Portable Fridge/Freezers

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FlyingWil
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Portable Fridge/Freezers

#1

Post by FlyingWil » Thu May 08, 2008 3:19 pm

The portable refrigerator/freezer should be the one of the first pieces of equipment purchased in outfitting a vehicle for expedition use. A fridge/freezer eliminates the need for ice, and can maintain food supplies longer than a cooler. Since ice may be scarce in some remote areas such as Mexico, the luxury of a fridge/freezer becomes a necessity for overland travel.


Selection Research
To select a means of refrigeration one must first understand the different types. There are three basic types of refrigeration used in portable fridge/freezers; thermoelectric refrigeration, absorption refrigeration, and refrigeration using reciprocating compressors.

Thermoelectric (TE) coolers work electronically without the use of Freon, compressors or evaporators. In a thermoelectric cooler, direct current is applied to a semiconductor which makes one side of it hot, and one side cold (which is known as the Peltier effect). Typically these units have the ability to either heat or cool.

Thermoelectric units draw a large amount of current (4.6 Amps) and can only cool to about 30 degrees below ambient temperature. Most units do not have the ability to freeze, or maintain a steady internal refrigerated temperature. Consequently they take many hours to cool a warm bottle of water.

They are very cheap – most retailing under $100, and light weight. They can be bought almost anywhere.

Absorption refrigeration units work by using ammonia as the coolant, water and hydrogen gas to create a continuous cycle for the ammonia. These coolers typically have no moving parts, and generally run on propane or gas.

Absorption refrigeration units have five major parts, a generator which produces ammonia gas, a separator which isolates ammonia gas from water, a condenser where hot ammonia gas is cooled and condensed to create liquid ammonia, an evaporator where liquid ammonia evaporates to create cold temperatures in side the cooler, and an absorber which absorbs the ammonia gas into water.
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Heat is applied to the generator. The heat comes from burning something like gas, propane or kerosene. In the generator is a solution of ammonia and water. The heat raises the temperature of the solution to the boiling point of the ammonia. The boiling solution flows to the separator. In the separator, the water separates from the ammonia gas. The ammonia gas flows upward to the condenser. The condenser is composed of metal coils and fins that allow the ammonia gas to dissipate its heat and condense into a liquid. The liquid ammonia makes its way to the evaporator, where it mixes with hydrogen gas and evaporates, thus producing cold temperatures inside the refrigerator. The ammonia and hydrogen gases flow to the absorber. Here, the water that has collected in the separator is mixed with the ammonia and hydrogen gases. The ammonia forms a solution with the water and releases the hydrogen gas, which flows back to the evaporator. The ammonia-and-water solution flows toward the generator to repeat the cycle.

Through technological advances since their invention over 75 years ago, some fridges now incorporate a combination of thermoelectric and absorption technology, however these fridges are limited to level grounds and vibrations can harm the systems.

Aside from Engel, almost all reciprocating compressors are made in Germany by one company, Danfoss. Reciprocating compressors have many moving parts, and have much more that can go wrong. Some compressors cannot take the shock and vibrations that other compressors can take especially when running, so be careful. Reliability has always been a problem for reciprocating compressors, especially in vehicles, due to vibration intolerance.

The fridge/freezer unit selected for expedition use should be a compressor based unit. There are several brands currently available using compressors that are designed to handle the vibrations intolerances and have few moving parts: Waeco, ARB, Engel, and Norcold. The latter three are made by Sawafuji Products and incorporate a Swing Motor capable of operating at angles of up to 30° off level.
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The Swing Motor is an electro-dynamic reciprocating device that connects directly to the piston of the compressor. The motor design and associated resonance characteristics achieve a very high power output. Since there is only one moving part, which is self lubricated, there is no maintenance needed. This offers advantages such as great economy, compact size, light weight, high efficiency due to the resonance phenomena, low friction losses and minimum power consumption. When combined with thermally efficient insulation, the result is a superior cooling performance.
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Selection
There are numerous sizes of Fridge/Freezers to choose from to suit your expedition needs, from 14 quarts to 84 quarts. Each expedition will have different requirements for fridge/freezer selections. It is best to pick the unit that best suites your needs. The determining factors should be based upon capacity, weight, size and performance.


