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J Charlton Premium Member
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 3:27 pm    Post subject: Dometic or .... Reply with quote

The Dometic fridge in my '85 westie needs to be replaced - what are the opinions out there re what's best to replace it with. I'd like to keep the 3 way option.
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 3:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This was a link that I saw on here recently. I don't know anything about this particular company. There are several posts covering this though.

http://westyventures.com/parts.html
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PostPosted: Tue Jan 08, 2008 4:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i was looking to replace my unit also i found that norcold and doemetic make units that are 3 way and they have portable units also. you can purchase replacement refrigeration tubes (i guess they are high pressure amonia) that is all i have found. some of the new fridges that work on 12vdc or 110vac (no gas) seem to be so inexpensive [haier ($69)] i was thinking of going that way. using solar and extra battery and inverter. it only use 1.5 amps cont. and 6.3 max @ 110vac. still havent decided.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2008 12:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

You'll find that the Norcold is a much better unit than the Dometic, and actually will make Ice & keep Ice Cream rock hard in the freezer compartment.

A lot more bang for the buck.

It's actually a refrigerator--not a cooler.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2008 2:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

There seem to be quite a few people on this list interested in newer style compressor refrigerators but very little actual information on them. I did a little research into it recently and found out the following tidbits:

1) most draw between 1.5 and 3 amps CONTINUOUS. This compares to the 6-8 amps the stock Dometic pulled in the mid-80's when NEW.

2) the compressor type (new style) fridges don't run as constantly on 12v as does the Dometic, which means their actual running time (hence energy use) is 40-60% less (rough conservative figure, it's hard to find exact numbers on ALL makes and models that are equivalent)

3) as terry says "they actually work as a fridge" ... big advantage, assuming you want a fridge....

4) batteries are available with 200 (or more) amp hours. what does this mean to you? well, if you have a new fridge that pulls 3 amps (we'll use double the figure most manufacturers give) you can run your little fridge for more than two days straight off the battery. This uses 80% of the charge (160aH worth divided by 3 amps/hour for the fridge)

Those familiar with math will see that if the norcold uses it's rated amps, roughly 1.5, and cycles on only 75% of the time (my mini beer fridge kicks on much less often than this), you could be looking at a minimum of 3, or possibly up to 4/5 days with minimal driving or charging. A solar panel would do much to keep up this charge, 50 watt panels are capable of running 3.5 amps on a sunny day, enough to trickle charge the battery and run the fridge at the same time.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2008 9:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

here is a good link
http://home.earthlink.net/%7Ejohndolsen/id11.html

Here is the norcold portable link:
http://www.thetford.com/HOME/Products/NorcoldRefrigeratorsHome/MRFT40/tabid/200/Default.aspx
I think these units would be great and could use them for other occasions than camping.
I also think the 3 way doemetic is a great technology no moving parts the only problem is the flame at different altitudes sometimes need to adjust flame for less oxygen. They also need to improve the ease of access to do this have to pull whole unit out to check this, needs access panel on outside of van. They also need to increase the cooling capacity of unit it seems it only barely keeps things cool at 90 deg ambient. It seems to work better on AC than DC or propane. Although I have gotten it to make ice, it doesnt do it very well. mine is 1990 van and the fridge still works, most household refrigerators donít last this long.

but the price difference with the new compressor model you can buy at lowes or homedepot is just to great $69 versus $600 no 3 way but with an inverter you can run dc.
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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2008 11:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

More information from the compressor fridge world:

1) Power inverters appear to range from 85-90% efficient. For the example above it appears one could run a fridge for roughly the same amount of time as on DC power alone (running on AC is more efficient, minus the efficiency lost using the inverter = basically the same draw)

2) Most fridge manufacturers, such as thetford, isotherm, and norcold recommend (insist) that their AC models NOT be run from an inverter or converter box. Apparently the signal is not "clean" enough and could damage the electronics and compressor. Obviously, this is bad and therefore it's probably not a good idea to buy a 110v only unit and counting on increased efficiency to even out use of the inverter.

