Wednesday, May 18, 2022

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Gadget Review: Alpicool CF55 portable 12-volt cooler-freezer

Today we’re looking at the Alpicool® CF55 Portable Refrigerator, a 58-quart capacity portable cooler that uses a very efficient 12-volt compressor. I bought one of these recently to share with you all. But I also got it for a cross-country journey to pick up our new RV, as well as for a weekend of camping with a bunch of other owners of vintage campers. 

Of course, the fridge in our 1970 Aristocrat doesn’t work. But I still need to keep my food cold, including the smoothie ingredients for the smoothies I wrote about recently. 

Unboxing the cooler, the first thing I did was try to decipher the instruction pamphlet. It is written in the tiniest font humanly possible to print. Plus, it has poor explanations of the various functions of this cooler. I would have much preferred a QR code on the cooler that led to instructions on the website that I could download. Actually, I’d settle for anything other than the terrible instructions that came with the cooler. 

In addition, this lousy, terrible instruction pamphlet is a generic one for several models. So none of the illustrations in it corresponded with what I bought. Honestly, Alpicool, this flat sucks. 

First use

This cooler can run from either a 12-volt cigarette lighter adapter or a household outlet through a power brick. Alpicool calls this a car fridge freezer. The idea is that you can plug it into the cigarette lighter in your vehicle and keep your snacks chilled. 

To see how much power this consumes, I plugged it into the 12-volt “cigarette” adapter on my Jackery 1500, which has a display that shows power consumption. According to the Jackery, the cooler used just 39 watts at 12 volts for the initial run to go from about 73° F (as indicated on the front panel) to the 39° F that I had it set at. 

On the front control panel are four buttons: an up and down button, a power button and a gear or settings button. 

Using the gear you can set the cooler to be either a refrigerator (typically between 38-41° according to my food safe certificate) or warmer for things like veggie storage and whatnot. 

The freezer in the Alpicool works great

You can also set it to be a freezer, so you could choose to set it to 0° F. 

There are two compartments in the main body: a larger one surrounded by metal and then a smaller one. The larger of the two is the one that gets directly affected by the refrigeration unit. The smaller is just sort of a beneficiary of the process. 

So, I set the larger compartment to 39° F and, within about 90 minutes, it was ready to go. That was impressive. Further, it was so quiet that I couldn’t hear it run over the fan in the Jackery. The sound this makes is minimal and power consumption is also puny. 

With the larger compartment at 39° F, the smaller bay seems to be at around 52° F, more or less. So this is actually a perfect place for veggies or fruit. I also like my drinks about that temperature. So I put those fake beers I wrote about in there and they were perfect. 

Control panel

The “gear” icon on the control panel accesses several features of this cooler, including a “Max” and “Eco” setting. Honestly, the Jackery’s display showed no difference in power consumption depending on what this was set to. So I’m not sure what that does. 

It’s not like their terrible instructional pamphlet had any point of reference. 

You can also set this so that if the power source does stay on, the cooler will protect the battery from completely depleting and leaving you stranded. That is a pretty good feature. On a number of vehicles, the cigarette lighter adapter is wired to be always on. So if this is the case, the Alpicool won’t totally deplete the battery if left plugged in overnight or something like that. 

Again, if the pamphlet had more information, I would report in more detail on this. 

It does seem that if you choose specific settings such as temperature or mode, it will maintain these settings even if the power is shut off. For example, our truck’s cigarette lighter is controlled by the ignition. So if I shut off the truck, the lighter shuts off. When I turn the truck back on, the settings on the Alpicool return to where I left them.

Further, this thing seems pretty well insulated. So I would imagine there wouldn’t be a tremendous amount of temperature change overnight if the cooler doesn’t have power.

I also noticed that there are distinct temperature “zones” in this thing, so the bottom is much colder than the top. Unfortunately, I have already packed my temperature gun for moving or I would be more specific about this. But keep the colder stuff near the bottom of this thing.

Design

Like most of this style of cooler, this is a cooler (duh), rather than something like a bar-sized refrigerator. That means the stuff at the bottom of the cooler has stuff stacked on top of it. So making a smoothie, for example, involves emptying most of the cooler to get to the yogurt. 

You can lift the entire contents out in a wire basket that’s in the cooler so long as stuff doesn’t fall between the wires. 

On Amazon, where I bought this thing for $399 [it has since gone up in price], a number of people complained that the latch for the cooler’s lid was cheaply made and broke in short order. Either Alpicool changed the design or these people really manhandled the thing because it seemed really decently made. 

I would say almost the whole thing is nicely made with protective corners on places where it will contact the ground, a decent quality hinge and latch mechanism, and most items being of decent quality. I certainly feel that I got my money’s worth. The performance of the unit really exceeded my expectations, as did the efficiency of the cooling mechanism. 

The buttons on the control panel, though, are those sandwich-style buttons. I know these will wear out long before the rest of the cooler has served its useful life. 

In summary

I really wish that I had bought something that was more like a refrigerator with a vertical design rather than a cooler. Considering that this same configuration could easily be a vertical design instead of horizontal, that would serve me much better. 

But, overall, I like this thing enough not to send it back to Amazon. In terms of operation, it’s very quiet, cools very well and efficiently, and seems made well enough that I’ll get my money’s worth out of it. 

I can’t say how very and truly disappointed I am with the terrible instructions, though. For example, on the battery protective mode, is “high” more protection or less? Is there a specific battery level at which it will shut the cooler off? 

And who, exactly, is able to read this instructional pamphlet? Also, why can’t Alpicool be bothered to make one specifically for this product? Would it be too much to ask to just print a QR code and link to a section of your website with the information? Apparently so. 

I bought this specifically because it was relatively cheap and available for quick delivery from Amazon. Also, several fans of Bob Wells shot videos where they had good results from these. I don’t doubt that. Overall a pretty decent product marred by a terrible instruction set. 

##RVT1051b;##GRVA7

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patti panuccio
4 days ago

I have an Alpicool K25 and I use a Jackery 500 when traveling, for 1 person it’s perfect.
but If it wasn’t for the app I would never have figured out the instructions.
I live in the desert of southern NM and my first trip with it was to Louisiana I turned it to freeze and filled it with seafood and feasted when I got back.
I keep it plugged in at the house when not traveling, so it has been a great backup frig.