Top positive review
87 people found this helpful
Does its job superbly
on May 13, 2015
I had been getting by for years with a 30 quart cooler chest, using bagged ice or pre-frozen "blue ice" bricks to maintain low temperatures (although ice cream of course wouldn't stay frozen). I had considered buying a 12 V thermoelectric cooler, but their limited cooling ability--they can only go 40° F. below the ambient temperature, so if it's 100° in your car, it'll be 60° in the cooler--made them seem not worthwhile. Then a friend bought the 50-quart version of this Dometic refrigerator/freezer for his RV, and we tried it in my car. What a difference! I was convinced, and ordered this 40-liter version, which just fits under the back cargo cover of my 2014 Subaru Forester.
You may be wondering why this unit is relatively costly. After all, you can buy a thermoelectric cooler (such as a Koolatron) for about a quarter of the price. But as mentioned, thermoelectric coolers have a very limited range and can’t cope with high temperatures—exactly the kind of temperatures likely to be encountered in a closed vehicle. You can’t count on keeping anything frozen on a moderately warm day (70° F. or above). Also, they’re not exactly speedy when cooling down.
What you pay for with this Dometic unit is superb cooling performance, thanks to a high-efficiency Danfoss compressor system. Similar to a home refrigerator, this unit can quickly reach and hold subfreezing temperatures, even in a warm environment. Using an infrared thermometer and a FLIR One thermal camera, I measured temperatures as low as -8° F. at the coldest part of the interior (the part opposite the control panel)… and that was within minutes after turning it on. The central area was below freezing, while the “crisper” bin nearest the controls was around 45° F. (This was with the unit's digital thermostat set to 20° F.; of course one can choose less cold settings.) Incidentally, the unit remembers its temperature setting even when power is removed, so if you have it plugged into an ignition-controlled outlet or you move it from vehicle to vehicle, it will resume operation as if nothing had happened.
The unit draws an average of 3.75 amps (45 watts) when running on 12 VDC, but it can also use 120 VAC, thanks to a built-in AC adapter—no need for a bulky power brick. Moreover, you can connect it to 120 VAC and 12VDC simultaneously using the two supplied cords, and it will automatically switch over to AC when power is present. This can be useful for boaters and RVers who occasionally have access to 120 V shore power. When running on DC power, the unit has sensing circuitry that will automatically take it offline if the battery voltage drops below a certain level (settable to 10.1 V, 11.4 V or 11.8 V.), thus minimizing the chance that you’ll run down your battery and be unable to start your vehicle. (I use the highest setting.)
The lift-out wire basket (with removable partition) is a convenience, letting you move food in or out “in bulk” rather than piece by piece. It’s one of the many thoughtful touches in this unit. About the only thing I can find to complain about is that you can’t change the side on which the lid is hinged—the control panel side—but you can easily disengage it from its hinges and remove it entirely for easy access to the interior.
One last thought: if you’ve been using an ice chest cooler of comparable size, you’ll find that this Dometic fridge/freezer has much more usable space, because you don’t have to fill it up with ice.
All in all, this is a first-class product that performs extremely well. Not cheap, but well worth what you pay for it!