By Mike Sokol
Welcome to my J.A.M. (Just Ask Mike) Session, a weekly column where I answer your basic electrical questions. If you’re a newbie who’s never plugged in a shore power cord (or ask – what’s a shore power cord?), or wonder why your daughter’s hair dryer keeps tripping the circuit breaker, this column is for you. Send your questions to Mike Sokol at mike (at) noshockzone.org with the subject line – JAM.
I recently bought a plug-in cooler and was really disappointed when I drove to my picnic spot a few hours away, and my meal was ruined. I thought this was a cooler, but it doesn’t get the temperature down like my RV or home refrigerator does. What gives? —Crystal
Here’s where you made your mistake. You bought a “cooler” which relies on something called a Peltier Effect thermocouple to lower the ambient temperature by a fixed amount, say 30 degrees or so. Now, as long as your cooler is sitting in a reasonably cool spot with an ambient temperature of, say, 80 degrees it can keep the inside cool to a reasonable 50 degrees.
But if you put the cooler where the sun can beat down on it and the ambient temperature gets up to 100 degrees, it can still only do a 30-degree drop down to 70 degrees on the inside. That’s not cold enough for nearly anything needing refrigeration, so it’s no wonder your cold cuts turned into warm disappointments.
What you really need is a portable refrigerator/freezer that uses a real Danfoss 12-volt DC compressor with evaporator and condenser coils. And I just so happen to have a demo Vitrifrigo Vfree refrigerator/freezer that was sent to me a few weeks ago to review.
I haven’t had time to run a bunch of energy usage tests just yet (that’s happening in a few weeks), but I can tell you it’s an amazing piece of gear that makes me happy. Set it for 35 degrees F and it’s just the right temp to transport seafood. Set it to 0 degrees F and it will freeze a bucket of water into a block of ice overnight. And yes, I really like my beer cold as well.
I recently took the Vitrifrigo Vfree on two different road trips, the first one being a 1,000-mile drive for a video shoot. I packed it with a few of my favorite foot-long subs along with bottles of water and Bubly (from PepsiCo, not a typo) drinks, set the temp for 36 degrees (since I didn’t want to freeze my subs), plugged it into a 12-volt convenience outlet in my SUV, and I could hardly hear it running, even with the car engine off. And you can set a low-voltage cutoff so it won’t drain your battery when you’re away.
My second experiment was a crab run down to the Chesapeake Bay for my birthday crab feast. While I didn’t need to keep the crabs cold, I did want to keep them warm for my ride back, so I used my Igloo cooler in “hot” mode by reversing the power plug.
But I also took along the Vitrifrigo fridge to bring back fresh shrimp, scallops and crab meat. (Yes, I’m a blue crab junkie from Maryland.) This was great because I used the Igloo “warmer” to keep the blue crabs warm for the trip back, and kept the fresh seafood at a perfect 34 degrees F for the hour-and-a-half ride back home. And there’s no chance of water-logging your food or melted ice to drain.
Expect a full report on energy usage of this type of refrigerator in the next few weeks, but right now I’m in love with the utility of a portable refrigerator/freezer that can go wherever I go and allows me to go from chill to freeze at the touch of a button. And this would make a great upgrade for a small camper in need of a fridge capable of hold a few days’ worth of food. I highly recommend this technology for your next road trip, camping or otherwise.
For more about Vitrifrigo products please go HERE. And Dometic has now shipped me a 10 cu ft RV refrigerator with a 12-volt DC compressor, so expect more experimental data soon.
OK, everyone. Remember that electricity is a useful and powerful force, so we all need to pay attention to safety precautions while using it.
Let’s play safe out there….
Mike Sokol is an electrical and professional sound expert with 50+ years in the industry. His excellent book RV Electrical Safety is available at Amazon.com. For more info on Mike’s qualifications as an electrical expert, click here.
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