How to Choose the Right Camping Fridge and Cool Box

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As a Dometic Premium Partner and a Waeco Cool Centre, Homestead Caravans is well known for it's comprehensive display of portable Camping Fridges, Cool Boxes and Built-in Fridges for Caravans, Motorhomes and the outdoors.

All the main Cooler Brands and popular models are readily available off-the-shelf, so if you really want to get up close and personal with this wonderfully varied and colourful product range, we suggest you visit our Caravan Dealership in Weeley, Essex.

If you're reading this, there's a pretty good chance that at one time or another you have owned a Passive Cool Box of some description and are now looking to upgrade to an Active Cool Box or Portble Fridge that offers more Cooling performance. Passive Cool Boxes are great for picnics and days out but rely solely on the inherent ability of the insulation used in the construction of the Cool Box, as well as a healthy quantity of fresh ice cubes and/or ice packs!

If you're away from home for any length of time and don't have access to ice refills or ready to go ice packs, you might begin to feel a little let down by the performance of your Passive cool box or Cool Bag and start to look for a more robust and permanent food storage solution.

If you are lucky enough to walk into a store such as Homestead Caravans, you're going to be met by a large selection of Portable Cool Boxes and Camping Fridges from leading brand names such as, Dometic, Waeco and MobiCool. These well known brand names are all actually part of the Dometic Group, who in recent years has captured the leisure and Travel Cooler market.

It is quite common for people to glaze over and suffer from brain freeze, when confronted by so many different styles and sizes of Cooler, especially when trying to get to grips with the various technologies behind the products. It's important to take a step back at this point and consider a few basic questions, which should help you narrow the field to just a few.

Here are a few questions you might want to ask yourself to help thaw the freeze(we have deliberately left off budget to avoid compromise and confusion):

  1. What types of foods or supplies are going to be stored?
  2. What temperatures will the cooler be expected to operate in?
  3. What level of cooling performance am I going to require to keep my supplies fresh at my intended destination - Cooler, Refrigerator or Deep Freeze?
  4. What power sources are available to me to run my Cooler?
  5. What are the “Mobile” Cooling Technologies available today and which technologies can provide a level of performance that meets my needs?
  6. And finally(ignoring colour), what size Cooler Box do I need?

1. What types of foods or supplies are going to be stored?

Assuming you are looking for a Portable Fridge or Cool Box for more than the occasional picnic, let's assume you'll be wanting to keep dairy products and meat fresh for durations of 5-7 days.

For optimal quality and safety, dairy products should be stored at refrigerated temperatures between 34°F and 38°F, meats between 33°F and 36°F, and eggs 33°F to 37°F. Fresh vegetables and ripe fresh fruits should be stored between 35°F and 40°F. Always store refrigerated foods at temperatures less than 40°F.

You may have very convincing medical reasons for wanting to purchase a Cooler, where critical medicines must remain with a specific temperature range.

2. What temperatures will the Cooler be expected to operate in?

When studying this question you will come to appreciate that the type of technology used to power a Fridge or Cool Box is critical in determining whether or not it is going to cope with the environment.

For example; thermoelectric cool boxes are more affected by the ambient temperature surrounding the outside of the Cooler and therefore, one should keep a thermoelectric cooler in the shade, well ventilated and minimise the number of times the lid is opened, or consider purchasing a product that uses Compressor or Absorption Technology. Coolers powered by these technologies are less impacted by the ambient temperature.

If you find yourself on holiday enjoying a particularly hot weekend in the South of France, you may find that the outside temperature is such that(between opening the Cooler lid) your food supplies deteriorate quicker than expected. If you frequently enjoy time in hot locations you might want to up the ante and purchase a better equipped product. 

More on technology a little later...

3. What level of cooling performance am I going to require to keep my supplies fresh at my intended destination - Cooler, Refrigerator or Deep Freeze?

Each of these three cooling technologies described maintain a strong position in the leisure market. Pick a Coolbox to match the ambient temperature. It is an important aspect to consider when you decide whether it has to be high capacity Absorption Cooler, a lightweight Thermoelectric unit or a Compressor Box with cooling power independent of the ambient temperature.

Point 3. really is the conclusion of spending a little time considering question 1 and 2. At this point you're ready to find a suitable technology or technologies suitable for supporting your needs. There is just one more question, perhaps more a consideration, before we're ready to roll up our sleeves and get technical.

4. What power sources are available to power my cooler?

Cool Boxes and fridges are highly evolved animals that can be powered by a range of electrical voltages and even LPG Gas. Usually a combination of power sources are available to a single product either as standard or by way of optional products that expand Cooler operational capability.

