery power, or giving that solar panel time to replenish the battery...
All of this does not come cheap though. $299.99, but 40% off this week  :)





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