3) There are 'pure (or full) sine' inverters out there which regulate ("clean up") the power enough to run sensitive electronics. However, the cost difference is such that you'd be better off with an AC/DC unit. For example, a model capable of 600 watts (just enough for a fridge) runs about $500, 6 times the cost of the wal-mart fridge itself, and even more than a fridge capable of AC/DC operation.

Lastly, all experience I've had with inverters (used them a few times) included the use of "sensitive electronics" like tvs or laptop computers (why else would you need an inverter????) and I noticed no problems, of course I haven't used one enough long term to gauge potential problems down the road, but how could the inverters be safe for anything if the power were that "dirty?"


EDIT: :::::

More research has been done. Scrap using a regular inverter, even the inverter companies don't recommend their products for electronics such as fridges, power tools, or televisions (unless they are cheap-o wal-mart brands and they don't have a reputation to protect. At the very least a pure sine inverter capable of 1500 watts seems to run about $500, making everything I'm about to type moot, but for the sake of arguing the cheapest wal-mart refrigerator (not refrigerated cooler which is different) runs about $150. This particular model, by haier, uses 15 amps (max, I'm guessing since I can't find the info anywhere on haiers site) which is 1500 watts (15 amps x 110 volts) Therefore a rather large inverter would be necessary to run it properly. Obviously the compressor doesn't run 100% of the time. To determine how much it runs, on average, I used the published electrical consumption figure of 315kwh (kilowatt hours) per year divided by days (365 for those consuming lots of alcohol) and came up with 860 watts per day, divided by 110volts, which equals 7.8 amps per hour for the year. For the sake of doing the math we can say it runs 50% of the time (or uses 7.5 amps on average). This gives 21 hours of runtime, (160ah/7.5amps) using the same figures as given above for battery capacity.

Last and final edit::: for those not keeping track a dedicated ac/dc fridge uses only 1/4 the amps and could last between 48 and 72 hours on the same amount of power, not to mention most of them are certified for solar and therefore aren't as picky about "pure sine" power like the household models.

Someone should make this the freakin' sticky on refrigerators!
And for the record, no, I do not have a life, and spent several hours combing the 'net for fridge/inverter related info while my beautiful girlfriend slept just out of reach, never knowing how much of a nerd I truly am.
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Terry Kay
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 4:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm not sure why the last post was a long wided explaination of the use of an inverter, when the Norcold automaticly will switch itself from 110 to 12v.

If you have the reefer wired right, all this propoganda was a waste of time.

Plug the Van in at a pole, the nOrcold will automaticly switch itself from the house power to the pole power & visa versa.

The expense of the inverter can be totally skipped.

I have a Model DE 704 D in my Sportsmobile.

It'll run for 3-4 days on the house battery without the Van running, or the deep cycle battery being recharged.

IT WILL make ice, has a totally separate Ice box, and does make ice fast, & keeps the beer ice cold.

I don't notice the cooling capacity dampened by running on 12 v.

As far as I can tell the Dometic is a dinosaur in comparison.

The compressor operated refrigerator is by far superior to the amonia heat transfer operated cooler that is the unit of choice installed by Westfalia.

Hands down, the Norcold is a much better & more dependable unit.

I know this---

I don't have to do the overnight pre cool down on 110 , & only place pre coled foods & beverages into the Norcold as Dometic recommends.
The Norcold will cool the item's in it fast on it's own, and be able to maintain the selected temp with less grunting & groaning-
It has a delegated ice box which makes ice as fast your home reefer will, on 12 volts.

I'm looking at the owner's manual and it recommends at least a single 205 amp hour deep cycle house battery or two gof cart batteries of the same capacity, for long term 12v operation.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 11:13 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Terry kay --

the long winded explanation is because pushkick (and probably many others here have thought of this) brought up using a 110v ONLY fridge and running it off an inverter full time. I'm assuming the reason for this is that a 110v fridge can be obtained for $150 and the nicer norcold/isotherm 2-way 110v/12v models run almost $500.

