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The top 5 questions answered about portable fridges

5 things you probably need to know before you buy your portable fridge

1. How does portable fridges work?
Portable fridges operates similarly to a regular refrigerator. It uses a compressor, condenser, evaporator, and refrigerant to transfer heat away from the interior of the fridge, keeping the contents cold. This process is powered by electricity from a battery, car power outlet, or AC power source, power station, solar generator, built in battery, depending on the model.
 
2. What are the benefits of using a portable fridge?
Using a portable fridges offers several advantages. It provides convenient on-the-go refrigeration for camping, road trips, picnics, and other outdoor activities. It allows you to keep food and beverages cold or even frozen without the need for ice or a cooler. Portable fridges also offer temperature control, ensuring that your perishable items stay fresh for longer periods. They can also be a backup solution when the grid goes down, or use it when you are defrosting your ordinarie fridge at home
 
3. What are the different types and sizes of portable fridges available?
There are various types and sizes of portable fridges to choose from. The most common types include thermoelectric coolers, compressor fridges, and absorption fridges. Thermoelectric coolers are lightweight and suitable for short trips, while compressor fridges are more efficient and can maintain consistent temperatures. Absorption fridges are propane-powered and commonly used in RVs. Sizes range from compact options that hold a few cans to larger models suitable for storing food for several people.
 
4. How long can a portable fridge keep food and drinks cold?
The duration a portable fridge can keep food and drinks cold depends on factors such as the ambient temperature, the fridge’s insulation, and the power source. Most portable fridges can maintain cold temperatures for hours to several days. Some high-quality models equipped with efficient compressors and insulation can even keep items cold for a week or longer.
 
5. What are the top brands and models of portable fridges on the market?
Several reputable brands manufacture portable fridges, including:
 

Popular brands regarding portable fridges

  1. Dometic: Dometic is a well-known brand that offers a range of portable fridges, including models with built-in batteries. Their portable fridges are designed for outdoor and travel use.

  2. Engel: Engel is another reputable brand that manufactures portable fridges with built-in batteries. They are known for their durable and efficient fridges, suitable for camping and other outdoor activities.

  3. ARB: ARB is a brand that specializes in off-road and camping equipment. They offer portable fridges with built-in batteries that are rugged and capable of withstanding harsh environments.

  4. Alpicool: Alpicool is a brand that provides affordable portable fridges with built-in batteries. Their fridges are designed to be lightweight and energy-efficient, making them suitable for camping, road trips, and other outdoor adventures.

  5. Furrion: Furrion is a brand that offers a range of portable fridges, including models with built-in batteries. Their fridges are known for their innovative features and sleek designs.

Some popular models include the Dometic CFX3 Series, Engel MT45FP, ARB Classic Series II, Yeti Tundra, and Norcold NRF-45. 

It's essential to research and read reviews to find the best fit for your specific needs and budget.

The technologies behind portable fridges

Portable fridges utilize different technologies to cool and maintain the temperature of the stored items. Here are some of the main technologies used in portable fridges:

  1. Compressor Fridges: Compressor-based portable fridges are similar to regular household refrigerators. They use a compressor and a refrigerant to cool the interior. The compressor compresses the refrigerant gas, raising its temperature and pressure. The high-pressure gas then flows through a condenser where it releases heat and turns into a high-pressure liquid. This liquid passes through an expansion valve, which reduces its pressure, causing it to evaporate and absorb heat from the fridge’s interior. The gas is then returned to the compressor to restart the cycle. Compressor fridges are efficient and can achieve lower temperatures even in hot ambient conditions. They are typically more powerful but also consume more power.

  2. Thermoelectric Fridges: Thermoelectric portable fridges use the Peltier effect to create a cooling effect. A thermoelectric module consists of two different types of semiconductor materials. When an electric current flows through the module, one side becomes hot, while the other side becomes cold. The cool side is in contact with the fridge’s interior, cooling the contents. Thermoelectric fridges are lightweight, compact, and consume less power compared to compressor fridges. However, they are generally less powerful and have limited cooling capabilities, making them suitable for maintaining cool or slightly below-ambient temperatures rather than deep freezing.

  3. Absorption Fridges: Absorption-based portable fridges use a combination of heat, chemicals, and gravity to cool the interior. They operate using a heat source such as propane, natural gas, or electricity. The process involves a mixture of refrigerant, typically ammonia, water, and hydrogen gas. The heat source provides the energy to separate the refrigerant mixture, allowing the ammonia to evaporate and absorb heat from the fridge’s interior. The ammonia gas is then condensed back into a liquid using a cooling component, releasing the heat. Absorption fridges are often used in RVs and off-grid applications. They are quiet, reliable, and can run on different energy sources, but they tend to be less efficient and slower to cool compared to compressor fridges

Vehicle battery power management - make sure your vehicle battery is not drained completely by the fridge

In general terms, portable fridges often have battery protection or power management features to prevent the fridge from draining the battery excessively. These features help ensure that you have enough battery power to start your vehicle or have power available for other essential functions.

Here’s a general explanation of how battery protection or power management settings might work in portable fridges:

  1. Low Battery Setting: Many portable fridges have a low battery setting or a battery protection mode. This mode monitors the voltage of the battery connected to the fridge and automatically shuts off or reduces the fridge’s power consumption when the battery voltage drops below a certain threshold. It helps prevent the battery from being drained to a critically low level, which could affect your ability to start your vehicle or access other essential power needs.

  2. High Battery Setting: Some portable fridges may have a high battery setting or a power optimization mode. This mode adjusts the fridge’s power consumption to a lower level when the battery has sufficient capacity. It aims to conserve battery power and extend the operating time of the fridge, allowing you to use it for a longer duration without excessively draining the battery.

The specific operation and functionality of these battery protection or power management features can vary among different brands and models. It’s recommended to consult the user manual or documentation provided with your specific Dometic portable fridge to understand the exact details and capabilities of the low and high battery sensory settings, as well as any other related features.

Troubleshooting, things that can be an issue

The battery power manegment can be a problem if you are using long cables and have a voltage drop at the connection to the fridge.

Be sure to use thick cables and measure the voltage at the connection while the fridge is running.

This especially something to look into when using lead-acid batteries. The voltage drops quickly and the fridge shuts off, se chart below

12-Volt Lead acid - LiFePO4 Chart

If you compare that with LifePO4 batteries then the power remains at 13v longer and won’t have the same issues

The problem has been resolved by utilizing the “Load” function on my solar regulator.

It effectively regulates the output above 12v when the solar panel generates input power. As a result, my fridge remains operational for as long as there is available sunlight.

In this case, my fridge automatically cuts off power when the voltage reaches 12.1 Volts.

However, due to the considerable distance between the fridge and the battery, there is a voltage drop of about 1 Volt.

Fortunately, the load function proves to be very effective in managing this situation, allowing the fridge to function optimally despite the voltage drop.

This is something to consider when you buy your fridge:

  • Does it have a built in battery?
  • Can the battery be charged separately?
  • Can it be charged with solar?

All depends on what you are going to use it for.

I hope you are a little more clever regarding fridges.

Take it cool now 🙂

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