Running a three way fridge

Submitted: Tuesday, Apr 29, 2003 at 21:24
ThreadID: 4648 Views:22789 Replies:9 FollowUps:17
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On our new van, we have a three way fridge.

Previously we had a Waeco 12 volt fridge/freezer, but as we use the van mainly for long running, thought the Domestic would be OK.

Can anyone tell me, which is the efficency order of running.


240 volt

12 volt


Col Tigwell
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Reply By: William - Tuesday, Apr 29, 2003 at 22:26

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2003 at 22:26
Dometic is the name.

All three fuels supply around the same heat value so it depends which suits you at the time.

What model fridge do you have, and what rating does the compliance plate inside the door state?
AnswerID: 18755

Reply By: colin - Tuesday, Apr 29, 2003 at 22:30

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2003 at 22:30
12 volt will severly drain your power supply, these fridges dont like 12 volt, will flatten a battery in a couple of hours. Col
AnswerID: 18757

Follow Up By: William - Tuesday, Apr 29, 2003 at 22:49

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2003 at 22:49
Colin that is absolute nonsense about "these fridges dont like 12 volt". Dometic/Electrolux fridges work perfectly well on 12 volt and always have done and always will. You need a minimum of 10mm wiring and preferably 12mm and an Anderson plug to hook up with. Sure they do consume a minimum of 10 amps, but so what if you run it on 12vDC while travelling. It is adviseable to fit an adequate sized relay to disconnect the 12vDC when the engine is not running.
FollowupID: 11708

Follow Up By: colin - Tuesday, Apr 29, 2003 at 23:08

Tuesday, Apr 29, 2003 at 23:08
hey will look at the amount of people that have come on this site and said exactly what i did, what is the point of having a fridge that will flatten a battery within 2 -3 hours in the tropics even when on when driving the element has a tendency to burn out because of the current draw. Even your own statement about the size of the cable to run this element compared to a compressor (6 mm ) is over the top. These fridges are designed and built in a cold cliamate not for our conditions. bloody hell 10 amps thats as much as my rally 4000 spottys drain Col
FollowupID: 11714

Follow Up By: ThePublican - Wednesday, Apr 30, 2003 at 07:05

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2003 at 07:05
Colin you are dribbling about something you abviously know nothing about,, ,,,,designed and built in a cold climate???? funny that last time I looked they have a factory at Strathpine QLD,,,,2/3 Hours to drain a battery?? you must be using a m/cycle battery!!! Look in the archives under chescold to get REAL power consumption figures and usage facts.
FollowupID: 11722

Follow Up By: William - Wednesday, Apr 30, 2003 at 07:19

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2003 at 07:19
Colin what people say and what are the facts are completely different. If you pulled up 50 caravans that were powering their three way fridges from 12vDC you would be lucky to find one that is wired correctly with the correct size wire and plugs and about 5% where the fridges are installed correctly. This is regardless if they are 12vDC compressor type fridges or absorbtion type fridges.
3 way fridges are exactly that, not designed to run on 12vDC battery when the motor is not running, that is why they have gas that is supposed to be used when you stop. Fitting of an adequate sized relay is the proper way to do things.
It is complete and utter nonsense that the elements have a tendency to burn out. The failure rate of elements is miniscule and well within the acceptable limits.
If 3 way fridges did not work well do you really think they would still be available for sale. The absorbtion method of refrigeration like Dometic/Electrolux is a well proven functional refrigeration unit, that presently is the only front opening door fridge in Australia that has a tropical CEN T rating. This is operating on 12vDC, Mains power and gas.
FollowupID: 11723

Follow Up By: colin - Thursday, May 01, 2003 at 14:30

Thursday, May 01, 2003 at 14:30
hi publican, have had these fridges before as have many friends, we all have turfed them and spent the dollars and bought a decent aussy made compressor type fridge. Have camped many times in the tropics and had a few people with these 3 way fridges come and ask me if i could keep their milk in my fridge as they knew there fridge wasnt cold enough and didnt trust the milk to give their small babies. I have now got an explorer fridge it has a seperate compar6tment as a freezer and another as a fridge they both have their own thermostat and i can go 3 days inthe tropics and still start a 6 cyl diesal, i also dont have to muck around leveling the fridge when camping . I am not saying these fridges dont work but am saying they are not efficient, they have small fin type elements in the fridge which take up heaps of room and unlike compressor fridges have the cold plate running round the inside of the fridge, i aslo would hate to have to buy 12mm cable and run it through my vehicle. This is my veiw from costly experiences. Col
FollowupID: 11830