Just off the top of one's head, it would appear buying a $150 110v "apartment style" fridge and adding a $100 (less than that at wal mart) 1000 watt inverter would perform the same function as a $500 norcold. My long winded explanation covers the drawbacks of such a system in a somewhat "scientific" manner.

In a perfect world, there would be a $250 12v fridge. Alas, there does not appear to be such a thing and so here we are discussing a possible alternative.


And for the original poster: norcold makes 3-way fridges, they seem to be the most popular models, and all of the designs (isotherm, norcold, thetford, etc) are about $475 for a 2 way and $700 for a 3 way.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 11:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

shoblime wrote:
. This particular model, by haier, uses 15 amps (max, I'm guessing since I can't find the info anywhere on haiers site) which is 1500 watts (15 amps x 110 volts) Therefore a rather large inverter would be necessary to run it properly. Obviously the compressor doesn't run 100% of the time. To determine how much it runs, on average, I used the published electrical consumption figure of 315kwh (kilowatt hours) per year divided by days (365 for those consuming lots of alcohol) and came up with 860 watts per day, divided by 110volts, which equals 7.8 amps per hour for the year. For the sake of doing the math we can say it runs 50% of the time (or uses 7.5 amps on average). This gives 21 hours of runtime, (160ah/7.5amps) using the same figures as given above for battery capacity.



great post great analysis

the numbers i posted are from a haier unit that i have in the garage the 1.5 amps cont. and 6.3 max are directly from the ul listing label. this is only 110 vac unit
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 11:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks everyone who has responded. Special thanks to Shoblime for all the techy data - I did almost the exact same calculations and came to the same conclusions. Following the link that is in one of the replies it appears that the Vitrofrigo C51iSAC is a really good choice. Its not 3 way but the additon of a small solar charging unit and a good 200amp hour deep cycle battery would serve very well - or maybe even a small gas generator to recharge the battery periodically (yay Very Happy Very Happy !!! another toy!!!). Another queston - I'll start a new thread - I'm interested in hearing from experienced westy campers re how much cooking they actually do on the gas stove in their westies. Again, thanks to everyone who has responded.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 3:21 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

pushkick - that would change EVERYTHING, 1.5 amps continuous/6.3 max would actually be do-able with batteries (especially with a solar panel) The only problem being that pure sine inverters capable of 600 watts (110v x 6.3 amps) still run about $200. Apparently some manufacturers (can't determine which ones? maybe isotherm with their computer-logic compressors) allow the use of regular inverters (like coolers approved for solar power) which would open up the use of $60 wal-mart inverters. Just need to find out which ones.....

I wonder why they don't give such detailed information in owner's manuals? I scoured various retailers and manufacturers but could rarely find good info on the continuous ratings or duty cycles, probably because nobody cares too much if their indoor fridge uses 2, 6, or 15 amps.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

i have an oscillascope and since you mentioned the pure sine wave vs regular inverter i am going to look at the 800 watt coleman inverter signal output that i have. my guess is that they use a modified square wave and turn it off and on very quickly to make the sine wave. the turning on of the compressor motor is where you get the high current draw AC syncronous motors usually during startup go 10 times the normal running current. but this is only a temporary surge. i am going to look at the actual current draw of the fridge and see how close they're specs are. i will post what the results are.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 10:10 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think I'm close when I say that it's gonna take 30 amps to initially crank the reefer up.

Not continuos--but the inverer is gonna have to supply that big draw when the ice box kicks in--
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 10:12 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Hey shoblime, nice work on the research. But I'd like to add a couple things that may help you in your calculations.

First off, some terminology and how it applies:

The cheap inverters we've all seen at the FLAPS and such are called "modified sine wave" by their marketing departments. But any electrician would rightly refer to their waveform as a modified square wave.

