Are 12 Volt fridges in vans noisey?

Submitted: Sunday, Oct 20, 2013 at 21:55
ThreadID: 104803 Views:4513 Replies:10 FollowUps:10
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Thinking of buying a new van with a 12 volt fridge. Interested to hear from other off road caravaners who have 12 volt fridges and how efficient are they?
What are the needs to keep them going while bush camping.
New van will have 3 x 120 AMP batteries and 2 x 155 watt solar panels, also have a 20i generator if needed.
If the fridge ( 170 lt Waceo ) has insulation packed around fridge, will it be more efficient and quieter?
most of our travel is in the winter months but up the northern part of Australia, and around the Murray River in Jan- Feb
Thanks Hugh
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Reply By: get outmore - Sunday, Oct 20, 2013 at 22:34

Sunday, Oct 20, 2013 at 22:34
Depends on your tolerance to noise. None id say are noisy but on a dead calm night they could sound like a tractor pull. And other nights you wouldn't hear it over the passing traffick or wind
AnswerID: 520078

Reply By: Motherhen - Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 00:08

Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 00:08
Hi Hugh

12 volt compressor fridges are power efficient and work well in all temperatures. In northern latitudes in the hotter months solar is not as efficient, but your travel plans are like most, following optimum climate. You should not need to supplement you solar.

Sound should not be a problem. With a similar motor to the Waeco, our Vitrifrigo is virtually silent. On a very quiet night if I listen carefully I can hear it start, but my husband can't. Sometimes we run and Engel car fridge under the bed as a freezer; we can hear that running but after a short while don't notice it. We put and upright Engel in previous camper and it was a bit noisy for me at night so I used to turn it off. It maintained temperature well overnight.



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AnswerID: 520082

Reply By: Member - neville G (QLD) - Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 07:17

Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 07:17
Hi Hugh,
we have a Vitrifrigo in our van and I never hear it, mind you my hearing is not quite as good as it used to be but I believe it is very quite. We had a three way originally but it was hopeless if you wanted to keep anything cold. We have three 120ah. batteries and three 130w. solar panels and have not required any other souce of power.
Cheers, Bundy
AnswerID: 520084

Follow Up By: BUSH CAMPER - Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 08:06

Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 08:06
Thanks for the replies, I am sure we are doing the right thing.
Last Christmas we had 4 days of over 46 degree in a row, 3 way fridge was hopeless.
Thanks Hugh
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Follow Up By: Member - bbuzz (NSW) - Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 20:59

Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 20:59
I travelled round Oz for two years with a 3 way; camped out in the bush a reasonable amount of time and travelled some long distances.

The fridge did not miss a beat the whole time. I have a small partition under the cooling plates which freezes the odd meat pack.
When camping I used gas otherwise it was in the truck on the 2nd battery or on 240 in the parks.

Cost - Fridge $900. Gas - $14 plus $25 for the bottle. (lasts a fortnight if used all the time).

No solar panels, no additional batteries except for the van.

Don't understand the obsession with 12v/240v fridges.

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Follow Up By: Member - bbuzz (NSW) - Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 20:59

Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 20:59
I had frozen meat in the van fridge as well.

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Follow Up By: The Bantam - Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 21:34

Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 21:34
The problem with three way fridges is that are horribly inefficient on electricity.
On gas they a barely more efficient, the only reason they are viable at all is the high energy density of gas.

They are in general less efficient if not perfectly level

Then there are the issues with maintenance, dangerous good issues with carryng the gas, the legal requirement for a licenced gas fitter do do just about anything with them.

The maintenance issues.

cooling something by heating it, is bound to have limitations and that is how 3 way fridges work.

3 way fridges simply can not produce the temperature gradients that compressor fridges can.
The only reason they actually keep up is because they run pretty well continuously.

AND it goes on.

Compressor based fridges ARE far more efficient, no licenced worker required for install.

AND ya don't have to buy gas.....if you drive every day, a 12V DC fridge is an ongoing viability charged off the car alternator.
with a properly designed solar system in conjunction with vehicle charging a 12V DC electrc fridge is a long term ongoing viable thing that requires almost no attention at all.

It runs off the one power source all the time, there is no switching from one source of energy to the other every time you make and brake camp.

there is no requirement for outside ventilation for the fridge.

Compressor fridges have no risk of explosion from the fridge its self, and if the batteries are properly housed and maintained nearly no risk there either.

A good compressor fridge will make ice quickly, and freeze meat and fish as fast as your home freezer will.

The only advantage a three way fridge has is they are cheap.....well not that much cheaper.

In the past the 3 way fridge was only viable because we had nothing else......we gave up using absorption fridges in the home a long time ago, for the above reasons..its about time we gave them up for camping and caravaning too.


