The decision to buy a portable fridge/freezer is a daunting one. Besides the cost (camping fridges aren’t cheap), there are other things to consider like brand, model and capacity. So where do you start? Preferably at the beginning, by looking at what qualities make a good fridge great. In no particular order, here’s what you need to know about 12 V refrigeration.
While many assume that compressor performance is the key to low power consumption, a more accurate argument could be made in favour of insulation – the very heart of fridge/freezer efficiency. The job of the compressor is comparatively easy: pull the temperature down; but the fridge’s ability to maintain that temperature without having to continuously cycle the compressor on and off is the tall task of the unit’s insulation.
Conduction, possibly the most overlooked quality of 12 V refrigeration, is the effectiveness by which a fridge extracts heat. Sadly, because there’s no way of determining how much conductive material (generally copper pipe) is used in the manufacturing of a fridge, it’s often the easiest way for fridge manufacturers to cut costs − either by substituting the copper
(which is a superior conductor) for aluminium or steel pipe, or by simply using less piping during the manufacturing process.
As mentioned, it’s the compressor’s job to lower the fridge’s temperature; and while most fridges are able to achieve this to a certain degree, it’s important to note that many fridge stats are quoted at an ambient temperature of 25° C. Unfortunately the African bush is seldom so mild… particularly if the aircon’s off and the fridge is enclosed in a sealed 4×4.
Another important fact to consider is the compressor’s ability to pull the temperature down as fast as possible. This may draw more amps initially, but it’s just as efficient over time – and you don’t want to wait forever for your drinks to cool!
Electronics not only play a vital role in accurately controlling the fridge/freezer’s temperature, but also contribute towards effective power management and reliability. In some cases, they add a few handy features, too, like voltage monitoring and intelligent battery protection – the ability to automatically shut the fridge down to protect your vehicle’s battery so that your 4×4 can still start.
RELIABILITY AND SERVICE
This is arguably the most important feature of any portable fridge/freezer, particularly when the hopes of your overland holiday rest on its ability to cool your food. Visually, it’s almost impossible to gauge the reliability of a fridge, but a lot can be discovered by asking about back-up service, availability of spares, and how long the manufacturers have been in business.
AS COOL AS IT GETS
National Luna recently launched their brand new model, the 60-litre Twin. It’s currently the world’s most powerful 12 V fridge/freezer combination, and boasts a number of high-end features, such as:
- Industry-leading Danfoss design compressor with a three-year manufacturer’s warranty
- Dual controls for individual temperature adjustment per compartment
- Battery protection with automatic cut-off and alarm
- Up to 60 mm of insulation
- Capable of -18° C at a 43° C ambient temperature (highest international fridge specification)
- Exclusive use of generous copper-pipe conductors
- Robust carry handles which double as tie-down points
- Rigidized stainless-steel construction, and/or the option of aluminium
- Made entirely in SA, with a complete range of spare parts
Priced from R10 500 and available at all leading outdoor and 4×4 stores.
Call (011) 452 5438 to find your nearest dealer.