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 > Why consider 12v fridge for boondocking?

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Lwiddis

Near Mammoth, California

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Posted: 01/15/22 12:54pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

My energy…battery power…has been sustained for almost 90 camping days without the need for plugging in or running my generator by my solar system. Add in my new 200 AH Lithium battery and a 12 volt fridge is possible when the propane/110 unit goes into retirement.


Winnebago 2101DS TT & 2020 Chevy Silverado 1500 LTZ Z71, WindyNation 300 watt solar-Lossigy 200 AMP Lithium battery. Prefer boondocking, USFS, COE, BLM, NPS, TVA, state camps. Bicyclist. 14 yr. Army -11B40 then 11A - (MOS 1542 & 1560) IOBC & IOAC grad


TurnThePage

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Posted: 01/15/22 01:52pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I can leave my trailer sitting with the propane fridge on for the entire summer with meager solar, 2 batteries and 2 30lb propane cylinders regardless of the weather. I don't think I could do that with a 12v fridge. That said, I see the writing on the wall and will ensure that my next RV is prepared for long term 12v fridge use.


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12thgenusa

Loveland, Colorado

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Posted: 01/15/22 02:13pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Everyone’s situation is unique. Not everyone has space to install mega-solar panels. Not everyone has space or need for a mega-battery bank. If you already have those things, with a resultant surplus of energy, a compressor fridge might make sense. I have 370 watts of solar and four GC2s for a capacity of 440 Ah and an absorption refrigerator.

I divide my power usage into two categories, much like a financial budget. There are essential items and there are discretionary or nonessential items. I consider lighting, hot water, refrigerator, water pump and furnace essential items. I also power two CPAPs that I consider essential. Discretionary items include entertainment system (a 2-hour movie costs 20 Ah with my system), microwave use, electric toaster, coffee maker, hair dryer and electronic device charging.

Quite often we camp where overnight furnace use is required (or at least very nice) and of course CPAP use. Those three items set a threshold of about 50 Ah per night. Generally, our daily use is 80 to 120 Ah. In Colorado with its many sunny days and high altitude I can get away with lots of discretionary use and am still able to recover fully the next day. On the occasion of extended cloudy, rainy days I can limit my discretionary use and still rarely use a generator to supplement.

Adding the daily load of 25 Ah or more to power a refrigerator raises the threshold of required power that would generally curtail use of discretionary items. If I could add more solar I would, but this would require ground, portable units which I am loath to do. If I go to places with fewer clear, sunny days, the 12-volt refer would push me over the edge where I would have to use a generator more frequently which dashes the whole idea of being solar power independent.

A trip to Alaska several years ago is a case in point. At that time there was only one CPAP to power and there was little furnace use. There were many overcast, rainy days. Except for a few places where we made extended stays of a few days, most of the time we were moving every day or every other day, so there was a “decent” amount of TV charging. We had to run the generator probably eight times in the 80 days we were out. A 12-volt refer would have required much more gen usage.

A lot of words to say this: If you have the capability to power all your essential items including 12-volt fridge and the reserve power to get you through the times when solar is minimal, go for it. For me, an absorption fridge just removes an unnecessary burden on the power system.


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Lantley

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Posted: 01/15/22 02:18pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Gdetrailer wrote:

Lantley wrote:

I can easily go a week with my propane fridge. With a baic factory RV set up with 2-12 volt batteries. No solar , no inverter, no sun requied just stock lp fridge.
From a simplicity standpoint "carringb" is spot on.
a 12 volt compressor fridge has advantages if there is a engine and travel involved. However if just sitting stationary a LP fridge is a simple versatile solution.
I understand solar is the wave of the future. A modern solar set up can do the impossible now days.
However if you just want to run the fridge off the grid without a lot of aftermarket investment/stuff, LP is still the simple solution.


Well until you factor in dragging a bunch of propane cylinders around with you.. They do get heavy to carry, even "20 lb" weight just under 40 lbs when full..

Most off grid homes and cabins now days employ a few solar panels a couple of batteries and a electric fridge and they run those for yrs without gens or refilling tanks. Dragging a bunch of heavy propane cylinders out into the bush is so 1800's in thinking..

I would rather have a electric fridge with solar and battery than drive an battery powered vehicle.. I have plenty of time to camp and wait for batteries to recharge via solar than wait for half hr or more in a parking lot to get a 20% charge for a vehicle just to get to the next power station.