FollowupID: 800543

Reply By: MEMBER - Darian, SA - Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 08:18

Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 08:18
I think your solar provision plan sounds about right - in ideal sunny conditions, that will have no trouble looking after a compressor fridge around the 150L or less mark. There will be times of course where you can fall short on power - we have a small genny for that, plus a folding solar panel to augment the fixed ones (the genny can't always be used). As for noise - our Vitrifrigo 2 door can easily be heard running, but it has never interrupted our sleep in 5 years of travel. In very hot conditions, it is important that the compressor fridge cabinets can easily shed excess heat from the power unit too - installation guidelines for them must be followed.
AnswerID: 520087

Reply By: Brian 01 - Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 10:00

Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 10:00
I have a 220 litre Waeco fridge and a wife who can hear a fly walking on paper at 20 paces.
If I ask her if the fridge is running, she has to put her ear to the fridge door to tell me.
With regard to the batteries, have you considered going for Lithiums?
From all indications available, you will get a far better result for a lot less weight.
AnswerID: 520092

Reply By: Member - Boobook - Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 10:12

Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 10:12
Danfoss style ( eg Waeco, national Luna, ARB etc) are a lot quieter than Engel fridges, so if noise is an issue I would eliminate Engel.
AnswerID: 520094

Reply By: Member - Rick P (NT) - Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 13:21

Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 13:21
Hi Hugh
We have the 240 Lt Vitrivrigo and it's pretty close to our bed, yes you can hear it start during the night but only if you are awake, we have 2 x 120 solar panels and 2 x 110 deep cycle batteries and have never had a problem with power and we bush camp for days at a time. There is something no one ever told us about 3 way fridges and that was your going well to get 12-14 days out of a 9kg gas bottle (bush camping). We go 3-4 months on a 9kg bottle and we do a lot of cooking on gas and off course not forgetting the BabyQ.
Rick P
AnswerID: 520099

Follow Up By: Member - Rick P (NT) - Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 10:46

Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 10:46
Just one thing you must do if you are getting a 12v fridge and that is to have 8mm cable back to the batteries, anything less is not going to cut the mustard. Cheers
FollowupID: 800582

Reply By: Griff61 - Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 16:00

Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 16:00
I have a thetford 3 way fridge in my caravan and I cant hear that running. Just did 2 months in the Kimberly and the fridge ran like a charm. It runs better on gas than it does on 240. 12 volt keeps it cold till I turn it on gas or 240.
AnswerID: 520109

Follow Up By: BUSH CAMPER - Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 14:51

Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 14:51
our 3 way fridge in the current van works well except in extreme heat, I want to cover all bases and not have to depend on gas when camped in the bush for extended periods.
As said earlier, in temps of 46 degrees in the shade, the fridge was hopeless and we had this for about 4 days straight.
Don't want to go thru that again
FollowupID: 800607

Follow Up By: Griff61 - Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013 at 08:17

Wednesday, Oct 23, 2013 at 08:17
We were in Home Valley Station with 36c days and humid and our fridge worked like a charm. These days the fridges don't use much gas. We did 2 months away with stove, Fridge and hot water service and only used 1 9kg bottle.
FollowupID: 800654

Reply By: Member - bungarra (WA) - Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 17:02

Monday, Oct 21, 2013 at 17:02
Our set up is in balance nicely and seems to be very similar to what you plan

We have 3 x 105 a/h batteries
3 x 130 amp solar panels flat mounted on roof
1 x 220 L Waceo 12v compressor fridge
1 x 20i Honda (for emergency charging.....never used in 2 years)

No insulation around the free standing fridge....noise?, well you know at night that it is running but not at all fact it is a non event

24 hour power usage is around 75 to 100 a/h all up (lights and an hour or two at the most of radio or TV)...ambient under those figures are around low 30's

Hope that helps
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AnswerID: 520112

Reply By: Neil & Pauline - Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 12:34

Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 12:34
I can't hear mine to know if it is running, even with my hearing aids in. I packed insulation batts around the fridge which as well reducing power consumption by around 30% totally sound proofed it. Before I installed insulation was not a problem but could hear it.

AnswerID: 520170

Follow Up By: Brian 01 - Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 14:39

Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 14:39
Be a bit careful about packing insulation around compressor fridges as some of them have the condenser coils mounted just inside the walls and any insulation on the outside of those walls will hamper the fridge's operation.
FollowupID: 800605

Follow Up By: Neil & Pauline - Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 15:44

Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 15:44
Only put on sides and top. Condensor is on the back on the Waeco 220.

FollowupID: 800613

Follow Up By: Brian 01 - Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 18:47

Tuesday, Oct 22, 2013 at 18:47
That's good to hear, my Waeco 220 has the condenser coils enclosed inside the side walls.
FollowupID: 800639

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