Three way fridges

Submitted: Friday, Jan 14, 2005 at 21:30
ThreadID: 19383 Views:13396 Replies:9 FollowUps:6
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Hi, my partner and I are new to three way fridges and would like to find out which brand is the best to go for. We've heard a lot about Waeco and Engel but have recently been told by a friend that they are usually the first to keel over and die. So, if anyone could help us out with their feedback on what they've experienced it'd be really helpful! We'd also prefer to run it on 12v not gas so if there are some fridges that go better than others on that (I have read some of the other questions on this forum and it seems that some aren't that great in keeping cold on 12v) that would also be a great help! Thanks!
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Reply By: Graham- Friday, Jan 14, 2005 at 21:45

Friday, Jan 14, 2005 at 21:45

You will find that there have been heaps of posts here, and in other forums, about fridges. The Waeco vs Engel is just like Holden vs Ford and then you have to factor in other brands like Bushman etc etc etc.

It really comes down to your intended use!

The other factor is that you can have a choice in either 2way (240volt or 12/24volt) fridges or the type you are talking about in a 3 way. (Chescold is another brand)

You cannot use gas when travelling.


In answer to your question.

We bought a no-name threeway fridges from REPCO a while back. We only use it for trips where we are staying put. eg Moreton Island, Bournda NP etc. And hook it up to a gas cylinder. At home at Christmas it is plugged into the mains as the drinks fridge! :-)

If you are going to be doing serious travelling like, say, the Canning or Cape or Kimberely you really need to be looking at Engel or Waeco or Bushman or whatever 12/24volt setups.

As for Waeco and Engel keeling over. I am sure the people following me will have something to say about that.

It really comes down to your intended use!! We have the Repco for long stay holidays. We have an Evacool ice box (we drop a block of wet or dry ice into, for travelling/touring.

When we get arouhnd to doing the Canning or Cape or Kimberely we most likely will hire an Engel.

Hope this is of some help.



AnswerID: 93140

Follow Up By: REX.....(Adelaide) - Friday, Jan 14, 2005 at 22:00

Friday, Jan 14, 2005 at 22:00
i use my chescold 3 way all the time travel on 12 v set up for gas when we camp for the night plug in to mains when we can (saves gas
the chescold uses an average 1k of gas in 3 days of constant use in temp 30-39 deg
had it 5 year never had a problem
FollowupID: 352123

Reply By: Member - Captain (WA) - Friday, Jan 14, 2005 at 23:11

Friday, Jan 14, 2005 at 23:11
Hi kyako,

Don't know how much your friend knows about fridges, but if he reckons "engels and waeco are the first to keel over and die", well I reckon he might have meant "they are the first to disappear as all your mates borrow them"!!!

While the debate about the reliability and efficiency of waeco and engels will probably go on for ever, the bottom line is they are both very good and you would be very unlucky to have either let you down. The same goes for virtually any well known compressor fridge, they virtually all use a danfoss compressor, except the engels which uses its own brand compressor.

The advantages of a compressor (12/240V, not gas) fridge is that it will keep your goods cold (or frozen) in virtually and conditions. Also, it has a relatively low power consumption on 12V, much less than 25% of the current of a gas fridge on 12V.

A gas fridge will work reasonably well in warmer conditions on gas, but it struggles much harder to keep cold in hotter ambient conditions when compared to a compressor fridge. When a gas fridge is on 12V, it really struggles, but it will usually maintain its temperature until it gets back on 240V or gas. Also, a gas fridge needs to be very level to work efficiently, to the point many use a spirit level to ensure its level.

If you put say warm cans into a gas fridge on 12V at the start of the day, they will most likely only be cool at the end of it. Do the same on a compresser fridge and they will be freezing cold.

The biggest advantage of a gas fridge IMHO is that you can camp for an extended time period (like weeks) without requiring auxillary power. If on a compressor frdge, you will need to recharge your battery after 2-3 days, or go solar.

I have used gas and compressor fridges for many years and for my style of camping a compressor fridge is my only choice. While I do have an engels, a waeco is arguably better value for money (but that is another whole issue).

So, in summary of this long winded reply, IMHO;

- a compressor fridge is ultra reliable (but nothing mechanical is 100% perfect) and will virtually guarrentee cold/frozen goods under any condition. It is advisable to have a dual battery to ensure you don't run your starting battery flat (but you can buy low voltage cutouts to stop the fridge but still be able to start the vehicle.