An off grid home doesn't have any wheels. My RV has wheels, the idea of tranporting LP in and out of the bush is a lot eaier with wheels... LOL.
I don't think member Carringb was referring to a battery powered vehicle.
He was simply saying that 12 volt compressor fridge units are popular with the camper van crowd because they traveled regularly and could recharge during normal travel with ease


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toedtoes

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Posted: 01/15/22 02:47pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

For me, neither of my propane fridges (3-way and 2-way) use any electricity when running on propane. I also don't use electric appliances. So my only electrical use is the lights and the occasional charging of phone and/or kindle.

So, in my case, using the fridge on propane gives me about 30 days before needing a refill. My battery lasts easily 15 days without hitting the 50 percent mark and no recharging. My limiting factor is the water - my motorhome can go 15 days before needing to dump and/or refill fresh water without my doing major conservation - except no showers. My trailer can go about 4-5 days.

Using a 12v fridge would drastically cut my camping time or would require me to buy and use a generator and/or solar.


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JRscooby

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Posted: 01/15/22 04:06pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

carringb wrote:

Compressor fridges have become almost standard on camper vans, because they rarely stay stationary for many days at a time. Even a short drive will restore much of the battery bank if you have something like a Transit with dual 250-amp alternators or a Sprinter with an aftermarket 2nd alternator.

Trailers tend to be more little stationary when boondocking, because when you leave for the day, you only drive the TV. That's how I use mine. It just becomes "home-base". So absorption fridges still make the most sense, unless the trailer has enough solar and is only parked in sunny locations.


Something I have thought about for people that leave trailer while touring with TV; Add a deep cycle battery large enough to handle overnight loads to the the TV. Leave a battery bank on trailer, but the total of the 2 banks could be smaller than needed for the total stay. After a day of driving return to site with full charge in 1 bank. Turn off the trailer, plug TV in. Next morning, the battery on TV will need charge, but the trailer bank ready to carry thru the day. In theroy, loads when nobody home should be limited.

valhalla360

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Posted: 01/15/22 07:10pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Gdetrailer wrote:

Well until you factor in dragging a bunch of propane cylinders around with you.. They do get heavy to carry, even "20 lb" weight just under 40 lbs when full..

Most off grid homes and cabins now days employ a few solar panels a couple of batteries and a electric fridge and they run those for yrs without gens or refilling tanks. Dragging a bunch of heavy propane cylinders out into the bush is so 1800's in thinking..

I would rather have a electric fridge with solar and battery than drive an battery powered vehicle.. I have plenty of time to camp and wait for batteries to recharge via solar than wait for half hr or more in a parking lot to get a 20% charge for a vehicle just to get to the next power station.


I took the OP's post to indicate the comparison should be to a stock camper...which by default already includes propane tanks. Net impact is no additional weight. Unless you come up with a different solution for cooking and furnace, you will retain the propane tanks.

Now if you want to look to make substantial changes at substantial costs, you can make 12v viable.

All else being equal, I would go propane but currently we have a trailer that came with a 12v and the other benefits make us happy with it so far (much more storage for the same space and quicker cool down). With a modest solar system/battery upgrade, it's workable for off grid operation.


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ScottG

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Posted: 01/15/22 07:22pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator


Something I have thought about for people that leave trailer while touring with TV; Add a deep cycle battery large enough to handle overnight loads to the the TV. Leave a battery bank on trailer, but the total of the 2 banks could be smaller than needed for the total stay. After a day of driving return to site with full charge in 1 bank. Turn off the trailer, plug TV in. Next morning, the battery on TV will need charge, but the trailer bank ready to carry thru the day. In theroy, loads when nobody home should be limited.

I have done this very thing and it works great. At times I've even just used the trucks own eng battery's and that worked good too. (No, I don't give a rats ars about shortening their lives.)
I also carry a lithium power station that I charge off an inverter in the truck and use that to run my TV.

Skibane

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Posted: 01/15/22 10:29pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Gdetrailer wrote:

Your forgetting the mere fact that unless you have a very, very small (2 cu ft or smaller) propane fridge which doesn't need 12V for the control board your RV fridge is using battery 24/7 and when it opens the gas valve, the gas valve consumes additional battery.


My 5 cu. ft. Dometic consumes 0.35 amps when the burner is lit, and less than 0.01 amps when it isn't.

The battery power consumption is just a tiny fraction of what it would be with any 12 volt compressor-driven fridge.

StirCrazy

Kamloops, BC, Canada

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Posted: 01/16/22 06:38am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Gdetrailer wrote:

ktmrfs wrote:

Gdetrailer wrote:

Your camping in a RV, right?

Your RV NEEDs a 12V battery for basic functions like powering the control board in your propane fridge, right?

Your battery charge does not last a month, right?

You must recharge the battery periodically anyways, right?

Since you obviously must recharge the RV battery, you must have solar, gen and or a huge battery bank to last more than a long weekend, right?

