types of mobile refrigeration is used in camper trailers or
What is the best chest type portable refrigerator – Waeco, Engel, ARB,
Trailblaza or National Luna?
What is eutectic refrigeration?
One of the benefits of having a camper
trailer is it’s ability to be packed down to a smaller size
for towing. In some ways this feature will also influence
the size or height of the refrigerator that can installed
and therefore, the litre volume capacity of the
camper trailers come with a single door Dometic 3 way
fridge/freezer. Three way fridges have alternative power
sources (LPG gas/12V/ mains power). There is the Dometic 90
litre absorption fridge/freezer with a refrigerator volume of 80
litres and freezer volume of 10 litres. The dimensions are 766
mm high x 550 mm wide x 565 mm deep and
weight 29 kg (empty). The refrigerator requires
vents and a flue kit and it comes with an easy to see gas flame
indicator and the ability to reverse the door to a left or right
‘Absorption’ type refrigerators use a heat source (eg:
12V/230V/LPG gas) for energy to drive the cooling system. The
refrigerator relies on the cooling effect of the liquid
(ammonia) as it evaporates into a gas.
way absorption refrigerators with a climate class ‘T’ or
tropicalised rating (See article "Caravan, Motorhome and 5th Wheeler
are designed to work in ambient temperatures up to 43
degrees C but often there is a dissatisfaction with their
overall performance so we now see the introduction of
is a compressor driven refrigeration system coupled with a
cold storage device such as a eutectic tank which contains a
liquid which is chilled and frozen during a refrigeration
cycle. Where a conventional refrigeration system requires
power all day a eutectic system does not.
incorporate a tank filled with a liquid that continually
freezes and defrosts (cyclic) so when the liquid freezes in
the tank its cooling energy is stored. As the tank defrosts
it draws heat from items stored in the cool box cooling them
and when the tank is almost defrosted the compressor starts
again and repeats the cycle and this is termed a ‘eutectic
phase’. So these eutectic system refrigeration have a much
lower overall power consumption and a lot less stop/start
operation of the refrigeration unit. If the refrigerator is
set on ‘2’ and left to cycle on/off all day it would use
about 19 - 24 Ah per day but if set as a freezer on one of the
sub-zero settings of ‘5’, ‘6’ or ‘7’ the average daily
consumption would be about 40 Ah at
eutectic fridge can be programmed to come on during daylight
hours only so on a solar array this would be when the solar
panels are generating power so later there is enough liquid
freeze to keep the fridge cool overnight and less need to
draw on the power stored in the batteries to run the
refrigerator at night.
Kimberley Karavans use a remote mounted (Danfoss)
compressor 133 litre fridge/freezer with their Karavan
model and eutectic refrigerators in their Kamper
Kimberly Karavans state the eutectic refrigeration is
suitable for high or extreme high ambient temperatures. The
eutectic fluid surrounds the outside of the four walls of
the interior cabinet acting as an ‘ice bank’ and with the
refrigerator, having initially been pre-chilled, only needs
to operate on its maximum setting for about 5-6 hours per
off-roadcustom built Ultimate Campers at
Moruya NSW have an option for a 3 way refrigerator/freezer
or a 125 litre eutectic fridge/freezer system in
their XTrk model.
Chest Fridge/Freezer The
common mobile refrigerator for camper trailers is the portable
chest fridges. The most common is the 12V/230V chest
refrigerator although there are also gas/electric chest
trailer manufacturers now make provision
for a fridge and a fridge box on the camper trailer draw bar.
example, Cub Trailer’s top of the range off-road camper
trailer ‘Drover’ model comes with a fridge box. There is an
option for solar panels on the hard top camper.
Kimberley Kamper has a similar feature.
range of chest fridge/freezers is large and varied.
Some popular brands are:-
4 x 4 Accessories released the 47 litre ARB
fridge/freezer with a Danfoss compressor (made in
Germany) coupled with a smart electronic control
system to maximise cooling efficiency down to -18
degrees C. The ARB fridge/freezer features a
separate compartment for fruit and dairy, reversible
basket, internal LED light with magnetic switch that
automatically turns the light off when the lid is
closed plus a drain plug in the base of the fridge
for easy cleaning. The fridge/freezer is able to be
operated on 12/24DC and 100/230
AC and it has an
integrated battery protection system that allows
users to select the minimum operating voltage for
the fridge to prevent excessive discharge of the
vehicle battery. ARB states the power consumption
*Power consumption tested at 3°C cabinet
temperature, 26°C-31°C ambient temperature range,
test duration of 66 hours and supply voltage of 12V
Accessories such as a tie down system, fridge slide
and an insulated fridge bag are available.
produce a powder coated steel cabinet 12V
fridge/freezer with a digital thermostat
and low battery cut out to
safeguard your battery. The
fridge/freezer capacity varies with low lid 35
litres, high lid 42 litres and 52 litres with the
optional extension collar. It is run by an
ACC GD30FDC Brushless compressor (made in Spain)
which is rubber mounted to it’s own base plate.