Accessories Research
Transit Bags. (Look for upcoming transit bag review ) Waeco, ARB, Engel, and Norcold offer transit bags, of which the latter three are interchangeable. Transit bags offer protection of your unit, by adding and extra layer of padding and insulation. Typical transit bags are made of a heavy duty canvas outside layer with a reflective layer on the inside. Transit bags should include proper ventilation for your specific fridge/freezer.
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Thermometers. There are many solutions for monitoring the temperature inside your fridge/freezer. When selecting a thermometer ensure that it is rated to match the temperature range of your fridge/freezer.
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Mounting Solutions. [See Below] There are numerous solutions to mounting a fridge/freezer. Units made by Sawafuji Products have two additional installation solutions produced by Engel, the Engel Slide, and the Engel Slide-Lok.
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Expansion Options. TwoZone Manufacturing PTY LTD in Australia currently makes expansion units that add 21 or 40 Liters with out increasing the footprint of your fridge/freezer, by adding an extra compartment to the top of your unit.
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Accessories. Engel has developed and hinge locking system to prevent the lid from accidentally sliding sideways when opening. This fits the Engel 35 and 45 models.
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Installation / Mounting Solutions
Every expedition vehicle is different, and with that the mounting solutions are different. It is important to install the fridge/freezer in a location where it is clear of the elements, and easily accessible. Engel, ARB, and Norcold units have a few pre-manufactured mounting solutions available such as the Engel Slide, and the Engel Slide-Lok.

The Engel Slide is a strong low profile steel slide that extends out 80% allowing access to the Engel freezer in confined spaces. The fridge/freezer is placed on the slide and secured by attaching turnbuckles to the tabs attached behind the handles. The slide has sealed roller bearings, and a safety latch.
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The Engel Slide-Lok is a simple mounting solution where the rubber feet of the fridge/freezer are replaced with included feet that attach to the Slide-Lok, thus locking your unit in place.
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Custom installations. Of course there are many custom installation options.
-Wil

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Re: Portable Fridge/Freezers

#2

Post by OLLIE » Thu May 08, 2008 3:39 pm

Very impressive write up. A lot of usefull information.
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Re: Portable Fridge/Freezers

#3

Post by FlyingWil » Thu May 08, 2008 3:50 pm

Ollie (K6JYB) wrote:Very impressive write up. A lot of usefull information.
That's what happens when you sell 'em! You learn then inside and out. It is amazing what some customers will ask! If you don't know then it makes you as a retail look stupid.

I try and get a review of my Engel MT-45 up soon and get some more Equipment threads rolling similar to this one...
-Wil

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Re: Portable Fridge/Freezers

#4

Post by traveltoad » Thu May 08, 2008 4:22 pm

The Engel is one of the best modifications that one can do for an expedition vehicle.
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Re: Portable Fridge/Freezers

#5

Post by DaveK » Mon May 12, 2008 1:28 pm

Hey Wil:

Interesting stuff. For a long time I had been eying a freezer/frig, but lately, I've kinda strayed. ARB, apparently only makes a 42 quart unit which is way too small for my needs for our wilderness expeditions, which last, in many cases, for 4+ days. When we go, due to the length of the stay and the number of people present, several 50 to 100 quart coolers are required.

The size of the larger units, which I think tops out at around 100 quarts, is enormous and last time I checked, a 100 quart freezer hit the scales, empty, at over 120 pounds. Even with the tank I drive, the smaller 80 quart (or even the 60 quart) freezers would take up almost all of the rear compartment of the H2. The other thing that makes ice (and dry ice) very attractive is the cost of these units, viz., the 100 quart unit, which starts at about $3,000.00. (FrigFreeze). You can buy a lot of ice (and dry ice) for $3,000.00.

I love the idea of a freezer and haven't completely ruled one out, but I have had to settle on something that is a little more travel friendly, at least for our group.

I have heard great things about the Frig/Freeze products, including the fact that they are made in the USA. Tell us more, please!!!!!
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Re: Portable Fridge/Freezers

#6

Post by Cnynrat » Mon May 12, 2008 2:34 pm

Wil -

I'm planning on putting one of these in the back of my FJC, and have been working on plans for how to install it in my rig along with storage for everything else. How much clearance do I need to plan on leaving around the fridge for air circulation etc.? I've searched around for a user's manual on line but haven't found one anywhere.

Thanks!
Dave
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Re: Portable Fridge/Freezers

#7

Post by FlyingWil » Mon May 12, 2008 2:47 pm

DaveK wrote:Hey Wil:

Interesting stuff. For a long time I had been eying a freezer/frig, but lately, I've kinda strayed. ARB, apparently only makes a 42 quart unit which is way too small for my needs for our wilderness expeditions, which last, in many cases, for 4+ days. When we go, due to the length of the stay and the number of people present, several 50 to 100 quart coolers are required.

