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Old 09-05-2019, 09:40 AM   #1
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2-way fridge running on AC

Will all 2-way fridges quickly fail on AC mode?

I recently purchased a Unique-brand 2-way fridge from Home Depot. It took an extra month in shipping due to Home Depot screwing things up, and I finally received it, dented, a day after I was supposed to start a major trip (I delayed the trip to get the fridge).

The propane didn’t work at all (damaged in shipment), so I used it on AC mode. It quickly drained my batteries and cooled very slowly, but it worked well enough to keep my food from going bad.

Now, here is my surprise: Unique-brand 2-way fridges are designed to use AC only as “backup” and the AC element is NOT designed for long-term use. Long story short, it failed after two weeks in AC mode, spoiling all my food. Reading one of the major reseller’s literature, all Unique fridges are designed this way and will fail if used in AC mode. Do other manufacturer’s do this too?

The good news is my fridge is under warranty by Home Depot and I’ll get my money back.(if it was outside the store’s warranty, the manufacturer would have me pay to ship at my own expense to fix)
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Old 09-05-2019, 09:58 AM   #2
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“ Important Note: This refrigerator is designed to be run on propane as the primary energy source. The electric feature is for backup in case you run out of propane, and have a generator to plug it into until you can refill your tank. The electric heating element will only last for about 6-8 months of use.”

A couple other interesting notes:
1. The manufacturer warns that of the ambient temperature falls below 60 degrees, the food in your fridge may freeze
2. The Unique fridge runs an electric heating element constantly at the door to keep it from frosting up, which is a major power drain on the battery - old versions let you disable it, but they removed that feature
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Old 09-05-2019, 10:13 AM   #3
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I have had reasonable success with Norcold 2 way and 3 way refrigerators running on AC long term.

I have never had a heating element fail. I have had the cooling units leak on a couple. If you are set on a 2 way you may want to consider Norcold.

A number of the stick and staples manufacturers are offering conventional household refrigerators. I have switched to residential refrigerators in my rigs. I
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Old 09-05-2019, 10:31 AM   #4
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Just get a decent House bank and efficient 12V compressor fridge, don't bother with propane.

These "absorption" type fridges are **extremely** energy inefficient using electricity,

even the most basic research you would have gotten the message

only use electricity from alternator output, not practical to pull it from even a huge $3000 deep cycling bank when you're not driving.

As with most mains-power appliances, no one cares about energy efficiency when kWh are so much cheaper than with solar, genset, whatever alternatives.

Alternator output the same, not actually free but plentiful amps and the cost obscured.
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Old 09-05-2019, 06:15 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by john61ct View Post
Just get a decent House bank and efficient 12V compressor fridge, don't bother with propane.

...

only use electricity from alternator output, not practical to pull it from even a huge $3000 deep cycling bank when you're not driving.
I'm not sure I understand - are you suggesting running the 12 volt fridge off batteries or the alternator (or both)? Thanks.
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Old 09-05-2019, 06:35 PM   #6
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This part:

>> Just get a decent House bank and efficient 12V compressor fridge, don't bother with propane.

Is the real solution, abandoning that 2-way.

And an alternator is one charge source, solar and a genset other possibilities while off grid.

That type of fridge uses maybe 15-40Ah per day, and will run 24*7, when a source is not active then runs off the batteries. A 200Ah bank will be plenty to spare.


This part:

> only use electricity from alternator output, not practical to pull it from even a huge $3000 deep cycling bank when you're not driving

is in the meantime, using that super inefficient one.
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Old 09-06-2019, 10:56 AM   #7
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I'm just surprised that a manufacturer would make an electrical heating element designed to fail with so little use. I'm curious if this is a profit decision ("we make $3 ore profit per refrigerator") or a more underhanded one ("these fridges will fail just after the warranty expires and we'll make money on repairs and replacements") or an engineering one ("we don't have the expertise to make a more reliable part").
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Old 09-06-2019, 12:05 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Biscuitsjam View Post
I'm just surprised that a manufacturer would make an electrical heating element designed to fail with so little use. I'm curious if this is a profit decision ("we make $3 ore profit per refrigerator") or a more underhanded one ("these fridges will fail just after the warranty expires and we'll make money on repairs and replacements") or an engineering one ("we don't have the expertise to make a more reliable part").
It wasn't designed to fail with little use. It's design was for a specific purpose, to temporarily run the system till the propane takes over again. To run it on a temp system for months is outside it's design parameters and will fail like anything outside those parameters. Compare it to running your motor off just a starting fluid, it does it's job to start the motor, but will damage it if used excessively.
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Old 09-06-2019, 12:18 PM   #9
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Or just a crap product from a shoddy maker, improper design, poor component selection and/or insufficient assembly QA processes.

Enough people choose based on the lowest price, to make their success just as likely as a quality vendor like Engel.
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Old 09-06-2019, 03:56 PM   #10
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I'm still not sure what direction I'm planning to go on the fridge. I was disappointed with the 2-way Unique brand, as it didn't work as well as I hoped on AC mode, and propane brings its own challenges (maintenance, leveling, and maintaining a consistent temp as the ambient temperature changes.). There are a lot of other brands, however, and propane can be a very efficient fridge solution if done right.

I was looking at the 12 volt fridges. I need a specific size (24"x24" base, 50-67' height, approximately 10 cubic feet). The only ones I've found in that size are Unique, Everchill, Ecosolarcool, and Sunstar. Of those, only the Everchill has an AC option, but that brand has a spotty reputation. I'm also nervous about Unique's quality after my last experience and can't find much info on whether Sunstar or Ecosolarcool are decent brands. Sundanzer's closest fridge is 25.3" wide, 29.9" deep, and 68.5" high - I don't think I can easily modify the space to work.

For curiosity sake, what would be the best way to run a DC fridge when plugged into shore power or generator power? I can run it off the batteries while the batteries get power from my charger, but is that the best way?
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Old 09-06-2019, 06:09 PM   #11
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All DC loads just stay hooked up to the bank as usual.

The charger when AC input is available, takes over feeding them as well as charging the bank.

Same with solar, but at input current levels lower than the sum of all loads, the bank outputs the difference, and there's no charging
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