- A gas fridge is also very relaible, but needs to be level to get optimum efficiency, uses significantly more current on 12V with poor performance and has a performance dropoff in hotter conditions. However on gas it will run for a very long time without the need for a battery recharge.


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AnswerID: 93153

Follow Up By: Member -Dodger - Saturday, Jan 15, 2005 at 08:42

Saturday, Jan 15, 2005 at 08:42
I totally agree with the captain,
The only other point is that the Engel has the 240v built in and the later models switch from 12v to 240v automatically if both plugs are active. However the Waeco only has the 12/24v connection and one still must purchase a 240v to 12v dc transformer. Easily sourced. (Big W ).
I have had an Engel since 1995 and the only trouble I have had is someone keeps drinking the liquid of life.
My choice,
For travel = Engel or Waeco
For continous camping in one spot 3 way fridge provided you are not in the real hot climates.
I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.

Cheers Dodg.

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FollowupID: 352144

Reply By: Tripp'n Around - Friday, Jan 14, 2005 at 23:13

Friday, Jan 14, 2005 at 23:13
Hi kyako

We had a chescold for well over 20+ years and it's still going strong today. It has never missed a beat with 2 adults, 3 kids (plus others ) and we have had many holidays with it. We have only had it looked at twice, once for the regassing and the other was a look over while having some plastic part being fixed on it. The chestcold runs great on gas but must be keep level, good on 240v and good on 12v, while driving for the day. The secret to using them is to only go to them when you need to, have everything in the same place or near enough so you don't have the lid open too long. We always kept our water under the element and it gets very cold to freezing under there. We even store our meat under there to keep cold and sometimes it freezes as well. We have the one with the element that is quite high up in the fridge.
We have just recently bought a 70lt Trailblaza. We plan to do a lot of outback/desert trips in the future and we decided to have a fridge/freezer type setup. All our meat and frozen stuff is on the bottom with plenty of room for the fridge items on the top. We used perspex cut in two to seperate the fridge/freezer areas. It was joined by a hinge so as to access either side of the bottom compartment and save having to dig around unneccessarily. Unfortunately the perspex broke, due to corrugations so we are going to do it again but with thick marine ply or marine carpet and see how that goes.
There are plenty to choose from so take your time.
Hope you find something that suits you.

AnswerID: 93155

Reply By: porlsprado - Friday, Jan 14, 2005 at 23:32

Friday, Jan 14, 2005 at 23:32

I have not owned a three way fridge but have researched the issue myself and i believe they are really meant for gas. At 12v they suck about 10amps per hour which is a horrendous rate. Real life example - at 240v AC my home air conditioner is the biggest air conditioner in the mitsubishi electric domestic range, but it only sucks out max. 2.8amps. Current is what drains a battery so you can imagine from this the inefficency of a three way on 12v sucking 10 amps. That said there is nothing more cost efficient than a three way on gas (unless you didn't have to pay for your solar panel) - if you are in a non-tropic environment at a level area and you don't need to freeze anything.

You will i spose get many responses but i doubt any would suggest run a three way on 12v.

For the record, i bought my waeco 30L when they first came to australia, i think about 3yrs ago, still freezes to minus 18C or hums along at 2C whatever is your choosing. Use it regularly at home for seafood - static fridge is gold for seafood, and on fishing trips. Upgraded to an explorer 18 months ago, waeco is the beer - fresh fish fridge and explorer is the domestic stuff and bait in the freezer - it has the same compressor as the waecos. No issues.

I am not trying to sell your waeco or engel, but just suggesting a three way fridge on 12v as a contininuing solution would be a problem.

AnswerID: 93157

Reply By: GeeTee - Friday, Jan 14, 2005 at 23:53

Friday, Jan 14, 2005 at 23:53
Just to add my 2 bob's worth. I had a Chescold for a couple of years. 3 way .... gas, 12v, 240v. Worked OK on 240v, fantastic on gas but 12v ... forget about it. Ok while you are travelling just to hold down but when you try and leave it in the back of the 4WD on 12v overnight .... usual result by morning .... low battery volts and temp starting to rise. If you can take the time to haul it out and set up outside on gas you cannot get any better. Sold it mid last year and got a Anniversary Model Engel. Can't fault it. Leave it in the back on 12v, control set on 3, temp at 0-4 degrees C, stays there for days with no strain on the secondary battery. Mixed load of food and beers. I also have an old model Engel (32 L I think, greeny yellow colour) that we inherited and is 20 years + old and that still will freeze a carton of beer in no time.

