I have a 30 foot sailboat equipped with a basic icebox requiring ice loading prior to a cruise. 60 lbs of ice in the box will last about six days in moderate weather if the box is properly managed, that is everything is pre cooled before placing in box and no warm stuff...
I have a 30 foot sailboat equipped with a basic icebox requiring ice loading prior to a cruise. 60 lbs of ice in the box will last about six days in moderate weather if the box is properly managed, that is everything is pre cooled before placing in box and no warm stuff added later. Also the number of open/close cycles needs to be minimized.
This is a hassle I have lived with for 20 years. I have not been enthusiastic about converting to box refrigeration due to the hassle factor, hole cutting requirements and space.
So when these compact 12VDC coolers reached what looked like decent maturity I decided to purchase a unit to supplement my ice box and can be easily removed from the boat for road trips and other uses.
My selection process was pretty simple, decent reviews, lowest cost, correct sizing for my application. Not too small, not too big. Initially I wanted a cooler/freezer combo but the prices on those went up significantly and I noted this unit could be divided into two compartments so I thought i might me able to set it up to deliver a kind of cooler/freezer clone if I got the temp set right.
So first I had to install cigarette lighter outlets that would support the current draw of the cooler. No problem in a car but on a boat most cig lighter outlets are wired for low power applications and the two I had would not support the load which can be up to 5 amps during compressor start up. In max (not eco) mode, the unit draws about 3 amps when the compressor is running. When the compressor is not running it pulls much less power obviously. I would say I was seeing 30% compressor on time in temps around 70 - 75 ambient. So on an hourly basis I was pulling around 2 amps avg or 24 watts/hr. I was very happy with this performance however I expect summer temps will drive that power usage up significantly. For a sailor these numbers are really important because we have to rely almost exclusively on battery bank and solar/wind charging. Bottom line, really happy with power consumption numbers.
Important note to anyone using other than standard car cig lighter which is designed to handle higher current. When I attempted to use my cig lighter outputs on the boat the unit would start up but I saw the input voltage display on the cooler was showing a rapidly decreasing input voltage to the point where the unit''s low voltage protection would turn the cooler off. Turns out the wiring to myn cig lighter socket was such a small gauge that as soon as it was loaded up it would begin dropping the output voltage to an unacceptable level. If you are rolling your own outlets, make sure you select a wire gauge which will minimize voltage drop between the cooler and your batteries. I wound up using 10awg wire which is probably overkill but I wanted the cooler to see almost the same voltage as at the battery.
All of the above is utterly meaningless unless the unit does a decent job of cooling/freezing. And it does that very well in my experience so far (used the cooler 24/7 for my last 6 day cruise). As I had planned, I used the center divider to try to create a cooler/freezer combo. I placed my frozen stuff in the compartment closest to the control panel and my beer in the other compartment, set the unit to 25 degrees and waited for he beer to freeze or the frozen stuff to thaw. Neither did either. The beer stayed cold as heck and the frozen stuff stayed frozen!!! Outstanding. I was really pleased.
Good pwr consumption, good cooling performance, no noise (but my hearing is not the best)., can make it work as combo cooler freezer, light weight and portable, relatively low center of gravity for a solid tie down (sailors will appreciate this), and physical properties like door opening and control accessibility is excellent.
You do have to fuss around with the controls a bit to figure them out. Note to manufacturer - get an English speaker (or whatever language with English subtitles) to do a video to explain how to use the controls. As usual, the delivered manual is mostly gibberish. There are third party videos online but, come on manufacturers, this is not hard. You have a great product, how had can it be to produce great instructions?
So, final topic is space. I have the 30 Qt which seemed like an excellent compromise between size, weight, and capacity. This is not a large capacity. Just about a cubic foot. But is is more space than you might imagine if you imagine a cubic foot. First thing is cool or freeze your stuff before loading it (I am speaking to sailors in particular) you can also use shore power to do the initial cooling of course using the provided 110 VAC adapter, but you don"t want to be doing initial cool down on your batteries if you can avoid it. This pre cool is particularly important if you want to do cooler/freezer. I suspect the process of freezing something is going to freeze everything in the box but if you pre cool you can find that Goldilocks temp that keeps the two compartments just right. I kept my beer very cold and a Cornish game hen frozen solid for the full 6 days. But the beer was cold and the hen was frozen going into the box before the trip.
Ok, back to space. I loaded 9 16 Oz cans of beer in the cooler side with a bit of room left if I had wanted to stuff something smaller in there. On the freezer side I had two steaks, the cornish game hen, a tray of sausage, three lamb chops and a big bag of M&Ms which I eat frozen (try it, you''ll love it). And I have significant extra space. I could have added a bag or two of frozen veggies easily.
So, overall, my first impression after six days living with this thing 24/7 using my house batteries and 200 watts of solar panels has been excellent. I am extremely pleased with performance, size, ease of use and appearance. Longevity will be the next test but mfg provides an upgrade to 3 yr warranty on the unit so that does provide a little confidence they have built some longevity into this unit.
Update 06/25/2021 Pent another six day cruise with this unit in ops full time. I am struggling to say anything bad about it. We are into summer temperatures now - around 95 deg F ambient middle of the day and the unit power consumption has gone up a bit, but not massively. I was pulling about 2 amps/hr in cooler temps (70s), maybe 2.5 or 2.75 amps now that it is warmer.
The biggest hassle I am having is trying to decide do I want a freezer orr a cooler. The split compartment can be kludged to do both as I described earlier but it is a bit of a hassle to have to check stuff to make sure you are not freezing the beer of thawing the steak. I am leaning toward a freezer which would allow me to manufacture ice for the original "box" if/when necessary. Of course, this is a fine problem to have....do I do cold or colder?
Have not used the device in the car yet but I see no reason why it would be problematic. The only issue there is to manage the power input so you don''t kill the car battery which is not designed for deep cycle. I would either take the thing to the hotel room and plug it in or freeze something inside the box (like a gallon of water) to keep the interior cool until next day driving when you can power up on the battery (actually the alternator output) again.
Note to manufacturer. It would be cheap and easy to add a small automatic light to the interior. This would definitely be handy. The user should be able to enable or disable the light operation in "settings" so when things need to be dark you aren''t killing your night vision by opening the box.