Follow Up By: colin - Thursday, May 01, 2003 at 15:03

Thursday, May 01, 2003 at 15:03
Hi Publican, sorry to dribble on but last time i looked electro lux was a swedish company, they may have a shop in strathpine, but this type of refridgeration was built for a cold cliamate same as the vw look at the amount of fires this vehicle has had in the aussy cliamate.Look at the post4639 and see some of the other comments made about this type of refridgeration.Col
FollowupID: 11831

Follow Up By: ThePublican - Thursday, May 01, 2003 at 17:29

Thursday, May 01, 2003 at 17:29
COLIN,,not just a shop in Strathpine a factory, pray tell what 12/240 fridge is Aussie made,,NONE,,all use an imported compressor,,not 1main stream portable all Australian,,,as for VW vehicles catching fire in Aus,,show us all some proof and figures,,,The VW Beetle was and still holds the record for most manufactured,longest model run ect,ect, no other manufacturer even comes close,,,you can still buy a new old shape beetle, still made in Brazil,,, name 1 other vehicle that has a better than 60 year model run.
FollowupID: 11846

Follow Up By: Solar King - Thursday, May 01, 2003 at 19:56

Thursday, May 01, 2003 at 19:56
Colin Dometic/Electrolux have a factory, spelling F A C T O R Y in Strathpine that manufacture 95% of the fridge in Australia and export them all over the world.

Colin I can show you Engel fridges that have caught fire as well as Danfoss powered fridges that have caught fire. Every domestic product at one time or another has caused a fire. Television and computer monitors would be at the top of the list. Of course you do not use either of those appliances any more. What you fail to mention that the Dometic/Electrolux fire was caused by the user and their complete and total ignorance and stupidity to fail to find out about the product they intended to use. Like driving a car, you need knowledge just like you do to use any product. Was certainly not the fault of the fridge.

Colin obviously you are technically challanged and would suggest you doing some basic homework before trying to mix it with the likes of William and Publican.
FollowupID: 11860

Follow Up By: colin - Thursday, May 01, 2003 at 20:33

Thursday, May 01, 2003 at 20:33
Hi publican and solar, first up i have travelled this beautiful country in the camping mode for 23yrs i come from NZ and have learnt from my mistakes, i have worked for an oil siesmic comany and been to parts of central australia that our indiginous friends have not been ( and thats from the mouths of these friendly people ) i have seen many combis on the side of the road totally burnt out with the owner standing by its side bewildered, not bagging the vw as i think they are a great vehicle, but are not designed for our cliamate, which leads me to the fridge comments, obviosly solar you didnt read my comments as they where written, the vw was used as a comparisson as a technical comparrison to a refridgeration design that was designed for a colder cliamate than we have here in aussy, as for a aussy fridge built and designed here in ozz your right the compressor is made in germany, but true to form the true grit has come up with a package built for our conditions, to name 2 brands top of the head trailblazer and explorer, these units are exported and used by top of the list the RED CROSS and the UNITED NATIONS as they have proven to be valuable assets to the operation of these great humanitarian organisations. But still i will say that the 3 way fridge has its place in the camping market that we are really talking about, but i will also say untill you have tried both systems of refridgeration please dont call me technically challenged as i have the experience that most peopel wont have to survive in the desert. Some things are designed for specific uses and places, so please unless you have credentials please dont bother even trying to reply. COL
FollowupID: 11866

Follow Up By: ThePublican - Friday, May 02, 2003 at 10:12

Friday, May 02, 2003 at 10:12
Colin ,,am afraid that you must be a little technicaly challenged,,,as you state,, I have used and still use both absorption and compressor fridges,,as for your VW comments they are laughable,,,just because I saw 3 fords overheat last Sunday in a 20klm stretch of h/way does that mean they are not suitable for Australian conditions,,????? dribble..
FollowupID: 11895

Follow Up By: ThePublican - Friday, May 02, 2003 at 10:26

Friday, May 02, 2003 at 10:26
PS ..Colin the International Red Cross mainly use Waeco for their portable refridgeration EXCEPT long term storage where gas/absorption fridges are used,,too many places to name ,however the whole Sth African sub continent is a starting point.
FollowupID: 11897

Follow Up By: Member - Ari - Saturday, May 03, 2003 at 07:16

Saturday, May 03, 2003 at 07:16
HI all,

At the risk of "dribbling" .... let me put in my 2c worth :))
The "Electrolux" 3way fridge is not made by Electrolux at all, but by Dometic and is sold through Electrolux rebadged.

Yes, they do have a tendancy to blow the 240V element (mine did within 9 months) but I haven't heard of many other failures in them.

