3 Way Fridge Replacement

Submitted: Friday, Sep 22, 2017 at 14:30
ThreadID: 135621 Views:8634 Replies:7 FollowUps:4
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I was curious to know the experiences any members may have had when upgrading their fridge from a 3-way (absorption) fridge to a 12v/240v compressor fridge, principally in their caravan or camper.

Obviously, there will need to be an increase in battery capacity, and I am interested in how they coped with periods "off the grid".

I am keen to understand what battery size they upgraded to and what size solar panel(s) are used to ensure sufficient capacity to get through the night, and possibly the next day (if it turns out to be cloudy and/or raining) vs the draw of the fridge. The battery capacity of my van is sufficient at the moment, using the 3 way fridge, but I need to get an understanding of what additional capacity I will need to look at.


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Reply By: Kazza055 - Friday, Sep 22, 2017 at 14:41

Friday, Sep 22, 2017 at 14:41
Many people on the Caravanners forum are replacing their three way fridge with small domestic inverter fridges, mainly they are using Samsung models around the 220-250L along with a small 300W inverter.

A 3 way or 12V/240V replacement is going to cost big bucks but they are going this way for around $400 or there abouts.

Have a look here for a start.

If you are a bit of a handy man, it is the way to go as long as you have enough solar and battery to run it.
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Reply By: Member -Pinko (NSW) - Friday, Sep 22, 2017 at 17:16

Friday, Sep 22, 2017 at 17:16
Hello Peter
I have an Utimate Camper and fourteen years ago it came with a Dometic Rm2350 3 way fridge.
I have replaced the fridge with another Dometic 3 way RM2356 95 ltr.It is streets ahead of the old fridge and rated 't' tropical.
I did not wish to go the way of making sure batteries were always charged etc.with special batteries, bcdc when away from 240v. supply.
I fitted the fridge myself and was a straight swap apart from a slight wiring alteration.
I purchased from 'My Generator' on line.
I just returned from 3 weeks in Arnhem Land and it peformed faultlessly 35 to 37 ambient with 5.7 in the fridge.
I like the function where this fridge can automatically find energy source depending on what is available

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Follow Up By: Member - David M (SA) - Friday, Sep 22, 2017 at 19:27

Friday, Sep 22, 2017 at 19:27
Cheers Pinko. Great Info for the future.
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Follow Up By: Member - Stephen L (Clare SA) - Friday, Sep 22, 2017 at 23:15

Friday, Sep 22, 2017 at 23:15
Hi Pinko

Did you have any issues with food spoilage during the trip?

The inside fridge temperate that you have just quoted above is way too high for safe food handling, with anything higher than 4 not acceptable in the food industry.

We try to have our fridge sitting at 2 or lower and our car fridge at around minus 1

The first thing people are going to say is what are the daytime temperatures when using the fridge. Like you, we returned 2 weeks ago from an eastern Kimberley and Nhulunbuy month trip with temperatures from 38 at Kununurra, 40 at Timber Creek, 39 at Katherine and 29 at Nhulunbuy and then slowly getting cooler the further south we travelled.

Not wanting to spoil your post, but at neatly 6 inside the fridge, your produce will not last long and bacteria will grow at a very fast rate.

Each to their own, but just advising what safe food handling sgould be.


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Follow Up By: Member -Pinko (NSW) - Saturday, Sep 23, 2017 at 07:12

Saturday, Sep 23, 2017 at 07:12
No food spoilage at all except for the odd frozen lettuce and frozen tomato.
The freezer remained at minus 17 .
I visited the Waeco/dometic workshop in Mt Isa to have a temperature check and found I needed to replace the inside outside monitor. The original monitor was a Jaycar variety and I replaced it with an Engel monitor from BCF Mt.Isa.
We are still using frozen meals taken on that trip.
I was also surprised at the fifty or so dead waeco fridges laying about the Mt Isa service centre yard.
As you say Stephen to thier own.
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Reply By: Life Member - Terry 80FTE - Friday, Sep 22, 2017 at 20:54

Friday, Sep 22, 2017 at 20:54
Hi Peter,
I replaced the 3way fridge in our small C/van with a Dometic CRX80 fridge (made by Waeco)
Installed 2 x 135 amp hour AGM batteries, 200w flexy solar panel and a Ctec D250S Dual DC-DC charger, which also gets gets fed from the vehicle.
We just did the Kimberly GRR and WA west coast, off grid for a week at a time no probs.

