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Whynter 12 Volt Refrigerator

It is a pleasure to experiment with an affordable, high-efficiency, 12 volt DC, compressor-driven refrigerator. Results so far have been good. These units match up well with an RV camper who camps away from electrical hookups. (Do not confuse a compressor-driven refrigerator with those small, cheapo thermoelectric jobs.)

The RV industry probably does the right thing in installing (Dometic or Norcold) ammonia/hydrogen-cycle refrigerators as standard equipment. They are versatile and satisfy a wide range of customers. Mine gave pretty good service for 9 years with only one expensive repair job. Its performance on propane was mediocre in the summer, though.

But when one of these standard RV frigs is old and needs to be replaced ($1500 or more) or is begging for several hundred dollars of repairs, it's worth looking at alternatives, especially considering how expensive propane has gotten. (This blog is aimed at non-hookup campers of course.)

The laws of thermodynamics being what they are, high efficiency requires high compression ratios in a compressor, which in turn requires tight manufacturing tolerances, high quality seals, etc. Thus high-efficiency refrigerators based on 12 volt compressors by Danforth used to be quite expensive; now they can be gotten for $500 from Whynter. They are retailed at the websites of Home Depot, Sears, and Amazon. (Don't get sucked into the advertised price -- check to see what the shipping charges are.)

I bought the Whynter 45 quart model from Home Depot ($500, free shipping.) It is their smallest model, and I'm glad I didn't get sucked into one of the larger ones. It uses 4 amps (at 13 Volts DC) when the compressor is running, which is only about 25% of the time on a hot summer day. Compare this to your laptop that uses about the same amperage whenever it's turned on.

Here's another way to quantify it by comparing to a laptop: this Whynter refrigerator is quieter than a laptop computer.

It seems OK to just turn the refrigerator off at night. The inside temperature only goes up to 49 F, compared to a 65 F ambient temperature.

I installed my unit in the same cabinet where the original OEM refrigerator from Dometic used to be.

Notice how the temperature-adjuster, the compressor, and vents are on the aisle of the trailer, for good ventilation. Also, the refrigerator (45 pounds, empty) is over the axle. It sits on a wooden shelf built over the wheel well. Underneath there is a plastic tub, a pantry of heavy canned goods, that slides out.

This 45 quart model has enough space for one serious camper, as shown:

The photo shows the food that was stored in an ice chest that I've used for five years; the Whynter has about 33% more room than what I'm used to. So it makes this refrigerator a natural fit for van campers, solo RV boondockers, etc. A couple would have to be pretty hard core to live with this amount of space.

Downsizing is at its best when it is seen as a challenge, instead of a hardship or an opportunity for environmentally-correct moral posturing. It's a chance to be innovative. Why do you eat what you do? Maybe it's a good thing to give up on meat, ice cream, and high-priced frozen meals. Aren't there lots of healthy and economical foods that don't require refrigeration? Thinking about such issues is half the fun.


Ted said…
Thanks for the Whynter review, Boonie. I've had my eye on it ever since my Norcold failed to operate on propane and I was told that they no longer have the needed part in stock. Got it Mickey Moused to work, somewhat, with propane but it could die for good at any time. Anyway, yours is the first opinion on the refrigerator that I feel I can trust, the first by someone who understands boondocking needs rather than just weekend camping.

So when my Norcold does finally give out for good it looks like I'll be ordering a Whynter.
Thanks Ted for "yours is the first opinion on the refrigerator that I feel I trust." You must be a new reader! grin.

I think you have the right attitude about your old frig: as long as its hobbling by, stick with it, you've paid for it. But when it's asking for money...
Anonymous said…
Great thoughts you got there, believe I may possibly try just some of it throughout my daily life
Refrigeration Equipment
Romnick said…
Excellent concept there, thank you for refreshing us how 12v refrigerator whynter dealwith in our daily life.
Morgan said…

12 volt refrigerator is an indispensable item in the family, but not everyone understands it, thank you for giving me this information.
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