The critical factor for all absorbtion fridges is that their efficiency falls rapidly if they are not 100% level.

Don't expect the fridge to do an awful lot while on 12V. It's only supposed to keep current temperature. Gas and 240V have similar efficiencies and are very dependent on ambient temperatures.
Running on 12V without an additional charge will very quickly drain your battery, as they draw up to 6.8A

It is important to make sure you get the Tropicalized model. Check the part number. The Tropicalized model has a T next to it, whereas the standard model has SM from memory.

Another important thing to consider is ventilation through the fins on the back. People often resort to fitting a thermostat controlled fan at the back of these fridges, where the fan comes on at 35C or so.

These 3way fridges typically are a good compromise, as they are quiet (no compressor) and do a reasonable job, as long as the ambient doesn't go much over 35C. If you need a fridge that cools regardless of ambient temp, I'd suggest you check out compressor fridges.

A lot has been written about this topic by people who know the subject well. I suggest you check out the Caraners forum on MSN or Campertrailers on Yahoo Groups.

All the best

Ari2001 Patrol 3.0TDI
FollowupID: 11947

Follow Up By: Solar King - Saturday, May 03, 2003 at 09:40

Saturday, May 03, 2003 at 09:40
Ari you are dribbling profusely. The Electrolux 3 way absorbtion fridges are or should say used to be made and marketed 100% by Electrolux. Dometic was the US only brand name of Electrolux products. Now Electrolux have hived off their fridge and some other product divisions and is now called Dometic world wide.

They do not have a tendency to blow elements at all. The failure rate of elements is lower than the failure rate on compressor type fridges.

The fridge will do a substantial amount on 12vDC and work as well as gas or 240vAC. The rest of your statement is double dribble and you obviously no nothing about refrigeration of any type. All three fuels have the same efficiences.

Absorbtion fridges draw well in excess of 6.8 amps and usually start at 10 amps and some go to 15 amps. That is not a lot of power when the car engine is running and when they are designed to be run on 12vDC.

Read the other posting for the correct CEN rating instead of trying to quote information you cannot comprehend.

Absorbtion fridges do not need a thermostat controlled fan or any other type of fan or artificial aids if the fridge has been installed correctly with the correct ventilation.

Absorbtion/3 way fridges work perfectly over 35C and to date you cannot buy a compressor type front opening fridge that will work over 32C properly. The only brands of compressor type fridge that are approved for over 32C operation are Explorer, Evakool, Trailblazer and Autofridge. Everything else fails the test and Engel, Vitrifrigio, Waeco are accordingly stamped with specification plates to state that as they have an N rating.

Ari you must be dehydrated from dribbling so much incorrect and factually wrong information.
FollowupID: 11954

Reply By: wherethefugawi - Wednesday, Apr 30, 2003 at 07:58

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2003 at 07:58
If and when you run out of gas, 240 or 12 volt you can still run a 3way on a candle (not birthday cake type)...its all about how much power is available for the appliance. Never worked out if they used more power than say an Engel or trailblazer etc but hell our kero fridge is still going strong.
The stronger the heat source the harder they work...not withstanding the thermostat setting.
AnswerID: 18789

Reply By: herkman - Wednesday, Apr 30, 2003 at 08:04

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2003 at 08:04
Thanks guys for your feed back.

We have the tow car set up with a Pirana dual battery change over, which cuts out the link to the car battery when we shut the car down.

We have the heavy duty wiring going to the Anderson plug so that will be fine too.

I really had a concern about when we were stopped, and 240 volts were available, which would be best to run it on.

Thanks for all your input.

The frig is a model RM4401 class SN


Col Tigwell
AnswerID: 18790

Follow Up By: limo4b - Wednesday, Apr 30, 2003 at 16:34

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2003 at 16:34
One other thing to remember that hasnt been mentioned. Absorbtion fridges are silent.
I found this out after i bought an Engel caravan fridge. It now lives in the garage with beer in it, and the electrolux is back in the van after repairs to the freezer pipes.
Happy vanning
FollowupID: 11756

Reply By: Mike - Wednesday, Apr 30, 2003 at 11:11

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2003 at 11:11
Col, when you are stopped, if 240v is available use it its free, (included in the fees). Do not run the gas when the vehicle is in motion, otherwise use gas when parked.

Happy trails, Mike.
AnswerID: 18809

Reply By: rodeoowner - Wednesday, Apr 30, 2003 at 12:00

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2003 at 12:00
Herkman, your 3 way fridge will run great on 240V and gas, so if 240V is available, use that to save your own gas supply. Generally speaking the 3 way fridges won't run as well on 12V due to usually undersized wiring and the fact that when the van is moving, it is harder for the refrigeration system to work as the refrigerant solution is moving around. The 3 way fridges will not work unless they are level.