The "true sine wave" inverters emulate a true ac alternator sine waveform by creating a series of small stepped voltage increases and decreases that when viewed on an oscilloscope look a bit like an Aztec pyramid. The higher quality, hence higher priced, true sine wave inverters use a greater number of individual incremental voltage steps to come closer and closer to emulating a clean sine wave curve. Think the same pyramid but with more and smaller steps to climb to the top and back down the other side.

Whether a piece of electronic gear will run well on mod-square power has much more to do with the quality of its power supply than the quality of the inverter. All mod-square inverters make the same identical waveform, so there is no difference in power quality like there is with the various true sine inverters on the market. Even the cheapest ones will maintain ac voltage within tighter bounds than you will see from hour to hour on a mains line, and frequency nearly as steady, well within the standards set by the electricity generating industry.

All electronic circuits run on DC, at some set voltage. Electronics' power supplies step the ac line voltage down to that setpoint and rectify the ac waveform to a stable DC current. They are designed to filter out noise that is normally found on any mains line, so the mod-square peaks just look like more noise to a good power supply and it will tirelessly do its job of filtering while it provides the steady clean low-voltage DC current that the electronic circuit requires. Cheap power supplies won't do such a good job of filtering so some electronics, especially audio and video, will produce artifacts of the noise, such as buzz or hum on audio lines or "snow" on a CRT screen. So whether an electronic appliance works well on mod-square power or not is just an indication of the quality of its power supply. That said, I have yet to see a power supply that did not do a decent to excellent job processing mod-square power.

The one type of appliance where I've seen conflicts is cordless tool battery chargers, especially ones built for Nicad batteries. These chargers actually have a sort of tiny inverter inside to pulse current into the Nicad cell, so the frequency interactions sometimes cause trouble and the charger won't work. You know right away if the match is no good; plug in the charger, put in a battery to charge, and if the inverter shuts down, that charger won't work with that inverter, period. The inverter will come back online the second you unplug an unsuitable charger. The problem varies with brand; I have some chargers that work and some that won't. My Milwaukees do; my Dewalts don't.

Some manufacturers warn against using their products with inverters as a way of covering their asses, since they know that inverters have become affordable and popular for camping and such. It may be their way of admitting that they have a cheap power supply. The vast majority of these will in fact work just fine on a mod-square inverter, albeit with a small reduction in efficiency. Ac motors will also work less efficiently in all cases, and consequently run a bit hotter, but they will make their rated power and speed.

True sine wave inverters are generally safe for any type of electronic power supply or motor-driven appliance. Any resistive appliance, like an incandescent bulb or heating element, won't notice any difference whatsover with the output of any type inverter. It is inductive circuits where there can be problems. Power supply transformers and ac motors are inductive circuits.

So, now that you know what's going on, there are some things that might skew your careful calculations.

One is that the stated efficiency of an inverter is at its rated maximum output. Efficiency goes down pretty steeply with loads smaller than the rated power level. This is true with both types although more pronounced with the mod-square models. An inverter that can make 15 amps ac may have an overall efficiency of as little as 50% when it is running at 10% rated output. So with a 1500w inverter powering a 1.5 amp ac load, about 180w, the real load on the battery might be a high as 3 amps ac, or double.

Another thing is inverter standby load. True sine models have a far higher standby load, as much as 25w when a comparable mod-square might only use 8w in standby. That is a baseload for using the inverter that is added to the load on the battery supplying it regardless of the inverter output level.

So you have to figure the inverter efficiency at the power level you want to use , plus the inverter circuit overhead of 8 to 25w depending on the type of inverter, to know what the load is on the battery. If you want to use a particular load efficiently, sizing the inverter correctly to the load is important. Too much inverter costs power. In a mobile application with small loads, if you don't need true sine wave output for some particular appliance, the mod-square version might be the best choice because of its substantially lower standby load.