So, where is the "advantage" of a propane fridge if you already have a battery, must have a gen and or solar and recharge the battery daily or every couple of days?


advantage of a propane fridge is I can go 4-6 days before i need to recharge even with no solar or generator. No way could I go for that long with a 12V compressor fridge. If the sun is out much at all I can keep the batteries fully charged easily. With a compressor fridge, nope, I'd still be bringing out the generator even with full sun every few days.

Propane advantage over batteries is propane energy content/gallon or energy content/lb is orders of magnitude higher than a battery. Now I will agree that a compressor fridge cools down faster and is less temperature sensitive than a propane fridge. So if you camp with power handy it makes sense.

With LED lighting & propane fridge in nice weather battery draw is pretty low. Even in cold weather we still can go several days in cloudy weather before needing to dig out the generator.

So if we had a compressor fridge when we boondock for 2 weeks I'd need to bring along more gas for the generator. As it is I seldom even use all the gas in the generator, still have lots of propane left. For us have no desire to have a compressor fridge for the type of "off grid" camping we do. If most/all our camping was at places with available 120V, then a compressor fridge would likely be high on the list.


Your forgetting the mere fact that unless you have a very, very small (2 cu ft or smaller) propane fridge which doesn't need 12V for the control board your RV fridge is using battery 24/7 and when it opens the gas valve, the gas valve consumes additional battery..

I can go 24 hrs on one single pair of 6V GC2s (215 Ahr) and use less than half of that capacity. GC2s life cycles are based on using 80% of the capacity which means I can go as long as 1.5 days.

If I added an extra pair of GC2s I have the capability of 3 days with no charging.

If I added about 200W-300W of solar and had two pairs of GC2s I would be right at 6 days without the need for a gen.

Now, to add some insult to injury to the idea that propane is "superior" I am doing this with a 120V home fridge with a inverter.

12V fridge compressors tend to be a bit more energy efficient which means 200W of solar and 4 GC2s would give you easily 7-8 days without the need for a gen. If I remember correctly 12V compressor fridges tend to only use about 25 Ahr per day which is only twice what a propane fridge with electronic control board.

Granted, with my inverter I cheat a bit, it has a "power save" feature which turns the inverter on/off. When the fridge T stat calls for the compressor the inverter snaps back to life powering the fridge, when compressor shuts off, the inverter goes back to sleep. That in it's self saves me a good 24 Ahr of battery per 24 hrs.

You may as well get used to the idea that propane fridges are slowly being dropped. Given the fact that compressor fridges over the yrs have become very energy efficient, battery capacities and solar are improving and the cost to build compressor based fridges are much lower. It really will not take much to adapt to a 12V or even a120V compressor fridge.

You might wish to consider that propane costs have increased greatly, they are not going to get cheaper and with the all out attempts to banish everything that operates from any fossil fuel sources (propane is carbon fraction extracted from crude oils and natural gas via refining processes) it too will be in the cross hairs of extinction..


with the larger propane fridge in my 5th wheel 7cu ft, with 4 GC batteries I can go just shy of 2 weeks with out charging, and my fridge has fans to move air across the fins in the back. if I am not runing the inverter for other stuff or the furnace. so I don't realy concider 3 days that great, in fct I would be down right upset as that is 33 ah a dayassuming your only using 1/2 the capacity of your batteries and the adverage battery is around that 200ah mark. now add fringe season to that where your going to run your furnace. yes the fridge might drop off as it isnt starting up as much so say it drops to 25 AH a day, add in the furnace and your talking big draws..

my truck camper only has a 5cuft fridge but it has two GC2 208AH batteries and 325 watts of solar. the adsorbation fridge makes it so the furnace is the major draw and I can camp indefinatly in that if there is sun every two days. if I had an 12V fridge I would probably make it a weekend but beyond that would be dicy

for me I think if you always camp where its above 75 degrees so you never run the furnace then ya a 12V fridge makes sence and you can compensate for it, or if you just run the furnace for a fe min to take the edge off in the morning type thing. this way you have a workable load and solar can cover it. you start adding the full time furnace into it and maybe other loads that are even more (inverter microwave, coffee pot etc) then your needeing even more batteries and larger solar and hoping you don't have many cloudy days. I do like some aspects of the 12V fridge , but you can make an adsorption fridge preform just as good and use a fraction of the power. for people that mostly plug in then adsorption fridges are awsome, just need enough power to get where your going. I am seeing the adsorption fridges more in the larger pull to a park and stay there for a month with hookups type units.

don't forget large battery banks and solar are not the normal, it seams like it on here but you go out camping and its amazing how rare it is to see that kind of thing. mind you I would expect to see more of it down in the hot areas of the US , but even then gennys might be more popular.

Steve


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