The size of the larger units, which I think tops out at around 100 quarts, is enormous and last time I checked, a 100 quart freezer hit the scales, empty, at over 120 pounds. Even with the tank I drive, the smaller 80 quart (or even the 60 quart) freezers would take up almost all of the rear compartment of the H2. The other thing that makes ice (and dry ice) very attractive is the cost of these units, viz., the 100 quart unit, which starts at about $3,000.00. (FrigFreeze). You can buy a lot of ice (and dry ice) for $3,000.00.

I love the idea of a freezer and haven't completely ruled one out, but I have had to settle on something that is a little more travel friendly, at least for our group.

I have heard great things about the Frig/Freeze products, including the fact that they are made in the USA. Tell us more, please!!!!!

OK, first off the price for a MT-80 is $1140.

The fridge/freezer is an odd thing, once you have it you can never figure out how you lived with out it. My wife steals my truck to go grocery shopping, just because it buys her flexibility when coming home. She can go watch a movie and not worry about food spoiling etc...

The fridgefreeze units are nice but come with the hefty price tag. The ARB unit is a re-badged Engel anniversary edition MT-45. The major difference with the Engel and ARB units is the transit bags. ARB's transit bag does not have zipper, and is more designed as a protective layer than a insulating layer. With the added cost of ARB's and the same insides thats why we only have the Engels on our site. We can get the ARb units, but as mentioned they are the same as the Engels.

Since the ARB is the anniversary edition of the Engel, it has a built in thermometer. It is really a waste of money IMO, I have never seen a fridge mounted where the temperature gauge was in view of the driver, so the only time you could see it is when your at the fridge itself. You can add any thermometer you want... The Engel thermometer, is basically a garden thermometer you can buy at target for $15. The only one worth the Money is the TwoZone thermometer.

You must also take into consideration the room that the ICE in a cool takes up... It is rather suprizing how much can fit into a cooler with out ice. The MT-80 can hole 118 12oz cans.... that's a party right there!

When taking the ice in to equation of cost justification, you also need to consider how much is wasted by water logged food, and more sturdy packaging. IMO my Engel has paid for itself by now. In a trip to Baja we had blended margaritas and Pina Coladas on the beach... and then a few days later had icecream as desert. All the while we had lettuces and produce for salads in the TwoZone. That was just plain cool that we could do it all with one fridge.

I personally am running an Engel MT-45 with a TwoZone unit for the Engel. The TwoZone unit allows us flexibility in the fridge size... larger for longer trips, and smaller for weekend excursions. I am using a Cyberdyne ambient gauge (in my gauge pod) to monitor the temps in the fridge.

For your case it sounds like you are providing for too many people. In that case you can look into fabricating your own fridge of what ever size you want it to be. The end result would be it would be how you want it, and where you want it. We can get the parts you need for this, or we can point you in the right direction. Either way you need to end up with quality gear that will not let you down.

If you have a more specific question post it up and I'll shoot you a reply.
-Wil

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Re: Portable Fridge/Freezers

#8

Post by DaveK » Mon May 12, 2008 10:56 pm

Price as follows:

Prices
Standard 100-liter FridgeFreeze
$2,995
Optional Cold Thermostat
$25
Optional UPS Battery Back-Up System
$1,055
plus shipping and handling

See http://www.fridgefreeze.com/recreation/prod-100l.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;

That's a lot of ice.
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Re: Portable Fridge/Freezers

#9

Post by cruiserlarry » Mon May 12, 2008 11:51 pm

I have had the same ARB MT-45 running in my FJ80, and now my FJ Cruiser, for over 12 years virtually 24/7, and no issues. While most see it as an overpriced toy, there are many accessories I would part with before I'd give up the Freezer / Fridge...

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Re: Portable Fridge/Freezers

#10

Post by NotAMog » Tue May 13, 2008 9:33 pm

I have to agree that the Engel refrigerator is somewhat of a luxury but once you have one you'll never want to go back to ice chests. I was thinking of getting one for awhile. When I attended my first Mogfest I saw that most everyone there had one. There was even someone with a Steyr-Puch Haflinger with an Engel in the back -

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BTW - For anyone thinking of running one on 24volts, ignore the "12 Volt Only" sticker on the cigarette lighter plug. The same cable also serves as the 24 volt connection. I just cut the cigarette lighter cord and inserted Andersen power pole connectors to plug it into 24 volts from my Pinzgauer or reconnect the cigarette lighter plug to use in the car. I can't detect any difference in the sound running on 12 or 24 volts.

I figure that with a 50% duty cycle I should be able to run the Engel for about 3 days off the two Yellow Top Optmia batteries in the Pinzgauer and still have enough left to reliably start the truck. So far the longest I've run it was two days without starting the truck and I didn't see any affect when I went to start it.
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