AnswerID: 18811

Follow Up By: Solar King - Wednesday, Apr 30, 2003 at 18:29

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2003 at 18:29
The only time you have a problem with absorbtion refrigeration while travelling is in chest type units if the road is rough or the suspension of the vehicle is hard. Upright fridges generally do not have a problem while travelling and work perfectly on 12vDC if the wiring is of adequate size with correct terminations and plugs.
FollowupID: 11762

Reply By: limo4b - Wednesday, Apr 30, 2003 at 16:29

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2003 at 16:29
Hey col
I upgraded my wiring for 12 volts from my van battery to the fridge, and it will hold temperature better than without the wiring upgrade.
However, this is what i do.
Before starting off, i cool down the fridge for 2 days on 240.
Fill it with cold stuff and run on 12 volts when transitting.
Run on gas for the duration of my stay if electricity is not available.
Gas is the most efficient means of keeping the fridge cool, it will ice up the meat in the freezer overnight where as 240 keeps it cold without icing.
The rules to running these fridges are-
1. FRIDGE MUST BE LEVEL must be level must be level
2. when not in use, pack open the freezer door as they ALWAYS rust out inside the freezer from the door being ajar and the freezer door being shut.
Andrew Wollongong
AnswerID: 18828

Reply By: Redjack - Wednesday, Apr 30, 2003 at 19:52

Wednesday, Apr 30, 2003 at 19:52
Wiring size and ventilation are the two critical factors for an absorbtion fridge. If both are correctly installed the fridge will be very effective. Check the Dometic installation guide for ventillation requirements and wire size. Our 21 year old Electrolux RM360 in our Jayco Jayswan is still working perfectly
AnswerID: 18854

Reply By: victatwo - Friday, May 02, 2003 at 18:55

Friday, May 02, 2003 at 18:55
Have been running my caravan fridge 12v/gas/240 for years touring around, agree wiring must be of sufficient size for the load, wired back to the car battery with a battery on the A frame of van it runs the fridge fine while travelling and maintains the battery charge. Stationary is a different matter, with the 12v draw not advisable for more than an hour max for longer use gas or mains power, have had no problems for yrs but will shortly change to solar power with 2 or 3 large panels which will solve most problems but still ??? on stationary use due to power draw unless being baked by the sun, have never been very careful about having the van level unless obviously out of whack and no prob with the fridge, hope this can help you in some way.
Regards Tom the pom [all use in WA as many yrs an ex pom]
AnswerID: 18998

Follow Up By: Old Jack - Friday, May 09, 2003 at 18:38

Friday, May 09, 2003 at 18:38
Having looked at a number of new caravans lately I have found that most have there 3way fridges fitted pretty well to the standard required for installation except for one thing, under sized cables to the "hot wire" and van battery.

Most cars are incorrectly fitted with under sized "hot Wire" from the battery to charge the deep cycle battery in the vans, let alone run the 3way fridge properly. understadably people will get the wrong impression & incorrect information.

most modern cars are capable of 80%-90% charging deep cycle batteries while being driven for sufficient time providing the correct size cables are fitted to reduce voltage drop to tthe van. when my ageing parants decided to go travlling I re-wired the van & car hot wire to 12mm square cable with anderson plug connector, the VT commodore's standard alternator has no problem with this setup.

the 12 volt on the 3 way is there only for while in transit, which correctly setup will work fine.

yes if you have a big enough battery bank & panels you could run it off 12volt all the time(way big setup), but it's really designed for runing off 240v or gas full time. the standard fridge installed in there 12 month old millard van worked perfecty off gas & 240 volt while in Darwin in January (yes the silly old buggers where therer for the wet), mind you they have an airconditioner in the van as well !

They didn't report any problems while moving around running off 12 volt.

electrolux is the largest manufaturer of refrigeration equipment in the world, they own EMAIL who make domestic refrigertion & appliances here in Australia. (Danfoss is part of electrolux! or was it the other way around?)

oversea's they don't use R134a in small refigeration equipment as it's very in effiecient as a refrigerant they use R290 which is a hydrocarbon (isopropane/butane) which is far more efficient but some bloody stupid people got it banned in OZ because they thought it was un safe to use, meanwhile we get to have second best efficency with our locally made equipment!

FollowupID: 12331

Follow Up By: John - Tuesday, May 27, 2003 at 18:23

Tuesday, May 27, 2003 at 18:23
FollowupID: 13802

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