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Old 06-19-2013, 01:05 PM   #1
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Boondocking with an electric fridge

Got a 2001 Winnebago 40J with an after market household side by side electric only fridge installed. We've been full timing it for about six months, but we intend to start doing some primative camping soon. I've seen some interesting concepts on supplying power to the fridge (Dedicated inverter from the house bank ((What size?)), solar recharging, genset recharge, how much current (DC) does a houshold 13.5 cu ft draw? etc., etc. If anybody out there is set up similarly, I'd like to pick your brain. Other alternative is returning to a flip flop unit and that begs the question, how the h--- do you get it out of the coach? Taking out a window or windshield is the only way I see it happening.

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Old 06-19-2013, 01:26 PM   #2
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We dont boondock much but keeping a resid frig running isnt much of a challenge on a genset. Except for the defrost cycle of some older units, avg AC amp use is around 3 amps. We run the genset a couple hours in the AM and again in the PM, and that is with 6 -6v bats. Some have suggested a separate/smaller inverter to cover the frig which would use less that the main inverter in the coach. To size it you would need to find the specs on the frig to determine if it has a defrost cycle, otherwise the draw is about 3 amps. It might take a few more amps to start the compressor each cooling cycle but havent really observed it that closely.

Solar cells are an option but the "math" gets in the way, eg, 3 AC amps translates into about 30 DC amps. The avg large solar panel [$800-1000] puts out about 200-250 DC watts, or 20-25 DC amps, or 2-2.5 AC amps. My math might be a bit fuzzy but this means you would need two--250 watt solar cells to keep the frig running plus charge bats for overnight use. I am sure it can be done and people do it but two solar cells gets expensive and roof space on top of your unit can be an issue. It will be interesting to see what other people offer for solutions.
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Old 06-19-2013, 01:40 PM   #3
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We replaced the Norcold with a residential fridge in our previous coach, a 2002 Journey. I had a 2000watt PSW inverter and auto gen start. With AGS, there was never an issue since the AGS would start the genset if the battery bank voltage dropped to a set point (I had mine set at 12.0V). Our current rig has a 22 cu ft Amana side by side residential fridge, a 2800w PSW inverter and I have AGS. We have two 8D AGM house batteries.

It would seem to depend on how much primitive camping you plan to do and if you can run a genset when necessary. Even if you have observe generator 'quiet time' at night, you should be OK on your inverter overnight, assuming you have an adequate house battery bank.

We never explored the solar panel issue since we don't plan to camp off grid for long periods.
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Old 06-19-2013, 01:58 PM   #4
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I think the answer might depend on 1) are you opposed to running the GenSet continuously?, 2) what time of year are you boondocking (need the A/C?), 3) does your reefer require Pure Sine Wave DC?, and 4) how long will each boondocking session last (a few days/a week/etc.)?

If you will be running A/C anyway, the additional load on the GenSet is insignificant.

If you just run the GenSet for reefer, microwave, and inverter/charger the GenSet will probably use 1/4 - 1/2 gal. per hour. If you need A/C usage will be more like 1/2 - 1 gal. per hour. This sounds costly but if you are only an occasional boondocker it's not bad compared to an extra inverter/more batteries/solar/cost of full hook-up campground. That's assuming your primitive location is "free" and allows GenSets.

And, in the event you are "iffy" about whether you actually would like primitive camping, you could probably rent a conventional rig for far less than any additional hardware (like a reefer swap or solar install).
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Old 06-19-2013, 02:07 PM   #5
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We have a residential reefer in our MH. We mostly boondock three to ten days at a time. Running the gennie a couple hours morning and night handles most of the power requirements for us. I have, and am still, considering putting a switch in the power line to the defrost coil. That way I could defrost only when home and plugged into shore power.
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Old 06-19-2013, 02:14 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by smlranger View Post
We replaced the Norcold with a residential fridge in our previous coach, a 2002 Journey. I had a 2000watt PSW inverter and auto gen start. With AGS, there was never an issue since the AGS would start the genset if the battery bank voltage dropped to a set point (I had mine set at 12.0V). Our current rig has a 22 cu ft Amana side by side residential fridge, a 2800w PSW inverter and I have AGS. We have two 8D AGM house batteries.