Dual lids and baskets are standard accessories and
it features a low battery protection system .
Bushman state the power consumption – ‘With
refrigerator set at -4c @ 24c ambient the Bushman
uses a mere 16 Amp hours per day’.
chest fridge/freezers have been around for years and
come in various sizes and range in capacity from 14
litre to 80 litre. They are 12V/24V/230V
compatible. have the combi fridge/freezer which has
separate fridge and freezer compartments with
digital temperature readout. There are those Engel
chest fridge/freezers with a steel coating, a tough
plastic coating and others with a polypropylene
cabinet. The DC power consumption for the 40 litre
chest fridge/freezer is stated to be – ‘Variable
from 0.5 to
7 AMPS Maximum’.
Engel also have a large range of accessories such as
transit bags, fridge slides, hinge locks and basket
Engel have the Sawafuji Swing Motor chest model
refrigerator/freezers. Engel state – ‘The
Sawafuji Swing Motor is located within the
compressor casing where the piston is the only
The piston is connected to an electro dynamic device
which is powered by the use of magnetic fields.
With this technology there is no need for bearings,
cranks or con-rods, so less moving parts means less
chance of failure. With only one moving part there
is a very low friction loss which means this is a
highly efficient compressor’.
is an Australian company that produce a
35 litre, 62 litre and 82 litre 12V/24V dual
temperature fridge/freezer powered by a
and fully insulated
base, walls and lid. It features
an automatic change over from AC to DC, a low battery voltage cut out
and operates as a fridge/freezer in the same cabinet or as a
whole fridge or whole freezer. EvaKool also have a range of custom fridges
for camper trailers and caravans. EvaKool state the 35 litre
fridge, operating at an ambient temperature of 32 deg C will
use between 1.0 - 2.5 A/Hr depending on the setting.
fridge/freezers are metal inside and out with all
models having built in 12V and 230V with automatic
AC/DC switching and a low battery cut out. The
National Luna range start at 40 litre unit up to 125
litre unit and are powered by Danfoss
For example, their 80 litre fridge/freezer comes in
aluminium or stainless steel and the aluminium
version weighs in at 29 kg. The aluminium model
comes with 1 basket and the stainless steel model
with 4 baskets. National Luna state the power
consumption to be – 12V 2.5 Amps average running
current and 1.74 –
2.4 amp/hour average power draw.
Minimum temperature -18 deg
C at 43 deg C ambient.
Trailblaza (made by
Norcoast Refrigeration Company P/L) fridge/freezers have a two-in-one range with two
compartments which you can run both as a fridge or
both as a freezer or one as a freezer and the other
as a refrigerator or the bottom half of each
compartment as a freezer and top half as a fridge.
One compartment can also be turned off altogether.
Trailblaza have a brush finish, platinum and
checkerplate exterior option. They feature a built
AC power pack and a switch to operate a
variable speed compressor.
For use with solar, the Trailblaza units with 125 mm
insulation fitted are recommended as they state it
uses 24% less energy than the 75 mm insulated
Feedback on 4WD forums report highly on the
Trailblaza fridge/freezers as well as the after
produce the CoolFreeze compressor fridge/freezer
range powered by a Danfoss BDF compressor and
constructed of tough polypropylene plastic. Waeco
also have the CFX
portable chest refrigerators with two or three
compartments – freezer, fridge and dairy. Waeco
state their compressor refrigeration is ‘just right’
for use with solar systems and provide excellent
refrigeration even in extreme heat. Waeco state the
power consumption for the CFX-50
50 litre fridge
freezer – ‘Ave.
0.77 amps/hr (@ 12V, 5°C
interior, 32°C ambient temperature)’.
Gas/electric/12V chest fridges
as these fridge/freezers use LPG gas they must not be used
in confined spaces such as tents or vehicles, especially
where anyone is sleeping, as they can generate high
concentrations of carbon monoxide and use up the oxygen.
There have been several fatalities from carbon monoxide (CO)
poisoning in Australia.
manufacture the CA-35 litre chest fridge which has alternate
power sources of 12V/230V AC/LPG gas. The LPG gas option is
great for use in remote locations. Then there is the Waeco
combi box which is a fridge/freezer combination which
combines a 30 litre fridge and a 16 litre freezer.
Dometic also supply two 3 way
(12V/Gas/230V AC) chest fridge/freezers ie: a F400 EGP 39 litre and
the RC1180 EGP 50 litre.