Cheers Terry
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Reply By: Motherhen - Friday, Sep 22, 2017 at 21:03

Friday, Sep 22, 2017 at 21:03
Quite some years ago we purchased and old wind-up camper. We threw out the old gas - electric fridge and found an upright Engel that was exactly the same dimensions. We added on 12 v 100 ah battery, and in those days, a regular solar panel was 80 watts. We mounted the panel on a frame and put it out to face the sun when we stopped for the day, and faced it east for the sunrise. Great - we even left the old genny behind because set-up this ran the fridge and a couple of 12 volt lights.

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Reply By: Bob Y. - Qld - Friday, Sep 22, 2017 at 21:13

Friday, Sep 22, 2017 at 21:13
You don't say what size fridge you're after, Peter?

Recently, I fitted an 80L Engel upright fridge to my canopy, instead of buying a heavy, and expensive drop slide unit to suit a 40L Engel. It cost about $1300(I think??), uses from 2.7 - 3.2 amps, and weighs only 5kgs more than the 40L Engel it replaced.

Have 2 of 120ah batteries charged by alternator/200w solar panel, to power the fridge. Probably get away with one battery but we use a smaller fridge as a freezer on some trips.


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Follow Up By: mike39 - Saturday, Sep 23, 2017 at 07:39

Saturday, Sep 23, 2017 at 07:39
After years battling with inconsistent performance from a Dometic 90l. 3 way I replaced it with an Engel 80l 12/240 upright van fridge.
Brilliant performance in all ambient conditions, draws 2.5a.at an approx. 50% duty cycle so 1 x 100a.hr. battery plus 200w. solar panel provides more than adequate power. It automatically switches to 240v. power if available.

The drawback with this fridge however, is the door. The small brackets supporting the hinge pins tend to come loose, the pin holding the door closed jumps out and one trip we arrived in Halls Creek after the Tanami with the door lying on the floor.

This was caused by the hinge pins being located only in the plastic door surround, the plastic simply fretted away allowing the door to fall straight out.

The problem with the door has been completely overcome with reinforcement of the brackets, metal corners on the door for the hinge pins and a spring catch near the bottom of the door to keep it firmly closed at all times.

The newer Engel models may have addressed this issue, this one is now 8 yrs. old.
I should add though, we do an awful lot of rough roads and cross country.
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Reply By: Sand Man (SA) - Saturday, Sep 23, 2017 at 08:44

Saturday, Sep 23, 2017 at 08:44
Due to prior experiences with a 3 way fridge, I chose to "upgrade" to a 12v/240v compressor fridge when ordering my new camper. The brand the manufacturer chose was a Waeco 70l fridge.
Recognising that the 7 amp battery charger would not "cut the mustard" I also upgraded to a 15 amp Ctek charger.
After taking delivery of the camper, I was somewhat surprised that the standard 80Ah gel battery was all that was supplied. In my opinion, both the Manufacturer and the Caravan Agent I purchased the Camper from had NFI on what should have been supplied or recommended for a compressor type fridge.
I immediately removed the 80Ah battery and sold it on eBay for a good price and installed two 100Ah Fullriver AGM batteries.
On a recent extended trip through the Pilbara and Kimberley regions I had occasion to bushcamp for 4 days each, at two consecutive locations. With just 5 hours traveling to the second site, the batteries were indicating that the power levels were getting low towards the end. At each location I employed a 120 watt solar panel to help maintain battery life. I also use a dc-dc charger which limits the charging rate through the alternator to 20 amps and a 5 hour drive obviously had not topped the batteries up fully. I was fully aware of this limitation but chose the dc charger method for more healthy long term battery life.
So, I would recommend a minimum of 200Ah of battery storage, or an additional solar panel, if you intend stand-alone camping for extended periods.
As far as a 3-way fridge vs a compressor fridge goes, the comparison is chalk and cheese, with the compressor fridge winning hands down.
My two mates have 3-way fridges in their Campers and they were struggling at times to maintain a consistent internal fridge temperature.
One is now considering the investment in a replacement compressor fridge and extra battery.

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Reply By: Sigmund - Saturday, Sep 23, 2017 at 13:13

Saturday, Sep 23, 2017 at 13:13
Fridge consumption

Solar power
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