AnswerID: 93163

Reply By: Eric from Cape York Connections - Saturday, Jan 15, 2005 at 06:30

Saturday, Jan 15, 2005 at 06:30
And now to confuse you more.
Put simply, the AUTOFRIDGE is the highest quality Low Voltage refrigerator/freezer available. It is designed specifically for the tests that only the Australian Outback throws up, tests like rough seemingly never-ending roads or weeks of unrelenting 40 °C heat. The AUTOFRIDGE handles these challenges with ease, and handles them with the lowest power usage available (20Ah per day).

All the best
AnswerID: 93173

Follow Up By: Geoff- Saturday, Jan 15, 2005 at 10:28

Saturday, Jan 15, 2005 at 10:28
FollowupID: 352188

Follow Up By: Member - Chrispy (NSW) - Saturday, Jan 15, 2005 at 10:36

Saturday, Jan 15, 2005 at 10:36
Yup - absolutely.

If I could afford one, it would be my first choice any time. There is no-one that I know who has one that can give it anything other than high praise - even after owning various other brands.
FollowupID: 352190

Reply By: ginga - Saturday, Jan 15, 2005 at 16:20

Saturday, Jan 15, 2005 at 16:20
My experience with 3 way fridges is that they are very inefficient when run on 12v!

As an addendum to what has been written previously, the new 40l Waeco is 12/24/240 compatible (no need to buy the the transformer) & all Waeco's have 3 stage battery protection (they can be set to turn off at 3 'minimum voltage settings').

Hope this helps.
AnswerID: 93253

Reply By: Mick - Sunday, Jan 16, 2005 at 07:58

Sunday, Jan 16, 2005 at 07:58
Waeco and Engel don't make 3 way fridges. Their fridges use compressors which run from either 12volts or 240volts. Three way fridges do not use a compressor. They work on the heat exchange principle. They are completely silent and are extremely reliable as they have no moving parts. People who find they are inefficient on 12 volts simply don't have wiring capable of providing the quite substantial power needed to run them (don't run unless the engine is running!)
AnswerID: 93347

Reply By: kyako - Sunday, Jan 16, 2005 at 20:52

Sunday, Jan 16, 2005 at 20:52
Thanks for all your input ! Still having a look around (we'll probably be running around like lunatics the day before we leave trying to get in to buy the one we want...), comparing prices etc, but everyones been a big help!

We actually want the 3 way to go camp at Double Island Point for a week - buying ice every day for the esky just doesn't reach the cut anymore!

Thanks again!
AnswerID: 93454

Follow Up By: Magnus - Sunday, Jan 16, 2005 at 21:29

Sunday, Jan 16, 2005 at 21:29

Just in addition to all the above. You can get a 3 way to run just as well on 12 volts as on gas and 240 by the addition of two computer fans in the rear of the fridge. And some decent cabling. So that fixes the issue while traveling down the road.

Stopping for lunch is another issue. They do draw between one and two headlights worth of amperage. So, short lunch stops are the order of the day if you want to leave the unit running on 12 volts.

For extended camping, they are hard to beat if you want to keep overall costs down. Under $700 will see you in a new one but no worrying about second batteries and all the componentry normally associated with two battery installations.

It is not the cost of a Waeco or an Engel by itself that is the killer, it is the cost of all the other gear you need to complete the installation and have a working proposition.

Have fun looking.



FollowupID: 352457

Follow Up By: Tripp'n Around - Sunday, Jan 16, 2005 at 22:20

Sunday, Jan 16, 2005 at 22:20
Hi kyako

As stated above the Chestcold do run great on gas, really good on 240 v. and good on 12 v when travelling for the day from one camp spot to another. We used to stop for 1 hour or longer lunches and we would leave it running. We also had only one heavy duty battery too back then. On the odd occassion we would leave it in the 4BY for the night but turned it off just before we went to bed. We never had any battery trouble at all in the whole time we used the Chestcold.

FollowupID: 352465

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