But that leads to startup surge. Resistive appliances have no startup surge requirement at all, while small inductive loads like power supplies have a small surge but it is usually inconsequential. However, ac motors typically draw a starting surge of two or three times their power rating. This is normally fine because most all modern MOSFET inverters of either type will surge to double their rated power for up to one minute. Most motor starting surges are done within a few seconds, so this works out fine if your inverter is rated sufficient to power the motor load once at speed.

The big problem is in small refrigeration compressors with reciprocating motors, the kind typically used in the small units you're discussing above. Some of these compressor motors will draw almost TEN TIMES their rated power to start. The inverter has to have sufficient extra capacity to keep that surge current within the inverter's maximum surge current. But then the fridge gets to speed and settles down to its rated current, which may be a fraction of the inverter's rated power because you needed such a large inverter just to get the thing to start. So while the fridge is running the inverter may be terribly inefficient. These things need to be taken into account if you want to size the inverter to your loads, and size a battery bank to supply them for a particular duration.

Ammonia absorption fridges use a resistive element to heat the ammonia generator section of the cooling loop, so they have no startup surge. They do tend to run continuously, though.

Lastly, what battery did you have in mind that has 200Ah that is suitable for use in a Vanagon? I can see you using two T220 6V golfcart batteries in series, or two T105 12V in parallel to get there, but I don't know of a single casing deep cycle battery that will deliver 200Ah that isn't too huge to fit reasonably within the van. I'm not saying it doesn't exist, just that if you've discovered something new I'd surely like to know about it.
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Last edited by tencentlife on Thu Jan 10, 2008 11:09 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 10:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks for the thorough information 10-Cent!

I think this rates a sticky. Anyone?
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 10:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well while I was typing slowly away pushkick and TK covered some of my points, and so much more succinctly! But I didn't feel like editing so I posted anyway.
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PostPosted: Thu Jan 10, 2008 10:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

tencent - you schooled me bro!!!


I was indeed thinking of 2 6 volt batteries rather than a single large one. I spent so much time on that to begin with that I hadn't checked specific numbers although I did look at a few batteries (trojan, lifelink, optima) to see what the ratings were. Also 200aH was a "high target" to give some headroom, the calculations only went as far as 80% drain but good batteries might have a bit more in them. Also the solar charging was in no way calculated.

In all, i would say any "calculation" I do (if you can even call them that) is probably optimistic by 10-15% even though I try to use a "real world" figure when/if possible. Obviously direct measurements would blow anyway anything I can find using google.

It is good news that in your (considerable) experience most electronics work with the regular modified sine inverters. According to pushkick the MAX draw on his particular fridge was 6.3amps, which would only require a 600 watt (continuous, 1200w max) inverter, thereby reducing the inefficiencies you've described as well as handling a "surge" to start (12 amps, or roughly double the max rating) I believe the isotherm and thetford use standard compressors rather than the reciprocating units in the dometic and norcold (maybe I have this backwards) so they hopefully wouldn't draw 4x the starting amps.

Thanks for the info tencent!
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2008 7:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

a lot of these new inverter xantec, tripp lite, coleman, schumaker, have incorporated a surge capacity in their rating so they can handle motor or micrwave startup surges. a lot them will handle 25% - 50% overload for a short peroid of time. some will even handle 100%. i think the wattage of the rm182b dometic is around 85 watts. not much wattage there

here is a link to tripp lite inverter/charger this combo is a nice feature but expensive
http://www.powercomplete.com/12VoltInverterwithCharger/TrippLiteAPS1012.html

here is just and inverter but it has 100% overload http://store.schumachermart.com/pi-1000.html
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 11, 2008 8:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

here is another nice refrigerator unit for ac /dc operation but i still like the 3way unit for remote camping solar may not always be available. http://www.waecousa.com/page.aspx?p=RPF-50
here is a good price on a dometic 3wayhttp://www.campingworld.com/browse/skus/index.cfm?skunum=13473
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