Should you choose a Portable Cooler with a 12 volt or 12/24 volt connection, you will always have the option to run it from the mains too. With the matching Waeco CoolPower mains adaptor you can use it on the mains socket at home, in the hotel, or in your Holiday Home. That will give you a much wider range of possibilities.

Some Camping enthusiasts prefer to run everything by gas and don't use 230v at all! If this sounds like you then the Dometic Waeco MobiCool range offers cooling appliances for Gas, as well as 12v, 24v and 230v energy sources – Compressor units can even be run with Solar Power! When gas operation is a priority, there’s only one choice for you and that's Absorption Cooling.

We're getting into the realm of technology here but suffice to say, this question is more a consideration that one should bare in mind as you begin to grasp the various Cooler technologies and begin to filter your product selection.

5. What are the “Mobile” Cooling Technologies available today and which technologies can provide a level of performance that meets my needs?

Thermoelectric Technology

As used on the Waeco MobiCool U26, U32, W35, Q40 & W48 Coolers.

The Thermoelectric principle was discovered by J.C.A. Peltier, which is why the temperature generating parts of thermoelectric systems are referred to as Peltier elements. Thermoelectrics are based on the fact that cold or heat energy (depending on the polarity) is generated when a DC current is conducted between different types of metal. The heating or cooling capacity is further enhanced by heat exchangers and air fans. Ideal for low and medium cooling volumes.

Benefits:

  • Lightweight and low cost.
  • You can use 12/24v from your car, van or leisure battery or 230v mains hook up at home or the campsite.
  • Thermoelectric coolers are ideal for short trips in the car to the shops or the beach etc..
  • Cooling performance depending on the ambient temperatures, usually from 18 degrees C to 25 degrees C below the ambient temperature depending on the model.
  • Will operate even on an incline.
  • No fumes-you can keep the coolbox in your tent or locked up in your car.
  • Ideal for use in the UK.

Waeco TropiCool High performance Thermoelectric Coolers

As used on the Waeco TropiCool TC 14FL, TC 21FL & TC 35FL Coolers.

Benefits:

  • Cooling up to 30 degrees C below outdoor temperature.
  • Up to +65 degrees C in heating mode.
  • 12/24 volts DC, 230 volts AC.
  • Intelligent power-save circuit.
  • Dynamic interior ventilation.
  • Temperature control.
  • TC special electronics.
  • Better insulation.
  • Ideal for use in the UK and Southern Europe

Compressor Technology

As used on the Waeco CoolFreeze CDF 11, CDF 16, CDF 18 & CDF 25 Coolers.

Compressor units operate using a refrigerant that changes from liquid to a gaseous state in the evaporator. The evaporation extracts heat from the interior of the cooling unit - the temperature drops. The compressor draws in the refrigerant, compresses it and passes it on to the condenser. Here the absorbed heat is released to the atmosphere. The refrigerant liquefies again and flows to the evaporator, where the cycle begins again.

Benefits:

  • Deep-freeze capacity down to – 18 degrees C.
  • Excellent cooling performance even at extreme outdoor temperatures.
  • 12/24 volts DC
  • Able to run off 230 volts AC with optional mains adaptor.
  • CF special electronics with digital temperature display.
  • Energy saving and superbly quiet operation.
  • Impeccable operation in inclined position.
  • Suitable for solar operation.
  • Very low power consumption.

Absorption Cooling

As used on the Dometic RC1200, RC1600, RC2200 & Waeco RF60 Fridge Coolers.

A concentrated solution of ammonia solution is heated in a boiler by either 12v/230v or gas and expelled as vapour. The pressurized ammonia gas is then liquefied in a condenser. Supplied with hydrogen, it evaporates and in the process extracts heat from the storage container. The ammonia gas then enters the absorber where it is reabsorbed in a weak solution of ammonia. Finally, the saturated solution flows back to the boiler where the whole cycle starts again.

Benefits:

  • The 3-way system runs on either gas for wild camping or no hook up, 12v for when you are travelling and 230v mains.
  • Absorption coolboxes are also ideal for those with either limited space or extra storage space like an awning.
  • 3 way system – gas, 12v DC or 230v AC.
  • Silent operation.
  • Cooling performance depending on the ambient temperature, usually from 25 to 30 degrees C below the ambient temperature, depending on model.
  • Can be used in Southern Europe.

Please note: these units need ventilation and air circulation.

6. What size Cooler Box do I need?

We have models in all shapes and sizes. You should bear in mind, though the larger the cooling compartment; the more energy will be consumed. Also, a jumbo-size Cooler weighs more and is more difficult to store than a 20 litre compact model. But then, a family of five Camping enthusiasts would not be served well with a compact solution – 40 litres cooling capacity is the least you should have.

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