It would seem to depend on how much primitive camping you plan to do and if you can run a genset when necessary. Even if you have observe generator 'quiet time' at night, you should be OK on your inverter overnight, assuming you have an adequate house battery bank.

We never explored the solar panel issue since we don't plan to camp off grid for long periods.
Where's a good source for Auto Gen Start? My plan is to be off the grid about 50% of the time. We full time now and when I retire we'll be on the road about 6 to 7 months a year. I'm intrigued by the posts in Boondocking and would like to try it. I lived aboard a Trawler years ago with a similar setup and I had 4 fifty five watt panels charging the house bank. It made about 30 amps at 12 volts at it's best. Reefer wasn't as big but it was a long time ago and reefers are alot more efficient now. Gonna try to get some accurate measurements this three day weekend that we'll be off the grid. I'll report back.

PS: Found my friendly Cummins Onan dealership for the EC-30. They're working up a quote on the installation.

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Old 06-19-2013, 02:48 PM   #7
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I'm looking at installing Auto Start (EC-30) to solve my power needs.
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Old 06-19-2013, 05:23 PM   #8
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I am currently working on a list of options for a new rig. One of the options Newmar offers is a Frigidaire 10cf. Refrigerator with Dedicated 1000 Watt Pure Sine Inverter and 2 extra batteries.

As RVers who spend a whole lot more time boondocking, or just parks with no electrical services, a household refrigerator makes absolutely no sense for us! Doing the math:

2 X 100 watt deep cycle batteries = 200 watts hours

The most efficient refrigerator @ 500 watts per day = 500 watt hours

A household fridge is only useful for RVers who remain connected to 120 VAC pretty much 24/7!!
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Old 06-19-2013, 06:36 PM   #9
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Agree--the math on watt hours requires a few hours of genset per day but I have never heard of a resid frig burning down a coach--just saying......
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Old 06-19-2013, 08:16 PM   #10
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Quote:
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I'm looking at installing Auto Start (EC-30) to solve my power needs.
Consider the EC30W which is a wireless version of the EC30. It will cost about $500 including the wiring harness but you can install it yourself. Just plug one box into your genset harness and plug the remote into an electrical outlet in your coach. The only absolute requirement is the remove charger has to be plugged into a 110v outlet in the coach that is not on your inverter circuit. In some coaches, those are hard to find or are not in logical places to put the remote.
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Old 06-19-2013, 08:46 PM   #11
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Quote:
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Agree--the math on watt hours requires a few hours of genset per day but I have never heard of a resid frig burning down a coach--just saying......
This is exactly why we switched to a residential fridge. We no longer have to worry about a fire. We were watching TV one night, and noticed something smelled like it was burning. It was our RV fridge!

Also, please correct me if I am wrong, but doesn't an Norcold need 12 volt to run on propane when off the grid? Thus it also takes battery power to run.
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Old 06-19-2013, 10:41 PM   #12
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This is exactly why we switched to a residential fridge. We no longer have to worry about a fire. We were watching TV one night, and noticed something smelled like it was burning. It was our RV fridge!
All sorts of scarey things can happen in an RV; but my 40 years of experience with absorption fridges has been rather uneventful, and we will be getting a Norcold in our new rig.
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Old 06-20-2013, 05:35 AM   #13
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Consider the EC30W which is a wireless version of the EC30. It will cost about $500 including the wiring harness but you can install it yourself. Just plug one box into your genset harness and plug the remote into an electrical outlet in your coach. The only absolute requirement is the remove charger has to be plugged into a 110v outlet in the coach that is not on your inverter circuit. In some coaches, those are hard to find or are not in logical places to put the remote.
Waiting on a comeback from Cummins Onan on the EC-30. I'll inquire about the EC-30W. The wattage issue may be a deal breaker. I actually have had pretty good experiences with absorption type reefers, but much smaller versions. Hoping to get a good read on power demands this weekend. Got lotsa time to engineer this out. Won't be traveling full time for another two years. Thanks for the info. This is a very useful site.

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Old 06-20-2013, 07:54 AM   #14
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Hold the phone--you cant plug the remote charger into a "non-inverter" circuit when boondocking--guess I am not understanding what a "remote charger is????????
PS--luck is a stange thing, even with good luck, you can be the first on your block to lose your rig to a frig fire. Realize the technology has been around for years but the idea of using an open flame in my rig to heat ammonia to cool my soda is troublesome to me.....
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